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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Roti Chai, Indian Restaurant, Marylebone

Roti Chai (literally ‘bread and tea’) is a cool new Indian snacking eatery conveniently located on the outskirts of Marylebone between Bond Street and Marble Arch, an area that has recently seen the arrival of a few new hip restaurants. Inside it is a simple layout, a kind of minimalist canteen, downstairs a dining room, and upstairs (where we ate) a relaxed ‘street kitchen’ designed for quick easy eating.

My expert eater, chef friend chose our meal, an assortment of exciting sounding dishes from the eclectic menu. The Bhel Puri arrived first, a Bombay speciality of puffed rice mix with tangy tamarind sauce… to me it tasted like a sort of exotic mix of rice crispies and chutney… a slightly odd combination but nonetheless quite fun to crackle in your mouth! Our waitress advised us to try the Chicken lollipops, which have apparently become a firm favourite with regular customers. These were yummy, very moreish spiced chicken wings, cooked to perfection with a crispy batter, successfully managing to avoid being too greasy.

The Hakka Chilli Paneer was a highlight for me, a fiery Indo-Chinese speciality from Kolkata that arrived warm and delicious, a mix of paneer cheese and vegetables, the only issue was its spiciness, and I found I really needed the cooling side portion of minty yoghurt. A generous basket of roti bread was fresh and warm, a much nicer accompaniment than rice.

If you are not opting for cocktails or Indian beer, it is worth having the masala chai to drink, the restaurant’s authentic take on the sweet Indian tea spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. A warm, sugary and comforting drink that smells and tastes like Christmas.

The desserts all sounded a little esoteric, I made an executive decision for us to try the Kulfi Indian ice-cream lollipops, mango for my friend, pistachio for me. These grown-up mini milks were surprisingly nice, a sweet icy conclusion to the hot and spicy meal.

Unfortunately the staff were a tad clueless on our visit, obtaining a glass of tap water was rather too difficult. More importantly though the food at Roti Chai is fresh and vibrant, a tasty and inexpensive choice for busy diners.

To really impress, I feel they could perhaps be a little more innovative with the menu… it felt a little too similar to restaurants like Dishoom and Delhi Grill. In London’s restaurant scene you need to be daring and adventurous to stand out from the crowd.

Visit the website here.

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