Head Chef Rajesh Parmar, formerly of the Taj Hotel Group in India and Silk in central London, brings his contemporary take on Indian street food to Soho. Jasleen Kandhari samples the goods…
The aroma of Indian spices greeted us on entering Soho Wala, London’s latest contemporary Indian street food restaurant.
Parrot cages hang from the ceiling, photographs of Indian topography and architecture line the walls and Bollywood music playing softly in the background, creating an ambience reminiscent of Indian courtly eras, mixed with flashes of the contemporary restaurant design you’d expect in Soho.
The menu, devised by Head Chef Rajesh Parmar, formerly of the Taj Hotel Group in India and Silk in central London, features a range of Indian dishes with an ingenious twist.
Starters include the ubiquitous Indian poppadum baked with garlic and parmesan cheese, a traditional crispy phulwadi Indian snack infused with truffle, and deep fried bhajis, not with the usual potatoes, but with lotus root and okra.
One cannot miss out chicken wings and the ‘puris’ or filled crispy wheat shells as staple Indian street food that I always enjoy on Juhu beach in Mumbai from the local street vendors.
Here they are lavishly coated in green chilli, lime and ginger, while the delicate crispy wheat shells are served either as ‘pani puri’ (filled with chilli tamarind flavoured water) or, for a kick, infused with vodka or ‘dahi puri’ (wheat shells filled with yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutney), all served in charming decorative wooden carts especially produced in India for Soho Wala.
The main dishes are presented from the clay oven, curries or specials. I was savoured an Indian curry one normally doesn’t find in restaurants in London – the chicken ‘chettinad’, one of South India’s popular curry dishes from Tamil Nadu – peppered with coconut and chilli that added to depth to the flavours.
The black or ‘Kali dal’ was one of the tastiest lentil curries, cooked overnight with lashings of butter
The black or ‘Kali dal’ was one of the tastiest lentil curries, cooked overnight with lashings of butter and accompanied with ‘choor’ nan in which the leavened bread is crushed up in the chef’s hand. Other light and fluffy nan breads we enjoyed were the special butter nan and the ‘kulcha’, or refined white flour leavened bread, topped with garlic and chives.
Biryani is my favourite Indian rice dish and Soho Wala’s Lucknow chicken biryani harked back to the Indian courtly historical period with the addition of mint and cilantro.
To complete the meal we enjoyed an Assam tea brulee (an Indian twist on a creme brulee) including malai cream and vanilla ice cream, and a Gulab Jamun cheesecake, comprising traditional Indian sweet dumplings served in cheesecake form (a first for me).
Ingenious street food creations with an Indian twist sums up the experience at Soho Wala, and don’t forget to down them with traditional Indian soda drinks like the Thumbs Up (the Indian version of coca cola), Limca (lemonade) and Masala Chai (the original spiced tea infused with ginger and cardamom), served on the streets of India by the ‘chai walas’.
21 Great Marlborough Street, Soho W1F 7HL; sohowala.com