Roti Chai is an Indian restaurant just north of Oxford Street in Marylebone. The restaurant has two floors, on the ground floor they serve Indian street food and downstairs is a more formal Indian restaurant. The décor and the atmosphere are very different in both of these areas and downstairs feels like a very luxurious Indian restaurant, it is dark but as it is also full of people it also feels casual and trendy.
I have heard many people say how much they like Roti Chai and that it is one of their favourite Indian restaurants in London, including my Indian colleague Deepak, hence I was very keen to go there and came here for dinner with my friend David. Different people prefer different floors – some like street food on the ground floor and some like the more formal downstairs restaurant. As I love street food, I decided to try this out first, but I am very keen to also go to the restaurant downstairs at some point. The inspiration for the street food comes from “fresh vibrant soul food served by street hawkers & roadside “dhaba” cafes across India every day” and Roti chai adds a contemporary twist to this food. You can definitely feel this contemporary twist as the dishes seem more healthier and more turned down for the western palette and also not as traditional greesy yet super delicious street food. I think because of this I did not like Roti chai as much as I would have liked an actual street vending stool much more than the contemporary/ more Western/ less greasy version I got.
I had booked a table for dinner, which you should do, as the place was absolutely packed by the time we left. The street food area is very casual and relaxing and there are various Indian posters and signs around the room. The menu is divided into smaller dishes (around £4 each) and then larger dishes called “buns” which is sort of an Indian burger (Punjabi tikki wala mini burgers) and “road and rail” which are dishes from rustic roadside and railway stations (around £8 each). They also have sides like rice, naan, and various Indian vegetable dishes.
David and I were total novices at this Indian street food and I don’t actually think we ordered that well (Deepak also afterwards told me that I did not go for their best dishes, so maybe my meal was not as good as it could have been). We decided to order three starter size dishes and then two main courses and then share everything (they recommend you to have 2 street food starters and 1 main course per person for a full meal). They also had great cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and I had a very delicious non-alcoholic cocktail there.
The three starters that we ordered were chicken lollipops (keralan spiced chicken wings), samosas with spicy pea and potato (you could also have chicken ones) and then we could not chose the third starter and the waiter recommended we go for “papri chat” which was crunchy wheat crisps, potato, chickpeas, yoghurt and hot & sweet chutney. I did not like this papri chat at all, this was the only dish that David and I left unfinished. There was too much sauce, the taste was not nice, I just did not enjoy this at all. I liked the sause of the samosas and the pea and potato inside but I thought the batter around was too thick. I was also not overly keen on the chicken wings, there was not enough meat in there and I did not think they were that tasty. Deepak says we did not order well and should have gone for “bhel puri” which is puffed rice with chopped onions and tangy tamarind sauce. The menu does feature many dishes like this one that you just have never heard of before, unless you are well acquainted with Indian street food and just don’t know to order.
We chose one dish from the bun section, “bun chilli chicken” which had pulled spiced chicken & fresh green chutney sauce, and one dish from the “road and rail” section, “Manchurian chicken” (you could also have gobi vegeatable) and this was an Indo-Chinese classic from the Hakka community in Bengal, and which was served like rice. David was very intrigued by this being Indo-Chinese hence he chose this. I also got some raita yoghurt to go with these dishes and a vegetable side “aloo gobi” which is potatoes with cauliflower. I was not too keen on the Manchurian chicken, the sauce was too sweet for me, but I did like the bun chilli chicken. The aloo gobi and the raita were nice but I did not think there were as nice as you would get in an average Indian restaurant.
Overall I love the concept of Roti chai, I love the casual atmosphere, the fact that you share food, and I generally very much like street food. However I was not really keen on any of the dishes here and I am very sort of disappointed, as I really wanted to like this restaurant. The dishes just were too “contemporary” and there was not enough greasiness that I would like to see in street food. But then again having said that maybe I just did not order that well and if I go again and order different dishes I will like this place more.
Date: 09/ 01/ 14
Price for 2 people, no alcohol: £59.40