Words by Andrea Drobna
When first opened in Cardiff their goal was to provide authentic, tasty food from across India to a city on the go. For those looking to dine in, the restaurant also hoped to provide a contemporary chilled out environment, welcoming both long-time lovers of Indian cuisine and first-time wanderers.
Recently, the restaurant has aimed at a new objective: challenging themselves to provide fresh and healthy Indian food while only using vegan ingredients. The exciting vegan menu was launched on the 10th of October, and I had the privilege to test it out.
So, can Indian curry really taste good without the chicken?
As I arrived at their Canton location with my friend and long-time vegan foodie Mia Dutch, we were beyond excited to see what they had in store for us.
Upon arriving, we were immediately greeted by the restaurant’s events manager, Ankur Baria. He gave us a tour of the place, showcasing the secret garden in the back as well as the large spaces available for parties and exclusive events. We were overall very impressed with the interior design of the restaurant, as the vibrant colors and old Indian movie posters displayed on the wall created a unique and welcoming atmosphere. The main eating area was quite cozy as well, and the staff and setting made us feel immediately at home.
During the first half of the night, we had the opportunity to test out their wide range of vegan wines, cocktails and a few of the new starters.
The service was impeccable, with the staff constantly bringing out new dishes to try as well as topping up our drinks whenever we ran out.
Two of my favorite starters were the onion and murungai pakora, containing onion and ‘drumstick’ (a vegetable mainly used in Indian cuisine) and the kale spinach twists, drenched in a batter tasting almost exactly like cheese. All the starters were amazing, with even the most basic potato fritters tasting out of this world due to the combination of sauces and spices that kept us wanting more. After a few drinks and starters, we were more than ready for the main dishes.
Before the main dishes were brought out, the restaurant owner made a small speech, thanking us for coming and further explaining his vision behind the vegan launch. As a surgeon by day, he is naturally preoccupied with people’s health and trying new techniques to get people to eat healthier and take better care of their bodies. His philosophy is: if he could somehow make the dishes healthier without compromising the taste, then why not do it?
Mia and I both admired his dedication and passion to his new vision for Chai Street and realized that it was so much more than just the food. We could see that this new restaurant was a celebration of not only his cultural heritage, but his passion for health, was a beautiful thing to witness.
To answer my initial question of “can curry really taste good without the chicken?” I quickly realized that it definitely can. All of the main curry dishes were so vibrant and flavorful, it made me believe that no one would miss the meat in these dishes. We again, had the opportunity to try out the majority of the new mains and my recommendation for anyone looking for a sweeter curry would be British Avial, a thick mixture of coconut cream and vegetable. For those more inclined to try something a bit spicier, the Chloe Bhaure curry with spiced and stewed chickpeas would be the best bet.
To summarize, I have nothing but praise for this restaurant. With the extremely accommodating staff and top notch dishes, Chai street is not one to be missed. I would more than advise those who are trying to cut back on animal products to try it out , as this establishment is a clear example of how healthy food doesn’t always have to be boring, and breaks the stigmas that many have about vegan food. I for one will definitely be back here soon!