Review: Chai Ki, Canary Wharf
Back in London after our incredible wedding and honeymoon in Indonesia and, as always happens when we're away for any reasonable period of time, we were craving 'proper' good Indian food. One of our favourite cuisines, we get withdrawal symptoms after a couple of weeks away.
Cue Chai Ki. We'd spotted this place in Canary Wharf when we'd ventured to the Everyman Cinema just next door (a really excellent cinema, by the way - sofas and all!). We hadn't quite got there yet, but loved the authentic-sounding 'toddy shop' advertised outside.
We don't tend to venture out much in Canary Wharf, but given that it's about 10 minutes away from our home in Greenwich, it felt like a good option for a jetlagged, post-work Indian.
On Indian food in the capital, we generally recommend going one of two ways. The first is cheap and dirty (but just so incredibly delicious) which you can find in the East End curry houses such as Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House. The second is higher end and sophisticated, but still wonderful: some of the best we've found for this type of Indian dining is Babur in Brockley, Lotus in Leicester Square and Michelin-starred Quilon in St James' Park - as well as, of course, the legendary Dishoom, scattered across various London locations.
Chai Ki fits into the latter. This place is not cheap, especially for a quick meal after work (unless, we suppose, you're a banker wandering next door from Barclays, and your sense of affordable differs from ours!). It's based on sharing plates, but each one can knock you back up to £11, meaning that if you're having five or so between two, plus wine - well, you can do the maths.
The menu is extensive, and varied, with some interesting choices. The way this place works is that you order a selection of dishes and they arrive when they arrive. This meant that some dishes arrived quickly, and we had to wait quite a long time for others. This was particularly frustrating when the rice arrived after we'd finished the majority of the dishes.
The stand out dish for us was the first that turned up: Chicken Pear Chaat, with tandoori chicken tikka, crunchy pear, charred gem lettuce, mint and a mango thyme dressing. This was colourful, bright and zingy, and the textures of the soft warm lightly spiced chicken mixed with the crunchy pear and punchy mango dressing worked very well, even if it was the mangling of quite unexpected flavours in your mouth.
The Junglee Malai - guinea fowl breast with cardamom, white pepper, dry mango and a red pepper chutney - was tender and aromatic, although a little on the fatty side.
As with most Indian food, there are vegetarian options a-plenty: we went for the Sigri Aubergine, grilled aubergine steaks with a smoked aubergine topping. This really wasn't C's cup of tea - the smokiness was way too much - although A didn't mind it. We both agreed it wasn't a dish we'd rush back for.
The same had to be said for the dhal, sadly - the right consistency and nothing wrong with it as such, but not a patch on the likes of Dishoom's.
The Malai Paneer, served with cumin shiitake, fenugreek, chutney and a rich, creamy malai methi tari was a kind of curry, basically. This was aromatic and looked very interesting, but unfortunately otherwise it was nothing to write home about.
The dessert menu was uninspiring, and so we left it at that. All in all, a decent enough meal with the odd exciting dish - but if you're in the area, we'd recommend turning around and either heading west to Dishoom or the curry houses of Whitechapel, or south to Babur in Forest Hill.