Tel: +44 (0)20 7439 1330
Address: 2-3 Denman Street, London W1D 7HA
Cuisine Type: Indian
Maybe it’s because I found school dinners so traumatic that I have such an aversion to communal tables. Or perhaps it’s my British reserve that makes me loathe being shoved up close to a complete stranger and having to spend the whole evening hearing about their domestic arrangements, their boss from hell, their foot fetish or whatever their conversation is for the night.
That, unfortunately, is the set-up at Chowki, an Indian restaurant from chef Kuldeep Singh, the man behind Mela. Still, at £10.95 for a starter, main course and dessert it shouldn’t be sniffed at.
There’s also the promise of “home-style” cooking with three regions showcased each month, with everything from speciality starters to different side dishes from each area.
So, despite my communal-table prejudice, I decided to give it a whirl. From November until the end of January there is a festive feast instead of the set regional meals, but with the rather standard-sounding offerings of chicken tikka and rogan josh on offer we plumped instead for the a la carte menu.
Our dinner got off to a promising start with delicious mustard tiger prawns (£4.50) and cubes of pot-roasted lamb (£4.25) – both perfectly spiced and delicious.
However, the main courses were a mixed bag. A Bengali fish curry (£8.95) manifested as a sweetly bland concoction with the meagre chunks of fish looking like they needed lifejackets to rescue them from the sea of sauce.
The selection of kebabs, though, were good – a hunk of juicy salmon, tender chicken pieces – but the lamb pattie was a duff note which tasted predominantly of cardamom.
Each main course is served with bread, rice and dal – and Chowki has got these spot on. The basic naan is fluffy, buttery and delectable, and Amritsari paratha (stuffed with spices and chilli) was fab and very unusual.
Portion sizes aren’t on the huge size so we had room for dessert – a crunchy concoction of “rich almond pudding” was very sweet but lovely all the same. A dish of curd cheese was rather odd – like syrupy mozzarella balls.
Overall, the food is good quality for the price so it does seem churlish to complain here. However, I still couldn’t be persuaded by the communal tables, especially when you’re placed next to a large group having a party. And why did everything we order come with a nondescript green herby dip? Where are all the fantastic Indian chutneys?
Still, these are small quibbles. If you need a quick fuel stop on the way to theatreland, Chowki is well worth knowing about.