HomeReviews - UKChai Naasto (Indian) – Hammersmith

Chai Naasto (Indian) – Hammersmith

Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal HammersmithAfter a successful first year in Beckenham that brought them Open Table’s 2016 Diner’s Choice award, Chai Naasto brings the streets of India to the streets of Hammersmith in West London.

Having opened in April, the concept behind their menu is wonderfully conceived, with diners asked to pick 2-3 plates from the “chaat street” or “kebab gully” sections, a couple of “punjab” or “nanima’s curries”, and a few extras, to really experience the restaurant’s promise of delivering a “gastronomic adventure throughout India”.

Conveniently situated only a five minute walk from Hammersmith tube station, Chai Naasto is a relatively small place, with an indoor capacity of 28 and 10 outside.

The interior is inspired by all the razzmatazz and colourful bravado of India’s booming movie industry, Bollywood.

bollywood films Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal HammersmithWith an eye-catching wall mural depicting its iconic film stars, there’s also three multi-coloured booths available, with orange upholstered seating.

Candle-bulbs hanging from the ends of ropes dangling across the ceiling completes a busy looking interior.

While Chai Naasto has confirmed that “all our meats used are certified Halal”, there is a large alcohol bar situated near the entrance.

Nevertheless, the restaurant offers a variety of what it calls “Sin Free Cocktails”, along with a selection of those quintessential South-Asian yoghurt-based drinks known as Lassies.

drink Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

Bollywood Reviver (left) – Passionfruit, mango & guava juices, mint, coconut syrup, lime & soda
Better than Booze (right) – Lychee & watermelon juices, lemon, fresh cucumber & ginger – £5.00 each

The Better than Booze wasn’t quite as light and as refreshing as we’d hoped for. And while it had a good citrusy flavour to it, the ginger and its supposed other accompaniments simply didn’t come through. Over all, a fairly bland drink.

Although the mango failed to materialise in the Bollywood Reviver, the passionfruit was strong to taste and marginally offset by the hint of lime. Additionally, we also found that a little nibble on the mint leaf therein provided a most satisfying counter to all the sweetness.

drink Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

(L-R) Rose & Cardamom, Mango – £5.00 each

How delightfully unique and elegant were these upturned glass bulb bottles, and entirely befitting these solid yoghurt-based beverages.

Both were thick and fulfilling, with the mango flavoured one striking us as fairly standard, and the Rose & Cardamom turning out to be utterly delicious.

A perfectly balanced lassie where the rosewater was thankfully subtle enough to allow the soothingly gentle taste of the cardamom to come through. What’s more, this had little bits to it that gave this lassie a surprisingly addictive texture. Superb!

CURRIES FROM PUNJAB

Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

4. Makhni Chooze – Chicken tikka, simmered in a tomato & butter sauce is a popular dish world over, £8.50

roti Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

Try with Masala Cheese Naan, £3 (see below)

Of the two curries we had, this Makhni Chooze, literally translated Butter Chicken, was the most appealing.

Presented in those traditional tiffin-style metal containers, this was also traditionally garnished, with a dollop of butter, and looked mightily inviting.

Taste-wise, the sweet masala sauce was, in terms of its strength of flavour, just right.

Texture-wise, it was beautifully creamy with generous portions of succulent chicken pieces.

We’d also recommend grabbing a portion of the Masala Cheese Naan, more about which you can read below…

CURRIES FROM NANIMA

Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

10. Nanima’s Ghosht Nu Shaak – A family recipe passed down from Nani; lamb curry on the bone cooked in house-blended spices & fresh herbs, £9.00

As exquisite as the cooking of this lamb curry was – tender chunks of soft meat stewed in a non-oily sauce that had an almost rich, gelatinous consistency to it, and which was beautifully infused with the flavours of the fatty lamb – it wasn’t quite as good as it could and should have been.

Sadly, the technical side of this dish just didn’t mirror the flavours this warranted. It was obvious that, while this was perfectly seasoned, the chef had been somewhat restrained in his use of spices. This deserved to be far stronger in taste than it was.

CHAAT STREET

Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

29. Chandni Chowk Ke Samose Chaat – Crisp Punjabi vegetable samosas broken & served with spiced chick peas & drizzled witha melody of chutneys & sweet yoghurt, £5.00

A commendable little Samose Chaat that was well balanced, though mild in terms of its flavours.

The sweet and sour played its part sufficiently to allow for the gentle heat of the garam masala to kick in soon after, while the scattered pomegranates provided some crunchy sweetness.

salad Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

31. Chatpata Super Food Salad – Quinoa, freekah, lamb lettuce, beetroot, feta cheese & walnut drizzled in our chaat masala dressing, £6.00

A fresh, no nonsense salad that seemed a little dear for the £6.00 price tag.

In any case, the addition of the freekah provided a crunchy bite, while the saltiness of the feta cheese played well against the earthy slithers of beetroot and walnut.

pani puri Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

34. Pani Puri Shots – Savoury snack made with wheat balls, stuffed with a spicy potato filling & served with a sweet & sour tamarind reduction, £5.00

We’ve had Pani Puris that packed far more of a masala-wallop than these insipid shots.

So subtle were these that, aside from the light chilli-based potato concoction and the finely textured bombay mix with pomegranates, the only thing we picked up on in these was the taste of the gentle sweet tamarind reduction.

quail eggs kofta Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

39. Nargisi Quail Egg Koftas – Spicy lamb mince wrapped around quail eggs: crumbed, fried & served withour smoked tomato chutney, £6.00

Always a difficult one to execute this one which, on this occasion, wasn’t quite there, with the quail egg turning out hard boiled.

Nonetheless, the spices in the succulent kofta, which also had a pleasant chewiness to it, were beautifully balanced.

As a result, the entire thing worked really well against the loosely textured tomato-based sweet-chilli sauce.

biryani Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

41. Biryani – Choose from: lamb, chicken or vegetable. Served with a traditional burani raita, £6.50

With a choice of lamb, chicken or vegetable, we opted for the lamb. And though the meat was soft and decently made, the rice, perhaps on account of the spices coating it, turned out a tad firm. Whether this was by design or not, we don’t know; but, we would have preferred it softer.

Taste-wise, however, the hit of garam masala was unmistakable, perhaps bordering on the harsh, with the heat gently lingering in the background. As such, the sourness of the yoghurt raita was certainly the perfect accompaniment.

Not the best biryani we’ve ever had, but not bad either.

KEBAB GULLY

Seekh paratha Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

42. Khan Chacha’s Seekh Paratha – Lamb seekh kebab served on paratha (flat bread) with mint chutney & pickled redonion (can be served without the paratha fora gluten-free option), £6.00

This Seekh Paratha was average at best. Despite the hint of smokiness, had the kebab actually been properly charred to lift it beyond its soft textured exterior, then perhaps this might have compensated for the subtlety of spice therein.

And a perfect paratha is one that’s also well charred and, thus, crispy on the outside, which would have provided that textural contrast. This, on the other hand, wasn’t that.

fish Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

49. Tandoori Sea Bass – Whole sea bass marinated with yoghurt & tandoori spices & served with mint chutney & pickled red onion, £10.00

And speaking of a good charred exterior, this Sea Bass epitomised the meaning of the word Tandoori.

What an absolute delight it was to be presented with a fish whose flesh flaked off at the merest of touches. Couple that with a tandoori-charred masala marinated crispy skin, and what we had here, with a squeeze of the lemon of course, was one of the dishes of the evening!

This demands respect and attention!

tandoori Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

50. Tandoori Jhinga Chatpata – King prawns marinated in red chilli, black pepper, ginger, yogurt & fresh lemon juice & glazed until golden in the tandoor, £10.00

With the freshness of the ginger lingering in the background, the marination on these king prawns assured a good amount of heat, which was tempered somewhat by the squeeze of the lemon.

And while these were springy and soft and perfectly cooked, perhaps a slightly crispier exterior would have provided that touch of tandoori smokiness.

Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

51. Tawa King Scallops – Pan-fried scallops served with spicy cauliflower purée & herb dressing, £8.50

We’d be damned if they didn’t succeed in presenting the perfectly cooked scallops here.

These were unbelievably tender and soft, and worked really well with the ultra-smooth almost mousse-like cauliflower base, which was sufficiently spiced to ensure some background heat.

And the green herb sauce streaked over the top was clever in countering said heat.

EXTRAS

roti Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

Masala Cheese Naan £3.00

Never had a masala cheese naan before, and this was an interesting first time. While crispy on the outside, this progressively became softer towards the cheesy centre.

We’d actually recommend this with any curry you might consider.

DESSERTS

dessert Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

Mango Shrikhand – Hung yoghurt infused with cardamom, saffron & honey & topped off with a peach compote or mango purée, £5.50

An interesting dessert this and a challenging one too. It was certainly yoghurty in its texture; but what we enjoyed most about this was the interplay between the honey and the saffron. More importantly, it wasn’t overly sweet either. Good stuff!

dessert Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

Brownie Chaat – Spiced chocolate orange brownie served with vanilla ice-cream, salted caramel & toasted nuts (nut-free & gluten-free options available), £6.00

NOTE: This contains nuts.

A seriously indulgent, truly chocolatey brownie, albeit dense. Its crunchy orange base worked well texturally speaking, while the vanilla scoop helped counter all that chocolateness.

TEAS

teas green spice Chai Naasto Indian Street food Halal Hammersmith

(L-R) Himalayan Green Magic Tea, Vadham Tea – An exclusive green tea harvested at the foothills of the Himalayas
Mango Green Tea Infusion, Kandula – This spiced blend from Sri Lanka is low in caffeine
Choco Chai Spice Ayurvedic Infusion, Yogi Tea – A caffeine-free brew made with traditional chai spices and cocoa shells – £2.50 each

Chai Naasto have a really good selection of teas too, which we couldn’t help, but try.

Both the Himalayan Green Magic Tea and the Mango Green Tea Infusion were subtle, but managed to deliver that warmth so familiar of a good quality green tea.

Conversely, the Choco Chai Spice Ayurvedic Infusion, was such a strong spicy brew that it hit the back of the throat with some intensity before slowly mellowing out. But once the palate adjusted, we all thoroughly enjoyed this Yogi Tea.

THE ROAR
Chai Naasto
3.5 FTL's Roar
3 Pride's Roar (1 Roar)
Alcohol/ Pork?
  • YES/ NO
Facilities
  • CHILD SEATING
  • DELIVEROO
Summary
Impressively decked out, with all the colour and fanfare of a busy Indian city, Chai Naasto has a fantastic array of street food plates that are sure to spoil.

The idea of a culinary voyage across India is inspired, and Chai Naasto has obviously invested a good amount of time and effort in presenting and selling the concept as effectively as they have; it really does work.

As to the food, then, by and large, it succeeds in offering some of the authentic flavours of the streets of India.

However, if we did have a criticism, it would be that they seem to have perhaps made the decision, at least for some dishes, in toning down on the use of the many bold and vibrant spices that represent and epitomise Indian cooking. And we can't help but think that this might be down to them catering for the local palate. If true, then that's a real pity, since a number of dishes consequently suffered as a result.

In any case, Chai Naasto is certainly a restaurant that intends to keep things fresh and innovative, with their menu "voyages" scheduled for change every 2-3 months.

Menu Recommendation

Drinks - Rose & Cardamom Lassie

Mains - 4. Makhni Chooze, 49. Tandoori Sea Bass, 51. Tawa King Scallops

Desserts - Mango Shrikhand

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Chai Naasto
103 Hammersmith Grove,
London, W6 0NQ.

T: +44 (0)20 8741 1088 | W: www.chai-naasto.co.uk | E: hammersmith@chai-naasto.co.uk

Opening Hours: Mon CLOSED | Tue-Fri 17:00-23:00 | Sat-Sun 12:00-15:00 & 17:00-23:00

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