Jan 23 2015

Imli Street


We were craving some Indian food on a Friday night and so decided to go to a restaurant we had not been before, Imli Street in Soho. I found out about it through reading the Evening Standard (newspaper) section on “best in London” and they mentioned Imli Street as one of the best places in London for daal (Indian dried pulse (lentil, pea or bean) which has been split). We did not actually have any daal on this visit.

Imli Street is owned by the Tamarind Collection, which owns 4 restaurants – 3 in London and 1 in LA. In London they own Tamarind in Mayfair, their flagship restaurant, established in 1995, as well as Zaika in Kensington and Imli Street in Soho. Tamarind in Mayfair was the first fine dining Indian restaurant in the world to receive a Michelin star, a start it still holds. I have been to Zaika a long time ago and thought the food was good, but the atmosphere was not great, the restaurant was almost empty. Surprisingly I have never been to Tamarind in Mayfair, and I have not even heard that much about it, so I will need to go there at some point.

Imli Street is different to Zaika and Tamarind, as it is not a high end Indian restaurant and a very casual Indian, blending in nicely with the other casual and fun restaurants in Soho. It first opened in 2006, but last year was rebranded into the Indian street food restaurant it is nowadays. We did not have a reservation when we came here, and the restaurant was full, but they did manage to squeeze us in, in the basement, and gave us the table for 1.5 hours, which was enough. The atmosphere was fun (especially on the ground floor), the place was dark, people were drinking cocktails, eating Indian food, it had a bit of a New York vibe going on there. The place reminded me a bit of the downstairs restaurant of Roti Chai and also of Dishoom, although I think food wise I prefer Roti Chai and Dishoom to Imli Street.

We came here for dinner, but Imli Street has an extremely attractive and interesting brunch menu, with many dishes that blend the British and Indian ingredients. The dinner menu featured appetizers, dishes from the grill/ tandoor, mains as well as sides. The evening menu was also creative and starters cost £6 on average, and main courses £13 and they encouraged you to order a few dishes and share. From the appetizer section we ordered the daily salad which was “Market salad with citrus dressing” but in reality was a salad of spinach, lettuce and crunchy pear. I was not a fan of having the pear, as I don’t like having fruit in salads, but it was refreshing and a nice contrast to the other heavier food.

We also ordered 1 dish from the tandoori section, Tandoori Murgh or “Half-spring chicken with yogurt, ginger, chilies & paprika”, which had a lot of flavor, chicken was tender, not too dry and not oily, very nice. From the main section we selected the Lamb Roganjosh or “Lamb shoulder curry finished with classic `Kashmiri` spices” and we had the lamb and chicken with garlic naad, pulao rice (Braised basmati rice with cumin & saffron) and a vegetable dish - Saag Paneer or “Paneer in fresh spinach with tomato, garlic & cumin”. The lamb Roganjosh was delicious, just like the chicken it was not swimming in oil, like a lot of the other curries do (we love going to Lahore Kebab house and there the curries are full of oil), but had a lot of spices and flavor. There was a bit too much sauce and too little meat for my liking, but it was a nice curry, but just strange as it had no oil and this thick flavoursome sauce. The same with Saag Paneer – the paneer cheese was delicious and the spinach sauce was wonderful, there was a lot of flavor, but no oil in sight, just the thick sauce, and this makes these curries stand out to the curries you get in an average Indian restaurant. I also liked the garlic naad and pulao rice.

I very much enjoyed the meal in Imli Street. I thought the menu had more curries than the menu of Roti Chai, but the food was similar to the food in Roti Chai and Dishoom. All these restaurants serve Indian food that focuses on spices and lacks oil and the heaviness that you would get from your average Indian restaurant, so I would group all these Indian restaurants together under the name – modern, less heavy, Indian food. I do however slightly prefer the ambience, and prob the food, at Roti Chai and Dishoom, as the food was a tiny bit more creative.

Location: Soho
Date: 23/ 01/ 15
Price for 2 people with some alcohol: £70.31

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Imli Street
167-169 Wardour Street W1F 8WR
United Kingdom
Imli Street Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 3