By Maggie Majstrova
One of the newest eateries opening in Canary Wharf as part of Crossrail Place, Chai Ki grabbed my attention from the word ‘go’. The brain child of Rohit Chugh, a former trader for Goldman Sachs gone restaurateur, it’s one of the newest street food inspired restaurants opening all over London.
With Mr Chugh’s background (he launched Cinnamon Kitchen and Roti Chai over the past few years), I felt the stakes were exceptionally high. The venue consists of two parts – the Toddy Shop Bar, inspired by coasted drink dens of Southern India, and the restaurant.
Arriving one rainy Sunday afternoon (what’s new there right?), our party of four was quickly ushered through the industrial (but very smart) looking interior, to the table I had booked (though unnecessarily, judging from the number of punters currently residing in our vicinity) and we started ourselves off with a cocktail each – a Kovalam Beach, a Maha Mojito and two Reincarnations (a Bloody Mary to you and me and arguably WELL needed after our antics the night before –I have a vague memory of dancing on tables, but that’s a story for another day).
The Maha Mojito was definitely a winner, made with ginger-infused rum, giving it an unusual (but utterly delicious twist) and the Reincarnation had a pretty good kick to it!
I must say, I was expecting a Nandos-style ‘have you been to the restaurant before’ introduction, but this never came and so a few quick questions to our waiter later, we were all set to tackle the menu.
It’s made up mainly of small plates, with a very small number of main dishes, all offering a twist on fairly well known Indian dishes. Think Wahaca, but with Indian food. So we decided to let each of us select one of the small plates and for us all to agree on a couple of sides and a main to share.
We ended up with Chicken Tikka Naan, Coorgi Pulled Pork, Chicken Lollipops, Burnt Chilli Chicken – are you starting to see the pattern here? – Malabar Paratha – a layered flatbread – Masala Fries and Himalayan Ribs.
There is only one way to put this: the food was exceptional. Each dish packed a punch, but each individual flavour came through despite the heat and the dishes complemented each other not only aesthetically but in terms of flavour too.
By this point, we were in need of a drink that would cool our palates down rather than adding to the already raging inferno (Ok, it’s not that bad – but it is pretty spicy!) and spotting a monthly infused beers section, who could resist? We went for one of each: Ginger and Cucumber and Mint.
Now, I know how that sounds. But actually, they were surprisingly good; especially the cucumber version, which really offered a crisp, cool accompaniment to the fiery food on the table.
At this point. I would be completely stuffed and ready to roll home. And I was, but I just couldn’t resist at least looking at the dessert menu. Well, we all know what looking leads to…
I have to say – these were genuinely some of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted in my life. What more is there to add? On this visit, I was particularly lucky as my fellow diners are not only also major foodies, but exceptionally well traveled and one of them even had her own agenda of researching the interior for a similarly styled architectural project. Suits me – at least when I ask everyone to hold off touching anything that arrived on the table so I can take a photo, I don’t feel as much like the bad guy! Swings and roundabouts huh?