Crossrail Place is rapidly evolving into the dining complex of choice for local city workers at Canary Wharf. Although I am not quite sure it is the foodie destination of choice yet, as most of the restaurants are successful chain concepts which have already opened elsewhere in town. Chai Ki, whilst not officially a ‘chain restaurant’ is a sister restaurant to the hugely successful Roti Chai near Marble Arch.
The venue is divided into a more casual toddy shop bar and kitchen at the front and a more formal, refined restaurant area at the back for dinner with exceptional views of the canal nearby. They have spent their budget well on the decor, it doesn’t look outlandishly ostentatious but it is suitably smart and upmarket for the Canary Wharf crowd. On the night of our visit, the waiting time for a table was over 1 hour, such is the popularity of Chai Ki with the local workers.
A cursory study of their menu doesn’t necessarily give the impression it is menu bringing the traditional Indian cuisine to the 21st century. However, you just need to see how incredibly beautifully plated the food are, to appreciate the work that has gone into modernising a classic cuisine, as well as the careful thought that has gone into flavouring the dishes.
The grilled sliced aubergine steaks are melt-in-your-mouth soft whilst being a very filling dish at the same time for vegetarians. It is deliciously flavoured with Hyderabadi salan which has a tasty mixture of peanut and chillies.
A simple dish of paneer pepper skewers has a welcoming sauce with spicy flavours from the Indo-Chinese Schezwan dip. Whilst meat-lovers should opt for the Junglee Malai. Not many Indian restaurants offer guinea fowl; the version here tastes like pheasant, without excessive gamey flavours. The meat is lean and moist with strong flavours coming from the red pepper chutney, dry mango, white pepper and cardamom.
My favourite dish was the coconut prawns; it’s the kind of curry dish crying out for naan or rice to soak up the spicy goodness. Despite being soaked in the thin pool of curry, the prawns are delightfully crunchy. The sauce has a tempered spiciness from the use of coconut milk alongside the tumeric, fennel and ‘podi’ (a chilly powder mixture from Southern India). It is healthily interspersed with vegetables such as tempered mooli, broccoli and curry leaves.
With queues of over 1 hour-long on weeknights, make sure you make a booking before heading to Chai Ki.