If you’re a lover of street food – but also enjoy a relaxed and comfortable dining experience – is it possible to have the best of both worlds?
The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’ if you can find one of the few high quality restaurants specialising in street food – and, if it’s authentic Asian street food you’re after, look no further that Chit Chaat Chai in south-west London.
Located in a trendy Wandsworth high street, Chit Chaat Chai really succeeds in its efforts to replicate the feel and atmosphere of eating street food in a restaurant environment.
There are vibrant artworks from Asian artists adorning the walls – and even the thinking behind the name reflects the ambiance the owner, Tania Rahman, wants to create.
Chaat is a type of Indian street food, while Chai means tea, and Chit-Chaat sums up the relaxed atmosphere offered by the restaurant, where diners can enjoy a good chinwag over their food.
It was a fresh Spring day when we visited the restaurant so it was a welcome relief to ignore the snack truck on the short walk from Wandsworth Town Station and settle down in the comforting warmth of the restaurant.
Fresh and comforting was also a pretty good way to describe the food on offer.
We selected a mixture of meat and veggie dishes, as my fellow diner was a vegetarian, and there was plenty of choice available.
The Popeye’s Paneer dish, featuring a creamed version of the cartoon character’s favourite spinach plus paneer cubes and roti, was a particular favourite on the veggie/vegan front – while the one-pot chicken Biryani also stood out, with its Sindhi style chicken curry infused with turmeric, coriander and gram masala, plus saffron rice.
Another dish we tried was the vegetarian Samosa Chaat, which comprised veg samosas topped with chickpea curry, yoghurt, and chutney (or chaatney, geddit!) and was described on the menu as the Queen of Chaats.
Then there was a final tasty meat dish in the shape of some Keema Cutlets – spiced potato patties stuffed with lamb mince and served with a coriander dip – set off by some crispy okra fries lightly tossed in masala.
All in all it was a top meal using fresh, authentic ingredients which gave you the taste of proper street food – and all at a reasonable price in the region of £30 for two people, without drinks which were also reasonably priced. And the thinking behind Chit Chaat Chai seems as equally refreshing as the food itself.The restaurant was opened three years ago as part of what owner Tania Rahman calls her ‘long and fruitless quest to fulfil an insatiable craving for my favourite India street food’ – and following years of experience preparing and serving food in street markets across London.Since then the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, with a consistent 20% growth in revenue each quarter, and Tania picking up a string of awards in the process – including Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the 2018 National Business Awards and Best New Business in the Asian Business Awards.
A strong believer in empowering the local community, Tania also works with the Prince’s Trust to offer employment to people on the programme, along with the Hopscotch organisation offering chef internships to out-of-work minority women.
So when it comes to a novel approach to Asian street food, there’s certainly a case for Chit Chaat Chai’s logo to include the motto Streets Ahead.
Chit Chaat Chai is at 356 Old York Road,
London SW18 1SS Tel: 020 8480 2364