The Handbook
The Handbook

Ooty: The Restaurant Redefining South Indian Cuisine

By Lottie Woodrow | 20th November 2019

It’s not every day you find a restaurant you’re still raving about weeks after you’ve graced the four walls and delighted in a lunchtime of wining and dining. But, Ooty won me over with all of its passion, spark and grace.

Drawing its name from an idyllic hill-station in the state of Tamil Nadu, this little South Indian restaurant, tucked on Baker Street, will transport you to an era bygone. The town of Ooty, short for Udhagamandalam, was first founded as a British Raj summer resort, and the restaurant champions this rich history with its glorious décor and ambiance. Okay, I’m sure you didn’t sign up for a history lesson here but as far as interiors go, Ooty definitely scores a few points.

I mean, seriously, talk about Insta goals! I’ll have one of everything thanks.

Spearheaded by owners Pooja Nayak and Aseela Goenka who drew inspiration from their childhood, in just a short space of time Ooty has become a haven for influencers alike eager to snap up a quick snap for the ‘gram. There’s no denying the resto isn’t awe-inspiring, seriously just look at the florals darted across the walls. If the wallpaper isn’t, or wasn’t at least inspired by William Morris’ notorious designs, I’d be surprised. Sprinkle in some dark turquoise banquette seating, velvety fern coloured cushions and succulents adorning the tables, and you’ve got yourself one Insta-worthy restaurant.

Make your way downstairs and you’ll find yourself in their basement bar, adorn with colonial paintings, maps and vintage prints, copper accents and wooden furniture. Seating up to 18 guests, it also makes for the perfect private dining area and you can even exclusively hire it for private parties too. Ooty Station, on the other hand, is inspired by the town of Ooty’s railway station which operated the only rack railway in India. Boasting room for 40 city dwellers, it’s home for those looking for a more casual dining space, and serves up the best cocktails with a little Indian twist.

But Ooty didn’t just deliver on interiors and rich history, the menu also packed a punch with flavour combos I’d been yet to explore. Headed by Manmeet Singh Bali, the former head chef at Michelin-starrers Rasoi and Vineet Bhatia London, the menu draws on flavourful treats from every corner of South India.

Herby cocktail in hand and munching our way through a mountain of extra crisp poppadum, lavishly dunking into a never-ending supply of chutneys, we perused over the menu although knowing full well we’d be ordering the veg trio platter and one of the khasta chaats to share that we’d been eyeing up all week online. In order to make the meal fully plant-based we swapped the achari broccoli for the samosa chaat served with masala chickpeas and tamarind and mint chutney. And, boy, were we glad we did! Although on the slightly fiery side, it added a depth of flavour to the trio and we definitely had our tastebuds tantalised, sampling what a real samosa stands for, rather than the ones us Brits are so used to seeing wrapped in cellophane in our local food store…

The trio really was a site for our weary, tired eyed. Bursts of flavour mixed with an added essence of fun from the palak Lolli, a bitesized mouthful of spinachy goodness wrapped in a breaded coating on the outer layer. And, while a bao-style bun wasn’t exactly what we were expecting to find on a South Indian menu, it added another layer of comfort to the dish, and allowed us to mop up the extra oozy sauce left over from the khasta chaat, which I must admit, stole the show. A delicate blend of hot and cold, sweet and savoury, the chaste chaat was oozing with flavourful sauce, bite and charm. The imli sorbet added a slightly sweet note which helped cool and sooth our tingling palette from the spice lingering in the back of our throat.

A few sips of our boozy cocktails and we were swiftly onto our sharing mains. Like all of my favourite restaurants, we opted for a selection of a few dishes to get a real taste for the resto. First up, and probably a favourite of both my partner and mine, was the sun-dried tomato and edamame uttapam which came sizzlingly quick from the griddle. Again, sun-dried tomato isn’t exactly a flavour I typically associate with Indian cuisine but honestly it was a doughy plate of goodness. Unlike your typical dosa that’s super thin and crisp, our uttapam was on the thicker side, bursting with sweetness from the tomato. We also shared the kokan vengay, a ghatti masala aubergine served with lightly spiced rice and carrot pickle, and two glorious sides of vegetable thoran and parotta basket (again, another bread dish but this time in the shape of layered flatbread, delish!)

As our meal came to a close, jasmine tea in hand, we reflected on the delightful meal we’d just eagerly devoured. Ooty, you’re sure to win over a few with your Insta-worthy interiors, delightful charm and exceptional food. Even if Christmas tunes were filling the air on November 1st.

Find Ooty at 66 Baker Street, W1U 7DJ,

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