It’s hard to know where to begin if you’re after an Indian meal in London. From busy and bustling chains to central-sitting favourites like the Tandoor Chophouse and back-street family run joints, Indian restaurants sprawl the streets of the capital.
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Indian food has, of course, been massively popular for a long while now (chicken tikka masala was actually invented here in the UK, dontcha know), and we’re the last people to complain. It is the food of Saturday nights, feeding us up, tantalising our taste buds and making us feel right at home.
But the thing is, simply stating ‘Indian’ doesn’t quite seem to cut it anymore. Londoners want to know that their seafood dish is inspired by the ports of Kerala and from which street in Gujarat their vegetarian curry is from. In short, we’re getting a bit picky.
Add this desire for detail to an implosion of street food culture and love for tapas-style feasting, and you’ve opened up a whole new gap in the market. That is, Indian street food with a real story.
Recent years have seen eateries which fall under this niche experience an exponential rocketing. Dishoom and the Masala Zone are high-profile examples, as is Soho’s Darjeeling Express – a restaurant founded by Asma Khan which only employs Indian females, recently featured on Netflix’s The Chef’s Table and now has a waiting list for bookings longer than any other restaurant in its vicinity. Impressive, right?
READ MORE: A Craft Beer Bar with Indian Street Food
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Move a little out of the spotlight and you’ll see a whole other host of Indian chefs making their mark on the London foodie scene; the latest to jump on the bandwagon is Deepa Nair, host of the Gutsy Chutney.
TGC is yet again different from its Indian counterparts, because it’s a supper club which has been founded to “right the many wrongs” when it came to the way Indian cuisine was being enjoyed and represented in the UK.
Deepa said: “The numerous restaurants serving Indian cuisine never did justice to the phenomenal culinary variety that exists in India, choosing instead to have only the same and more popular dishes on the menu.”
I’m a lover of the informal, homely supper club. Pay a set price, BYOB (often), rock up to a venue (or someone’s home) which you wouldn’t usually visit and enjoy a multiple-course set menu cooked by a passionate cook (who’s also probably spent all day slaving away in an office, a la Deepa). You can’t get much better than that.
It was a rainy Wednesday evening when I went on my way to the latest in TGC’s offerings, and upon arriving at a small pub in the depths of West London, Deepa greeted me warmly.
She had clearly been busy in the kitchen; her scraped back hair and a spice-stained apron which hung from her neck proved that whatever I was about to eat would be a total labour of love.
This latest supper club was to be inspired by the streets of India. How very apt and on-trend. Out in India, every city has its own street food speciality, so Deepa decided to take attendees on a journey.
She started with dahi papdi chaat, a favourite from the state capital Delhi. It is crisp, savoury tarts filled with boiled potato, chickpeas, sauces and sweet yoghurt. It was totally delicious.
Next up Deepa took us over to Eastern Indian with her Momos, a Tibetan take on Chinese dumplings which have now been popularised in Northern and Eastern India as popular street food. They were serving with a seriously fiery chilli sauce, which, as Deepa warned us as it arrived at the table, was very hot. We ate the Momos with chop sticks – a totally authentic experience.
Before enjoying a delicious main meal of chorizo pao (more on that later), we tucked into Kerala bakery egg puffs. This is apparently one of the most popular snacks that you can find in the bakeries of the region. Flaky and buttery pastry is wrapped around boiled eggs with a spicy Kerala onion sauce. Totally different to anything I’ve tried before, but somehow… it worked.
As mentioned, the main was chorizo pao, a spiced up version of the Pao Recheado com Chourico in Portugal, which is bread stuffed with sausages. This is a Goan street food popular during festivals and celebrations, and could be described to be similar to a chorizo burger in a brioche bun. It has the House of Coco stamp of approval.
The evening was concluded with a traditional dessert – Matka kheer, a dish made of creamy vermicelli and served warm or cold. Comfort food at its finest.
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Deepa’s evening was totally fabulous; an experience we would recommend endlessly. We’re rather hoping she’ll open up a restaurant at some point in the near future… but in the meantime? Get yourself booked in for her next Gutsy Chutney event on April 26th. It is set to be as mouth-wateringly delicious as ever and will be raising funds for The Hygeine Bank charity. No excuses.