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Lower Ground Floor, 3 Portman Mews South
It's not easy to capture the exuberance of India in a mews behind Selfridges, but owner Rohit Chugh has a good go in his two-tiered Roti Chai. Head for the ground-floor Street Kitchen for good-value snacks and hubbub: you can expect industrial canteen interiors, close-packed tables, high decibels and trendy takes on the classics, from bhel-pooris and 'railway' curry to buns filled with spiced Elwy Valley lamb. It's "fun and innovative", but there's also some real authenticity on show. Evenings see the moodily lit downstairs Dining Room come into its own and the kitchen ups the ante, delivering spirited chilli garlic prawns, more of that Welsh lamb cooked in the tandoor, Parsee-style chicken dhansak or South Indian fish kari. Service is game, but the frenetic pace of it all can cause problems. Note: price etc above refer to the Dining Room.
Cheap eats in London
Lower Ground Floor, 3 Portman Mews South
Marble Arch Tube Station 299m
Bond Street Tube Station 436m
Marks & Spencer (Marble Arch) 91m
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
What to make of Roti Chai? Identity crisis could be one answer. Now read on. I last came here six years ago, loved the food in its downstairs dining room, but felt uncomfortable amidst its formality and palpable lack of atmosphere. My lunching comrade had booked the venue and arriving prior to him, I asked the front of house if we could eat upstairs. It being a Monday on a hot summer’s day, my fear was that downstairs would lack not just light but people too. So, we opted for what Roti Chai calls its ‘street kitchen,’ a more informal setting based at street level. At 12.15 on arrival, it was pleasant, with a certain buzz. An hour later, it was hell: packed, noisy with screaming kids. Service was almost incoherent. Maybe the angle is to create ‘street life,’ but it’s not what I would consciously choose to experience. It certainly wasn’t relaxing. The food, however, impressed and speaks to the potential of what the chefs at Roti Chai can achieve. Diners have the option of ten starters and ten mains, with most dishes intended for sharing. Our agni ‘fire’ wings showed an intelligent integration of spice, the marinade covering our chicken displaying both heat and flavour. Similarly, the samosas were non-greasy and the accompanying chick peas spoke of thoughtful balance and texture contrast. Mains were similarly impressive, with lamb porridge being a lot tastier than it sounded and the restaurant’s signature biryani leaving me wanting more. What I’ll remember though is the service: almost impossible to get the servers’ attention, and an embarrassing disjunct where one of our mains was brought five minutes before the other with barely a hint of apology. At least Roti Chai was good value (less than £50 for two, all-in), but I’d rather walk up the road to Hoppers for a better all-round experience.
I have walked passed this restaurant hundreds of times and for some reason never ventured inside, so when we found ourselves with no plans for lunch, we decided to give it a try. When we arrived at 12.25 on Sunday there was already a queue of around 8 people waiting at the door, which is always a good sign and within 30 minutes the place was packed full with people waiting at the front desk.
We ate in the ground floor restaurant which is the street food menu (downstairs I believe has a different menu, but there was no one down there), upstairs is clearly the place to be for weekend lunch.
There were around 4 waiting staff and approx. 50 covers, we were initially served by a lady who clearly did not want to be working there, I have rarely seen such a surly expression, but then thankfully after that we were served by a delightful lady who smiled and chatted and appeared to like her job, which is always a bonus.
We shared the vegetable samosas which were accompanied with some delicious spicy chickpeas, pani puri (served with a jug of cumin water, which added a different dimension – mainly that as soon as bit into the puri, I squirted the sauce everywhere), one pulled chicken bun (OK, nothing special, very mild), the railway lamb and potato curry (nice heat, lamb falling apart nicely), chapatti and rice, which was plenty for us, although clearly we are complete lightweights compared to our fellow diners whose tables were groaning with colourful plates of food.
We had two drinks each and the bill came to around £60 inc. service.
Whilst this was a very enjoyable meal, and I would eat there again, given the choice I would head to Hoppers or Dishoom, where the food and service is just that little bit more special, for the same price.
Food + drink: 1
Had great expectations when I walked past this establishment a few months before it opened. This place was heaving at lunchtime. Lunched with 2 friends in the Indian Street Kitchen – my overall experience was just lukewarm.
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