I'm an East End girl, born and bred. For two decades, I lived a stone's throw away from Whitechapel, Brick Lane and all the wonderful chaat fixes of your dreams. As such, I now class myself as somebody with a refined taste in the ultimate desi comfort food. You can imagine how cynical I was when chaat (Indian small plates) restaurants began to take over every nook and cranny of London! But Chit Chaat Chai is different.
I've been stalking Tania (one of the masterminds behind Chit Chaat Chai) via Instagram and exchanging emails and texts for months. When she invited me down to try the menu and have a little gossip, I wasn't ready for the warm welcome I received. Located in Wandsworth, Tania transformed the high street with a colourful store front: post box red lacquer can hardly go unnoticed! Inside was no different. Walls were emblazoned with patterns and slogans, and my favourite: a wall sized portrait of Madhubala eyeing guests who walk upstairs.
Chai was ordered, small talk was made and then it came to the good bit. First off, it's halal. The menu was refreshing. If you've ever been to a Brick Lane balti house, you'll know why: just twenty four items make up the kitchen's routine. Even this many chaats were too many for my giddy mind to handle so I asked Tania to roll out some of her favourites. And boy, was I impressed. The bhel cone topped with sev and pomegranate was possibly the most beautiful chaat I had ever seen and it tasted as good as it looked! The Hakka wings (Indo-Chinese influenced street food) are a house special and these sweet and sticky bitefuls, though tiny, leave every corner of your appetite content. I've made okra fries on the blog before and I'm glad that these were on the menu. In typical British fashion, the weather had just turned and when that happens, only one thing can satisfy me: tadka dhaal. Chit Chaat Chai uses a mix of red lentils and chana dhal, something I've never thought of but now can't get out of my mind.
Beyond the food, what would make me return to this place time and time again is Tania. There aren't many women in the food industry, whether it's front of house or behind the scenes- something I find perplexing considering the divisive gender roles and female stereotypes we have in society. As one of the few young Bengali female entrepreneurs I've heard of, Tania grabs the bull by its horns and challenges the notion that women cannot survive in business, let alone the restaurant industry!
Details about Chit Chaat Chai
Address: 365 Old York Road, London, SW18 1SS
Phone: 0208 480 2364