Roti Chai Dining Room (December 2012)

One perhaps ought to have been surprised or suspicious when a central London restaurant had free tables at short notice for lunch in the week prior to Christmas, and even more so when arriving in the very large room which comprises Roti Chai, that fewer than five tables were occupied. However, what is the rest of London's potential loss, was our gain and my dining comrade and I enjoyed a fine meal at a reasonable price. On the negative side, the room has a somewhat industrial feel to it (was it perhaps a gym in a former life, we speculated?) and we were placed unnecessarily close to the serving area despite there being so many empty tables, but from there the experience picked up. The staff were both friendly and effusive and the food excellent. Shared starters of chicken marinated with cardamom and black pepper, and spiced sweet potato cakes worked well. There was a full palette of flavours to enjoy, sweet and spicy, and the starters were sufficiently light to leave us energised for the mains. Roti Chai differentiates here by offering a thali-style presentation. In other words, one chooses a main and this is brought on a retro-style (to perhaps go with the overall ‘industrial’ feel) stainless steel tray along with starch (rice or naan), an excellent lentil dhal and some small vegetable sides. My comrade and I both struggled to finish our dishes. One notably interesting twist was to offer pork as one of the main options, a rarity in Indian restaurants, but one which my comrade tucked into with aplomb. To drink, we shared a carafe of a McLaren Vale Syrah-Viognier blend, with the addition of the white grape softening the red and creating a silky texture in the mouth alongside the food. That a wide range of wines are available by the carafe is another positive. For less than £80, we also found the experience good value. Let's hope they keep up this standard and that enough people come in order for the restaurant to remain viable.