Stumbling across Roti Chai, it's hard not to feel like you've struck gold. Tucked away just off Oxford Street, it's a bright, airy space thats ideal for quick lunches or dinners with friends (where you can see and hear each other, and shock, horror actually have a conversation). It might have something of the feel of a canteen with floor-to-ceiling windows, long wooden benches, shelves packed with Indian groceries and vivid Indian adverts along the walls but it's already become a runaway underground hit.
What really sets Roti Chai apart from the rest is that the food tastes fantastically fresh and is packed with unusual flavours a welcome change from the cookie cutter curry houses found on every high street. Upstairs, the canteen serves small plates from the street kitchen menu, while downstairs theres a brand new, cosier dining room (complete with a bar area) where you can head for a full three-course Indian feast. The street section of the menu is inspired by Indian street cart vendors and offers the ever-popular likes of papri chaat. Four small, crunchy wheat crisps piled with potato, chickpeas and yoghurt finished off with a dollop of sweet chutney, on ELLEuk's visit they blended fresh flavours and textures to perfection. The spicy chicken lollipops (read: wings) were breaded and, served with a creamy dip to cool the heat, made for a fun starter.
Next up is the road & rail section a selection of rustic dishes like those you might find at roadside cafes and train stations (albeit rather more upmarket). The earthy railway lamb curry came with two chapatis and was rich in flavour, although the meat was certainly not as tender as the hot pulusu chicken served with rice, which had a wonderful, moreish, meaty texture more akin to lamb. Only the tarka dahl was a slight low: the flavours were perfect, but the watery consistency was a little bit of a disappointment. It was short-lived, though, as dessert, which came in the form of a creamy, rich chocolate and cardamon tart (with just the right amount of cardamom shot through) and the Paysam (fresh fruit with a saffron and almond custard), was superb. Toss in service that was friendly and attentive throughout without ever being overbearing, and whichever way you look at it, Roti Chai can rank itself as one of the best Indian meals weve had in a long time...
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Indian street food upstairs / Indian fine dining downstairs
Good for: lunches, meeting friends
Prices & Other Details at Roti Chai
Address: 3 Portman Mews South, London, W1H 6HS
Price per person for two-course meal without wine: £20
Bottle of house wine: £18.50
Glass of house wine: £3.80
Bottle of house champagne: £59.50
Glass of house champagne: £17.50
Private dining? No. Its more a shared tabled kind of place
Outdoor dining? No
Bar? Yes. Theres a small separate bar area downstairs
Who goes? A mixture of shoppers seeking refuge from Oxford Street and foodies looking for a different take on Indian cuisine
Nearest tube: Marble Arch or Bond Street