This Indian restaurant ticks all the boxes if you want a tasty curry and friendly, eager-to-please service, but if you’re looking to be wowed, then you may not find it here. However, give it time and it may just surprise with its interesting and authentic Chettinad cuisine.
Located between Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road underground stations, Chettinad is quiet amidst the hustle and bustle of shops and offices in the surrounding area. Only recently opened, it hasn’t yet attracted the wealth of diners searching for a place to eat in this popular part of London.
Chettinad offers a very clean and rather minimal space in terms of decoration with simple wooden tables and chairs, and sheets of billowing fabric that cover the skylights for a light and airy feel. There are large, decorative mirrors to make the room feel larger, but apart from that the walls are bare.
You’ll find a relaxed, casual atmosphere inside, which makes it a great place to come with groups of friends or colleagues after work. An intriguingly bizarre array of background music plays, from popular songs to a jazz style reminiscent of daytime detective shows. However they're quiet enough so as not to intrude on your evening. Service is extremely friendly and polite, although if they are busy, be sure to remind them if you’re still waiting on something and they’ll be more than happy to assist you.
Chettinad is the name of a region in southern India and its particular cuisine is well-known for its spiciness, as well as its sweet and aromatic flavours. Dishes blend together a whole variety of different spices, which can include tamarind, cinnamon and cloves.
The restaurant proudly bears the tagline ‘Chettinad, the village restaurant where quality meets tradition’, and when you browse through the menu, you’ll discover a range of dishes specific to the Chettinad region and not often found in other Indian restaurants.
The extensive list of starters includes an assortment of spicy snacks, such as chilli eval which consists of large, satisfyingly crispy tiger prawns in a thick, rich tomato, chilli and spring onion sauce (mind out for the green chilli peppers included if you’re wary of too much spice), and chilli paneer, which adds salty Indian cheese to this spicy tomato dish. Other choices include soups and samosas, as well as smaller bites such as fried peanuts and pappadams (all starters priced about £2 - £6.95).
Now the mains get a little bit more exciting. Follow the tagline and go traditional with a Chettinad kozhi curry (£6.95) that combines chicken with twenty three different spices. The result is a warm and faintly sweet dish with distinct flavours of cardamom and ginger. Meen curry, not only has a great-sounding name, but also offers an interesting curry option with chunks of white fish in a tangy yet creamy tomato, tamarind and coconut sauce (£7.95). There are a few old favourites on the menu too in the form of kurma, masala and Madras. Only chicken, lamb, fish and vegetable options are on the menu as beef and pork are not part of the Chettinad cuisine.
You won’t be disappointed by the choice of accompaniments either. There are biriyanis made with Chettinad spices (£7-£9) and interesting rice dishes, including pulliyogare, which combines steamed rice with tamarind juice and crunchy fried peanuts (£2-£4). There are a few bread options too, including chapati and poori, which are fluffy fried flat breads that taste a lot like hot doughnuts, with much of the greasiness too.
After the more exciting main dishes, the desserts may seem a bit of a let-down, as often seems to be the way in curry houses where the main emphasis is on the savoury part of the meal - which is fine if you’ve already filled up on starters, breads and rices. They certainly have interesting names though. Jaggerry dosa is a golden pancake filled with coconut and a little too much butter, which gives it a very salty taste - the ice cream on top makes it slightly more appealing. There’s also kesari bhath, which is a traditional Sevalli semolina pudding made with butter, rice and nuts - it’s a sweet, soothing concoction that has a sensation comparable to fresh, hot towels often provided on aeroplanes, strangely pleasant after a big meal. Desserts are priced about £3.
There's an extensive list of reasonably-priced wines (between £12.95-£24.50 per bottle) with a classic French Petit Chablis at the higher end. There are also sparkling options if you prefer, but if you like to complement your curry with a beer, then you’ll find curry house favourites, such as Kingfisher and Cobra. Soft drinks are also provided.
The Last Word
Blending together exciting flavours traditional to Chettinad cusine, this restaurant has the potential to be a hot spot for those visiting the area. However, there is still a little way to go before this place turns into the buzzing little venue it could be.