Quench Food Evening at Chai Street, guest blog by Ellie Philpotts
Quench is Cardiff University’s award-winning life style magazine. In January a team of 15 budding foodie and life style writers held a Quench Food Evening at Chai Street. Editor of Quench Magazine Ellie Philpotts has written this guest blog following her Chai Street taste experience.
“Chai Street do Indian with a twist” by Ellie Philpotts, Quench Magazine.
Cardiff seems like a city of two halves. In one sense, it’s rooted in tradition, with a number of venues in the entertainment scene that double as part of the city’s furniture. Examples such as The Globe, Chapter and Owain Glyndwr have dutifully satisfied generations, from those who’ve lived in Cardiff their whole lives, to the students who were adopted by the city for the duration of their degrees.
On the other hand, though, it’s a city that’s constantly regenerating – setting up independent shops and restaurants, and generally moving in a new trajectory. High Street alone captures this juxtaposition – on one side, there’s the traditional Goat Major pub, while cross over and you’ll bump into Chai Street, just one of the area’s new kids on the block.
Chai Street’s speciality is Indian street food. Originally only found a little further out of town, (but still well worth the trek!) on Cowbridge Road East, Canton’s core of all things foodie, incredible demand presented them with no choice but to expand, and so the more central addition joined High Street late last year. Co-owner Ajit Kandoran explained:
‘We’re delighted to be opening in the heart of Cardiff. It’s a busy, lively and exciting place, just right for a real Indian experience.’
Chai Street is an outlet of the renowned Mint and Mustard, which was launched by Ajit and Latheesh Kottilil, both doctors, after they fondly remembered the food they’d enjoyed back in Kerala, Southern India. The following year, their plan of transporting the Keralan philosophy – that food is ‘a passion and way of life’ to British diners became a reality, in the form of the first Mint and Mustard here in Cardiff – and since then, it’s extended to elsewhere in Wales – Penarth and Chepstow – as well as Taunton over the English border, scooping a range of awards in the process.
They featured in last year’s Good Food Guide, and enjoy a reputation as one of the UK’s most authentic tastes of India. So while we’re lucky to have them so close to home – they’re just a stone’s throw from studentville on Whitchurch Road, we’re also fully backing their decision to set up a more relaxed kitchen.
After my first experience of Chai Street at their High Street launch party, it didn’t take much for me to hope they’d be eager to host our first Quench Food Evening of 2017, and once we all arrived, it didn’t take much to be glad they had!
When you walk in, it’s hard to ignore the quirky décor – think bright bunting, strings of lights and blackboards handwritten with all the colours of the rainbow. The restaurant is quite an unusual shape, but its narrowness meant our table for 15 was a perfect fit, while the most important factor, the menu, definitely doesn’t disappoint.
The Thalis – an Indian street platter – alleviates any pesky indecisiveness because it encompasses six distinct
flavours – ‘sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy’. These come in Lamb, Chicken, Fish, Vegetable and even the intriguing-sounding Chai Special – so you can combine the main dish with smaller bites like dal and raita. With other favourites including Indian street rolls and Bhaji Baskets, the spicier end of the spectrum prevails throughout, but other flavours are in no way neglected. The highlights of my own meal had to be the masala fries – not exactly associated with Chippy Lane – and the mojito, which is a far more generous size than most other places, yet reasonably priced at just over £5.
All in all, Chai Street do Indian with a twist. Proving the team are a multi-talented bunch, whether at the pricier side of things over at Mint and Mustard, or centering on the cheap and cheerful at both Chai Street branches, they, like Cardiff itself, manage to encapsulate an interesting combination – of old-school and modern.
Quench Magazine website: www.quenchmag.co.uk