Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chowki, Piccadilly

I like the idea behind Chowki: each month three regions of India are highlighted and from each one there are three starters, three mains and a dessert on offer. For someone like myself who loves Indian food but who, like many, is guilty of selecting the same sort of thing everytime, it's perfect.

There were six of us and I booked our table two days in advance for 7.30pm, mentioning we had a Taste London card, which was no problem. It was also no problem when, on Thursday night, we were still finishing drinks in the Dog and Duck and I called to move it to 8pm.

We were seated on a table for eight, with two other diners at the end. This was fine - we hardly noticed and this is, after all, the style of the restaurant. The service was lovely from the start: they took our jackets and were prompt with offering drinks, extra tap water was brought without fuss. We all decided to order the three course menu for £14.95. In order to take advantage of this you must order your starter, main course and pudding all from the same region. This was actually really fun and prompted much debate and discussion. It also meant that instead of my usual chicken option, I went for a vegetarian starter of cabbage and lentil dumplings, deep fried with a spicy tomato chutney and a queen prawn curry for my main course.

The dumplings were really tasty, if a tiny bit hard, and the salsa was just the right amount of zingy to set them off. Everyone seemed to enjoy their starter, in fact, and indeed their main. Served in four small bowls, set in a semi circle around your plate, each section of the meal is separate. Prawns in sauce in one, more sauce in another, vegetables in the third and finally rice. This made me try the flavours individually and really appreciate what I was eating. The portions were the perfect size. Selections from other regions included a chicken stew with potatoes and cauliflower, Murg Possani (chicken on the bone with chilli, poppy seeds, ginger and garlic) and Keema Mutter (lamb mince cooked in yogurt). My only complaint would be that I only appeared to have three queen prawns, a rather measly offering. This aside, it was delicious and everyone said the same.

I never really have a pudding in an Indian restaurant, they tend to be too sweet for me, but on this occasion they were included. Mine was green ripe banana and rice flour steamed with coconut. It had a texture alike to marzipan and a pleasant taste which everyone else hated. Fresh curd cheese dumpling stuffed with nuts and saffron was universally shunned, and par boiled rice, stir fried with almond flakes in butter and sprinkled with sweet saffron milk tasted just like pilau rice with sugar on top but tasting all these gave rise my much hilarity amongst our group. In fact, we discussed food preferences and flavours as we chose and ate.

When the bill was brought the Taste London discount had already been applied without us having to ask, the first time this has ever happened and made everything much less stressful. It was incredibly good value, wonderful service and great food. Chowki - see you soon.

Three courses and half a bottle of wine (without Taste London discount): £20 per head

Value: 8/10

Service: 9/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Food: 7/10

SCORE: 31/40

Chowki, 2-3 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HA. Tel: 020 74391330

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