Roti Chai was on my radar ages ago from when they competed in the inaugural Ribstock competition. Their spiced rib was spectacular and I’ve been meaning to try out the restaurant ever since. The venue has two parts – a casual street food café on the ground level and a more formal restaurant setting on the lower floor. Each space has a different menu (sadly you can’t order from the café if you are in the restaurant or vice versa) so its worth taking a look at both to make sure you book into your preference. The general cuisine is Indian (no surprise there) but the chef has put a modern twist on a number of the dishes and distilled the concept down to the pure bold flavours without any of the accompanying oiliness you may come to expect after going through the Brick Lane gauntlet.
What you need to know:
- There are different menus for the café and restaurant
- Portions are reasonably sized and enough to share but you’ll want roughly 1-2 dishes per person for a full dinner
- Prices are higher than your local Indian takeaway but the quality is miles better
- Reservations are not essential but highly encouraged on weekends
Food: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★★☆ Value:★★★☆☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
There isn’t much of a bar area at Roti Chai and sadly there are limited options in the immediate vicinity. There is the Marylebone 5-10 minutes walk away (or a really cheap Uber) which has a cocktail happy hour until 8pm on Sat/Sun or from 8-9pm during the week. The Marylebone is known for its unique flavours of infused liquors and these are used to great effect in the cocktails. Alternatively, if you prefer something a bit more chill and traditional there is a pub called the Gunmaker around the corner from the Marylebone which is a bit of an old man boozer – cheap, warm, and cozy!
What to eat?
Everything. I mean it, eat everything. We tried a good portion of the menu (having 5 foodies helps) and I was pleased with every dish. For starters, the Chicken 65 was my favourite – thin strips of chicken coated in a spicy and slightly smoky batter then lightly fired. If I could just have that as a snack on hand, I’d definitely stuff my face every day.
The palak papri chaat is another winner with clean crisp flavours and a tanginess that works well as both a palate cleanser and a balance against the richness of the Chicken 65.
Onto the mains. We opted for a one of the specials (Raan e buluchi) which was a 16 hours slow cooked lamb shoulder with a cumin masala. Unfortunately the meat was a bit drier than my expectations and I suspect that too much of the fat had been trimmed. That being said, when mixed with the masala it was a decent dish and works well with the brilliant garlic naan to make mini lamb rolls.
The star of the show was the butter chicken, a dish I was against ordering as I’ve always been disappointed when I’ve ordered it. However, Roti Chai’s butter chicken was mouth-wateringly good and I’m drooling just thinking of it. They’ve got the perfect balance between the heat and full body of the spices with just enough butteriness to blend it all together.
We tried an orange zest naan with this one – I still prefer garlic but the freshness of the orange flavour was a very pleasant surprise. I’ve also got to highlight an excellent veggie dish which was an aubergine (eggplant) “steak” which a roasted red pepper filled with a creamy mousse. This dish embodies the phrase “melt-in-your-mouth” and was a definite crowd pleaser despite our carnivorous leanings.
For dessert (we were stuffed at this point), we collectively shared a warm chocolate fondant. I couldn’t tell if there was any noticeable Indian twist on this classic but it was an excellent chocolate dessert with a beautifully gooey centre. I’d happily have that any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
What about a drink?
Cocktails are naturally with an Indian twist and tend to concentrate in the light and citrus regions. Personally, not my cup of tea but they do pair well with the flavour profile of the food. I found the chai too watery particularly compared to the chai from Dishoom. I wonder if they make it with water instead of milk?
Worth the dosh?
Yep. It’s definitely more pricey than a Brick Lane place but you are getting seriously better quality and a much better atmosphere. Our meal ran to £25pp (excluding drinks) for enough food to leave us stuffed.