Koolcha (Indian) – Box Park Wembley, London
Koolcha is Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai’s attempt at a move away from fancy gastronomy and towards the world of casual contemporary dining.
While Indian cuisine will again be at the heart of proceedings, Koolcha is concentrating on offering jazzed up street-style food.
And management has already confirmed with us: “All our lamb and chicken Halal. We always cook with care and there is no other meat being served at KoolCha apart from Halal lamb and chicken.”
More importantly perhaps, is that this latest addition to Boxpark brings, to our knowledge, the number of Halal options to an impressive eight so far.
The restaurant’s name is a play on the North Indian Kulcha flatbreads, with the 60-cover eatery offering plenty of seafood, meat and veggie options.
While alcohol is served on the premises, the bar is literally located around the corner to the dining area extending towards the back of the venue.
The place itself is thoughtfully designed too, with clever use of soft lighting that manages to maintain the dusky ambience of the pop-up mall while at the same time helping to enhance the restaurant’s elegant decor and dark earthy tones.
Note also that Koolcha does add a 10% discretionary service charge to the bill.
The simple appearance of these mocktails betrays the thought put and precision required in putting these together.
The Mel had us enthralled right off the bat, with the dominant tangy lime sherbet combining beautifully with the cool mint to deliver a tantilisingly refreshing drink of zesty tones.
Arguably the most interesting was the Navya. A mature beverage whose clever make up allowed for the warmth of the ginger to tenderly linger at the back of the palate only after the apparent sweetness of the mandarin gently gave way to the distant aftertaste of the lemon sherbet.
As for the Funtoos, then this citrusy affair will have you pleasantly squinting with every sip as your taste buds dance along to the beat of the sweet and sharply sour chords created by the orange, lime and grapefruit therein.
And these fruit-flavoured iced teas were expertly done, with both coming through strongly enough, though without being overly sweet, to subtly mimic freshly made fruit juices.
As such, while there was plenty of well blended Kiwi to deliver on that unmistakable gloopy-cum-syrupy texture, it wasn’t too sweet, making this frothy-topped glass perfect in dampening the heat of some of the dishes had below.
As for the Strawberry, then this was again nicely blended, had plenty of ice, was strong in taste, and thus quite delicious.
The best thing about these lassis was the yoghurt used therein, which will immediately be recognised for its distinctly fresh-tasting milkiness by anyone who’s ever had the homemade variety.
Of the trio, the Mango & Ginger was easily the best, only because one could actually taste the mango, with the heat of the ginger barely discernible.
As for the stand alone Mango, then while it had a decent consistency, there wasn’t much mango to speak of.
But what really irked us was the lack of salt in the Standard version, which was doubly disappointing given how darn good that yoghurt was. In hindsight, perhaps the solution was to ask for a salt shaker!
A colourful bowl that looked more appetising than it turned out. Not only did we find the alleged “crispy” nature of this potato cake missing in action, but it was a little on the thick side, culminating in the entire thing being texturally one-dimensional, i.e. mushy.
And while the flavours were nice enough, meandering as they did between the sweetness of the tamarind to the freshness of the mint chutney, what this needed was some crunch to break things up.
And while it was delicate enough, being ground three times over for good measure, it lacked a crispy exterior, was a tad friable, and erred a touch on the dry.
Nonethesless, it was a tasty one, though perhaps with the chef having been a little heavy with the garam masala.
As such, there was plenty of heat to this, and thus you may require plenty of the accompanying mint to help see yourself through this fiery duo.
This Chowpati Vada Pao burger was simple enough, but packed quite a punch.
Nestled in between two toasted soft baps was, indeed, a vada (that’s ‘big’ in Punjabi) pao, which could have done with more of the tamarind sauce to compensate for its relatively dry nature. Nevertheless, it was the addition of those potent, and we do mean potent, green chillis that really brought this pao bun to life.
Despite the coconut, unsurprisingly, being lost in translation, this was still an enjoyable eat that’ll have your sinuses open in no time.
The secret behind this busy-looking Ghati Masala Prawns is to have everything together; that includes a good squeeze of that lime, which’ll help cut through the strength of the semi-dry marination of the prawns.
As for the crustaceans, then these were beautifully cooked – soft with that touch of firmness. Meanwhile, the diced red onions helped add a sweet undertone, the coriander some herbiness, and the coconut not much else save extra texture.
A lot going on in this plate of Chicken Popcorn Masala. With the glistening nuggets of poultery being utterly tender and succulent, the marinade used was again a very strong one.
More enjoyable was the masala seasoning, which appeared to be crushed roasted peanuts, giving this dish an earthy aftertaste. But, perhaps a sauce might be in order to help dampen the heat of the spices.
And of all the small plates had, this Chicken Tikka Slider was the weakest of the bunch for us.
Let’s put it this way, as moist as the chicken was and as tasty as its light masala marination was, this mini burger, with its red onion ring and its single slice of tomato and cucumber, just cannot justify the six-quid price tag.
What made this such a memorable one was the scrumptiously good flat naan. Light, crispy and golden, it contained plenty of strips of well marinated chicken, with a tasty masala kick, mixed in with crunchy onions, cucumbers and red peppers.
Definitely worth the order this!
At just £11, we were looking forward to this Chicken Combo Meal, with butter chicken and plain kulcha, among other things.
As always, the chicken was expertly done. Consistency-wise, it was smooth and creamy. In terms of taste, it was good for what it was – a tomato-based curry with a sweet edge.
And while it did have a streak of butter running through it, this served as more of a garnish than anything else. We expect our butter chicken to be unashamedly rich with plenty of butter. This wasn’t quite there.
A small bowl of cumin-infused white rice, which, we think, was perhaps cooked in a gentle stock.
It did betray a slightly reheated quality, if we’re being honest. Plus, we would have expected more rice given the price.
Oh yes! This was the most intriguing part of this platter if we’re being honest. A strong pickle which, believe it or not, had an almost wasabi-like taste to it.
Went really well with the rice and the kulcha, respectively.
CURRIES & BIRYANISRECOMMENDED
There’s no doubt that this Lamb Biryani was up there with some of the best we’ve had. Wonderfully done in almost every way, with the spices judiciously balanced.
The fluffy rice was long grained and separate, with the classic masala evidently layered and mixed with fried onions that offered a light smokey edge.
And a very generous portion this was too, accompanied as it was with that authentic-tasting homemade yoghurt mentioned above. Recommended? You better believe it!
With the smooth consistency of this Dal Makhani being spot on, this, like the butter chicken above, was tomato-based and lightly spiced. A decent enough lentil dish without being anything to light up the sky.
Cooking this leavened koolcha flatbread on a hot tawa, or cast iron pan, really did do the trick in caramelising the butter used to achieve a lightly crispy exterior.
The mince filling was ground down finely and gently spiced, and was accompanied by both the wasabi-like flavoured pickle achar mentioned above, as well as a bowl of yoghurt.
Had altogether, this was certainly one of the better keema-based chapatis we’ve had.
This Rasmalai could have been so much more than what it was, particularly given how deliciously light and delicate the porous ball was.
And while it was properly saturated, we found it disappointing that the milky infusion only ever threatened to come through.
On the other hand, this coming together of two worlds really did impress. Not only were the classic flavours of rose water and sweet milk apparent and distinct, but the texture of both the kulfi-on-a-stick and the milky falooda concoction was perfectly judged.
As such, while the former was soft, cold and creamy, with plenty of basil seeds poured over the top, the latter was silky smooth, with a rich malai-like taste to it, and had enough vermicelli at the bottom, all sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts, to maintain more than just our interest.
Our only wish by the end was that the large glass in which this was served was, at the very least, half full with that sweet milky nectar. Easily one of the best we’ve had in quite a while.
And after a long spicy meal, what better way of settling the ol’ stomach, than the soothing taste of Masala Chai.
In this case, while this was nicely made, it could have perhaps done with more of the masala coming through.
- YES/ NO
- DISABLED FACILITIES
- CHILD SEATING
- FREE WI-FI
With the knowledge of Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai being the man behind the menu, we did go in with high expectations, which probably contributed to the anticipointment we felt when all things were eaten and done. Nevertheless, the food was, by and large, well executed, with definite signs of precision, craft and attention to detail.
As for dishes to look out for, then these would be... well, just check out our recommended menu below.
Note also that Koolcha does add a 10% discretionary service charge to the bill.
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Boxpark Wembley, 18 Olympic Way, Wembley, London HA9 0JT.
T: +44 (0)20 3744 4436 | W: koolcha.co.uk
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12:00–22:00 | Sun 12:00–21:00