Battersea is a rather dreary area of London, dominated by skyscrapers and posh flats, but hidden amongst the concrete is Chokhi Dhani, a jewel of a restaurant serving up an expansive menu of Indian street food with a fine dining flair.
Newly opened, this is the first overseas venture for chef, hotelier and entrepreneur Kriti Vaswan, who already runs a number of upmarket restaurants in India. Her latest enterprise is a celebration of Indian culture, cuisine and design, and it’s well worth a visit purely to admire the restaurant’s beautiful interior.
Visitors can dine in either the downstairs bar area or the more opulently decorated upstairs, which has some lovely views of the Thames. Either way, we thoroughly recommend arriving early and having a drink at the bar. The cocktails are far better than they need to be, particularly the Dhaniya: gin muddled with coriander, cucumber and lemon. It is as refreshing as a summer breeze.
The room itself is furnished with hand-carved chairs from Rajasthan in the shapes of lions and horses. There’s a vivid hand-painted mural along one wall, which adds some welcome colour to the place. You may also notice the displays of traditional Indian jewellery, from dramatic gold necklaces to delicate bangles. We were surprised (and impressed) to discover that much of the jewellery on display is available to buy for less than £20.
Upstairs, the room is tastefully decorated in brown and gold, with various bronze elephants dotted about the place. We spent quite some time mulling over the menu while nibbling on a bowl of mini poppadoms made from lotus, rice and other delicious things. Our waiter recommended we order the bottle of Manpot Blanc Chardonnay, which matches well with spicy food.
There’s an impressive selection of meat and vegetarian options throughout the menu. For our Shuruwaat (starters), we decided on a selection of three dishes including the Bharwaan Subz – stuffed chillies, mushroom in artichoke, and Shuturmurgh Tikka – ostrich, black pepper, yoghurt & mace from the tandoori grill. The latter had a steak-like consistency and a wonderfully spicy kick. Our waiter explained that ostrich is a readily available in India, but trickier to obtain in London, so it was a treat for us to try it.
For our main course, we were eager to sample the Rajasthani thali, which consists of a round platter containing lots of different dishes. We opted for the Maharani Thali (the vegetarian option) and it was a wonderful hotchpotch of different flavours and textures. My personal favourites were the Tandoori Gobi – cauliflower or broccoli marinated in mustard and yoghurt, and Marwari Paneer, which was light and well-spiced. The garlic and red chilli chutney will add a fiery heat to all it touches.
Sadly we were too full for dessert, but I thought the Rose Crème Brûlée with honey comb and rose petal relish sounded particularly enticing. Instead of dessert, we made our way to the bar and had our fortunes told by one of the resident palmists. The restaurant arranges a variety of evening entertainment throughout the week, including a magician (we are told he is wonderful), henna tattooing and live music. There’s even plans to install a shisha bar outside.
Verdict: The service at Chokhi Dhani is exceptional and the food fabulous. If you struggle with spice, make sure you ask for some recommendations as many of the dishes come with a kick.
When: Chokhi Dhani is open Monday to Saturday from 12pm-11pm, and Sunday from 12pm-10:30pm.
CLICK HERE for the full menu.
Getting there: the nearest tube station is Vauxhall (Victoria Line). From here, you can either get a 156/344/436 bus or walk 15 minutes along the river to the restaurant.