Matt Humphreys reviews a new restaurant bringing traditional Indian “street food” to Islington’s Chapel Market
21 Chapel Market, N1
020 7278 8882
NOW I love a good curry as much as the next person – but isn’t it time somebody did something fresh, exciting and original with our adopted national dish?
Delhi Grill, newly opened in Islington’s resolutely earthy Chapel Market, is like a breath of fresh air.
The stated aim is to recreate the feel of a traditional “Dhaba” – an informal Indian street canteen offering a limited number of slow-cooked dishes to the masses for a quick, convenient feed.
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This is, boasts the menu, “Indian food as it should be: freshly ground spices, deep delicious flavours and NOT swimming in oil”.
Your average curry house offers nigh-on 100 separate dishes, many using pre-prepared stir-in sauces to speed up the service.
Not so here, where authenticity dictates that a simple single-sheet menu offers just eight starters (from �1.50), three mains (all �6.95) and four side dishes to eat-in or take away – all cooked to recipes handed down by generations of aunts and cousins.
My unbelievably tasty Rogan Gosht, for instance, has been slow cooking in its own juices for more than two hours before I wolf it down with giddy relish.
It is sublime, the meat practically falling apart and (as advertised) free of the usual tell-tale oily deposits as I spoon it onto my plate from the sizzling tureen.
It is bettered only by the rich, even spice of the chicken karahi and is accompanied by a well-cooked serving of rice, a fresh salad bowl and a deliciously light, fluffy nan.
Two warm rotis have been freshly made before our eyes in the open, front-of-house bread counter by an industrious youngster who has been relentlessly rolling and kneeding dough since our arrival 25 minutes earlier. A mixed grill starter was perfect for sharing while beetroot and garlic chutney, minted green chilli with coriander and pureed chick peas and lentil were the pick of six innovative sauces that will make you see poppadoms in a whole new light.
The bright, breezy pale blue paint job and newspaper-covered walls give Delhi Grill a hip cafe vibe, and we were superbly well-fed and watered in less than 45 minutes without our meal ever feeling rushed.
I didn’t feel bloated afterwards and my occasionally delicate digestive constitution emerged not just unscathed, but fortified – a ringing endorsement echoed by my curry-mad best mate, who claims to have received a Christmas card from every Indian restaurant he’s ever made his local.
In short, Delhi Grill is the antithesis of all those dimly lit, badly decorated curry houses that you stumble into with your workmates after an impromptu midweek night out. This is Indian cuisine to savour.
Drinks: wine from �10, beer from �1.95
Mains: all �6.95
Children welcome: yes
Disabled facilities: access but no toilets