Wandsworth Town is many things; leafy, often picturesque, known for its river views and its remarkably cheap council tax, but seldom do people liken it to downtown Bombay. Unless they’ve been to Chit Chaat Chai.
This gem of a restaurant is a slice of India’s cool Bollywood side, at once bustling with that Bombaiker urgency, with an aesthetic straight out of Bandra and a cuisine that encapsulates the city in a tiffin tin. Here are five reasons to visit…
The first thing that hits you, other than the general hubbub and delightful smell, is the decor. This isn’t your ordinary Indian, no shagpile carpet and yellowing 1970s photos of the Taj Mahal, but something else altogether.
The giant murals on the walls harness the passion, energy and vibrancy of modern India, but also of the food at Chit Chaat Chai, nodding to Indian culture from the Moghuls to Megastars of modern Mumbai.
The Okra Fries
Eat the okra fries at Chit Chaat Chai then die. Not literally, of course, but the okra fries are not only mandatory, they’re also brilliant. Fried in a spicy ‘magic’ masala, the vegan treats are splendid.
An aesthetic straight out of Bandra and a cuisine that encapsulates the city in a tiffin tin
It’s not just any cocktail that gets featured in Elle magazine. I’m not sure of the context, but apparently they covered Sunset Over Goa, the highly Instagrammable cocktail. Containing Stolichnaya Vodka, lychee and hibiscus it tastes as nice as it looks.
If you’re a carnivore then you won’t want to miss First Class Lamb Railway. Apparently served in the first class carriages on India’s extensive rail network, it’s creamy and not too hot but the flavours are brilliant. But Chit Chaat Chai is a great place to take a vegan too (which, of course, I did). The star vegan dish has to be the samosa chaat, AKA’d as the ‘queen of chaats’. Picture two vegetable samosas on a bed of lightly spiced chickpea curry, fresh yoghurt and a trio of zingy chutneys, slathered up with a chunk of garlic, chilli and buttery naan and you’ve got a light bite of dreams.
It also happens to be a frequent al-desko must-eat for The Handbook office, as we’re based around the corner. For a slightly sweeter vegan hit, get your hands on the beetroot chole tikki chaat, a bowl of spiced potato and beetroot patties and the same mix of chickpea curry, yog, tamarind and green chutney.
A Good Laugh
A night out with a curry and cocktails could only be better if you add in a belly laugh. And thanks to Chit Chaat Chai’s regular comedy nights the restaurant is transformed into more than just a place for great food and drink, but also for enjoying time with friends and with one of the semi-big-name comedians that ply their trade on a Monday evening for Stand Up & Chaat.
To be fair to Wandsworth, the borough has more than its fair share of Indian restaurants, Tooting is a samosa’s throw away, and yet across the whole of South West London I’ve never come across anywhere quite like Chit Chaat Chai, which uniquely blends the tastes and styles of East and West, much like the urban metros of the Indian Sub Continent. And this is down to the restaurant’s owner and founder, Tania Rahman. Rahman quit her job in the corporate world to realise her passion for Indian street food, or chaat, and her vision has certainly paid off. Any visit to Chit Chaat Chai should involve a natter with Rahman, and it’s impossible not to be infused with her excitement. And if you can’t say ‘hi’, then don’t worry because the food will have the same effect.