Places To Eat In London: Roti Chai, Marylebone
As part of my ongoing mission to fill the gaps in my London restaurant reviews today I’ve got a great place for you tucked away behind Selfridges for the next time you fancy an Indian and you’re thinking ‘not Dishoom, again!’ (I love Dishoom and go more often than social media lets on, but there are so many other Indian restaurants in the city I don’t think we should be ignoring!): Roti Chai. Upstairs on street level they’ve got a big, airy street food kitchen. Downstairs they’ve got a sit down bar and restaurant and this is where we were to be found feasting on sharing plates the other night (downstairs takes reservations where upstairs does not!)
As well as producing great Indian food, the cocktails here are really, really good; plan on having a couple! While I waited for my companion to arrive (I’m always perpetually early for things, and it actually has nothing to do with wanting to get in there and snap the restaurant before it fills up!) because I’m a sucker for all things rose and lychee I ordered their signature Rose & Lychee Bellini. It was the perfect first drink of the evening (read: without food), but in retrospect (after tasting the other two cocktails I ordered) it could have been a bit fresher and brighter, I think the lychee got lost a little under the rose.
After much deliberation we decided to forgo a more traditional meal format (starters, main, rice, naan and sides) for just a big spread of different starters, a naan each and some dahl. On the tandoor cooked, solid hunk of meat section of the table we ordered the Dhaba tandoori chicken with traditional tandoori masala rub and the rustic tandoor cooked Elwy Valley Welsh lamb kebab, both of which came with a punchy, seemingly ubiquitous green sauce. The chicken was good, but a bit hefty to get off the bone, but it did not stand out. The lamb however was juicy, succulent and flavourful, and my companion ordered another plate!
My favourite meat dish which I’d have again and would really, really recommend you order was the pulled, spiced duck stuffed into a grilled butter paratha wrap with juicy, lightly cooked cherry tomatoes, zingy raw red onions and a little bit of chutney, of course served with yet more of that green chutney. Delicious, rich, more-ish morsels that would be perfect to kick off the meal if you’re doing ‘starters’.
I also loved the veggie contingent of our small plates: Seasonal pav bhaji with buttered ‘pav’ bread. As it was essentially a seasonal veg mash I did not catch everything in it, but I both loved the chewy okra pieces I did catch (Indian cooking has slowly been introducing me to this fantastic, but misunderstood vegetable) but I enjoyed that it was both delicious and chunky; the vegetables had not been broken down into a discernible mush. Along with the chopped red onion sprinkled on top (so much more than a garnish) I really loved scooping it up with the rich, buttery bread. I’d love this to be my lunch most days.
From the sides section of the menu we ordered a tarka dhal. Now, Mr. Midweek Dinner Date was disappointed by this dish; he kept on going on about how it was not as good as the tarka dhal at this other Indian place (in Brixton I think?) that we simply must go to next. However, I really loved it. It had flavour without being in your face; it was earthy and extremely comforting, everything you want from a yellow dhal.
Refilling on the drinks, I spied this delicious, tropical concoction being sipped by the table next to us. I can’t really remember what exactly was in it (this is a reviewers problem with restaurants who doing post their cocktail/ dessert menus online – we don’t really take notes, or have that good memories once our bellies are full of food and we’re a few drinks down!) but it was long, tropical and pineapple based, with a fruity kick. It was called the Pineapple Gin-ji, and it comes very, very recommended. By me.
As far as naan were involved he went for the classic garlic which looked delicious, and I was taken in by the ‘something different’ on the menu. A peshwari naan is my usual order (I love mixing sweet with savoury in Indian cuisine!) so naturally I was taken in by the orange zest naan, which was everything I imagined; chewy, pillowy naan, topped with a generous amount of butter and an aromatic kick and burst of freshness from the zest. Order it for a little bit of something different. Garlic naan are good, but they don’t come this exciting!
For dessert the cop-out eating with me ordered the chocolate cake (which was apparently delicious) while I had what I think was the best part of the meal: the pistachio kulfi. This is my usual go-to dessert in high end Indian restaurants so I’ve had my fair share of them, and this one was perfect; rich, creamy and with a real hit of nuts (including a few chunky pieces for texture): this was one dessert I really did not want to end, and I’m usually more savoury than sweet!
Roti Chai is a great spot to catch up over dinner with friends midweek, though I’d love to hear your other recommendations for other Indians to try in the city. So far on my list I only have Tamarind Kitchen (I went there for an event and the canapés were that good I need to go back!), Bombay Bustle, Gul & Sepoy and Gujarata Rasoi on the list – I never really ate Indian food growing up, so I have a lot of catching up to do!