Catchy name. Ironically, at present, there was no “roti” on the menu and my “chai” tasted not delectably milky or outstandingly spiced.
What was Roti Chai?
Say, a hybrid of a cafe and a snack bar (as there was a commendable list of alcoholic drinks). From the outside it appeared a little like E.A.T but an experience of walking in revealed a funky, paired down dining area, with upbeat Indian music and a lovely lady whom I often bumped into often at Dishoom. Good urban vibe, not particularly ethnic. Ideal for fast and furious lunch or bum-resting after shopping spree.
The menu boast a mix-and-match of Pan-Indian street bites, designed for sharing, with an average price per dish at around £4-6. No indication of how heated each dish was. No curries or biryani yet. I was told the selection would get bigger and would also be sync’ed with the finer dining downstairs restaurant (which is not yet opened). Bhel Puri (1) – toasted rice in tamarind and chilli dressing – was a joy to eat. Loose grains of crispy rice. Wonderfully tossed. I saw no sticky syrup but there was dimension to the flavours. Tamarind sweetness and acidity. A playful chilli kick. It would be ideal if there were more contrasting texture and freshness from chopped onions, tomatoes and peanuts. Vegetable Samosa (2) was cracking and fiery. Two plumb pieces deep filled with robustly spiced potato, peas and sweetcorn. Another layer of heat from chilli-ed chickpeas. The mint sauce wasn’t enough to cool it down!
Hakka Chilli Paneer (3) was very much a stir-fry dish and a disappointment. The paneer suffered from being too finely cubed and too glazed, leaving me wonder where all the cheesy flavours had gone. I understood this was an Indo-Chinese dish, hence less spice dimensions, but as it was being paired in this rather heated menu, it made my heart sink when biting into things less aromatic and orgasmic. Chicken Keema Kaleji (4) served with pao bread was the winner of the day. Minced chicken and chopped liver cooked in a nicely balanced masala sauce. Sweetness from tomatoes distilled the chilli heat and the spice-ful aggression. Generous bits of creamy liver added much meaty richness to the paste. Mopped it all up with good quality, nicely buttered pao bun. Loved it.
“Tikki Wala”. Two options: bun kebab (5) and bun tikki (6). The bun kebab on the right featured this spiced lamb patty; the left a vegetarian option. The lamb had this pleasant elasticity but could do with less tamarind glazing on top. The sweetness aggravated my palate as I was sinking my teeth in. Took a minute or so for the feisty taste of the patty to kick in. The vegetarian option could do with a touch more seasoning and a more crisped-up skin. The salad garnish looked awkward. I’d rather the buns were served commando – Spuntino way!
Kulfi (7). Two choices of pistachio of mango. Amazing. Believed they sourced it from the same distributor as Dishoom. Velvety. They killed the heat in my mouth straightaway. Not that you needed two of them.. but I couldn’t see why you should limit yourself to just one?
I found good promises in Roti Chai, despite its currently small menu. There was this visibly sanitary appeal to the dishes but one bite (into a few dishes) showed the kitchen was not in for compromise. Though almost all dishes came in a bowl, the portion was never too meagre. My meal today, which filled up two bellies and also was left with some uneaten buns, came to about £40.
Stopped myself for now. I will be back for the downstairs restaurant…
.. soon hopefully?
And by then I hope the “chai” will taste better, and there will be a “roti”.
My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
3 Portman Mews South