Roti Chai (“Bread and Tea”) is the latest in a string of casual Indian diners in London, opening in summer 2011 and tucked away behind Selfridge’s department store. It has been set up by Rohit Chugh, who was previously managing director of Cinnamon Club. Rohit has an unusual background for a restaurant manager, having an MBA from London Business School and having once been a sales trader at Goldman Sachs. The emphasis here is the snack food of the streets of India, with dishes like bhel poori and papri chaat, though there are curries too. The upstairs is called the “street kitchen”, and the basement houses a slightly more formal dining room, with a different menu.
The “street kitchen” is brightly lit and informal, with bare tables (though white linen napkins), wooden floor and waitresses wearing Roti Chai T shirts. There were some token wines available, but mostly listed without even the growers, never mind the vintages; Taittinger was listed at £59.50 for champagne that retails at £28, to give an idea of mark-up. I drank Mongoose beer at a hardly generous £3.90 a bottle.
We began with bhel poori (£3.90), the Bombay snack of puffed rice, tomatoes and spices with tamarind chutney. A good bhel poori needs to be made fresh and have enough chutney to be moist, and this one ticked the boxes: good puffed rice and enough tamarind chutney to liven up the puffed rice (13/20). Papri chat (£4.50) was also good, the dough wafers crisp and the potatoes, chick peas, yoghurt, tamarind chutney and chilli in good balance (13/20). Samosas (£4.90) were less successful. There was too much pastry relative to filling, and the filling itself was rather dense and one-dimensional in taste; the channa with it was cooked too long so that the chickpeas had become too soft, though there was a lively mint chutney to spice things up (11/20).
For main course, my pulusu chicken (i.e. chicken with gravy at £7.90) had a pleasant sauce, made with the traditional base stock of tomatoes, onions and assorted spices, and although the chicken tasted cheap it was cooked properly (12/20). I preferred the shahi vegetable pulao (£7.50), whose rice was of very good consistency, even though the cauliflower appeared to be missing in action (13/20). Dhal was pleasant, and though I prefer it thicker than this, it was certainly not watery as so often happens (12/20). Ironically for a restaurant with this name, the basket of bread (£4.50) in fact consisted of kulcha, paratha and naan, but no roti. The naan was supple and the kulcha good, though the paratha was a touch dry (just about 13/20 overall).
Kulfi was not made on the premises, but is made to the specification of the restaurant by a company in East London. However pistachio kulfi, served on a stick in keeping with the snack theme, had good pistachio flavour, nice texture and was served at the correct temperature (13/20). Service was very good this evening, the staff attentive and friendly. The bill, with a couple of beers each, came to £34 a head, which seemed fair enough to me given that the cooking was generally good. I enjoyed Roti Chai, and will happily return.
Further reviews: 06th Feb 2015