Eating out: Roti Chai
Met Nina for a stroll around selfridges and dinner at an Indian cafe-restaurant called Roti Chai on Portman Mews South. They have cleverly created two different dining spaces, with completely separate menus, meaning you have to visit twice if you want to try both.
We opted for the casual street food cafe upstairs over the proper sit down restaurant in the basement. It was busy, although we didn’t mind because it created a lively atmosphere. What we really did mind was the slow service and the feeling of being purposefully ignored by staff…that classic thing where they manage to scan the entire space multiple times without ever catching your eye, even if you decide to give a wave because you’ve been waiting 15 minutes for someone to take your drinks order. Food and drink didnt take too long to arrive thankfully, but trying to get anyone’s attention for dessert or the bill was so difficult it almost became funny. Almost.
It’s a real shame because the food is actually very good, and the flavours are more interesting and bold than most Indian places. A starter of chilli paneer actually had some strong heat and a delicious chilli flavour, with spring onions and peppers for freshness. I could’ve eaten it twice over. The bhel puri too was crunchy from the puffed rice and fried noodles, with a lip smacking tamarind tang and a few chopped raw onions. Our mains were a Railway Lamb Curry - slightly pretensious name (can you even get lamb at a roadside or railway cafe?) that can only be overlooked because the lamb was so beautifully soft - and a fish curry in a mustard flavoured sauce, which was really nicely and subtly spiced. Chocolate & cardamom tart with cinnamon cream for pud was lukewarm and disappointing.
Overall verdict? Well, Nina and I decided that if we were in the area shopping or meeting up after work, we wouldn’t choose this place for dinner, mainly because of the service. But if we were just looking for a light lunch or a quick snack after work, then yes - because the starters were brilliant and went really well with a bottle of cold beer, and if you order them as you’re being seated at least you won’t have to wait for service. Roti Chai’s mains were great and very well cooked, but seemed fairly standard to be honest. For me, it’s the ‘street food’ dishes that make this place that little bit different.