Tucked away in one of the quieter corners of London, the Chokhi Dhani stands proud on the bank of the River Thames, offering Londoners two storeys of Rajasthani culture and cuisine.
Already an established and successful chain across India, London’s Chokhi Dhani marks the first overseas opening for the group, and is the brainchild of Kriti Vaswani, a young hotelier, chef and entrepreneur whose father, Gul Vaswani, launched the enterprise. With a five star village themed resort in Jaipur and various other locations across the country, Chokhi Dhani aims to celebrate and share Rajasthani culture and cuisine. Recently opening their newest venture in Battersea, the Vaswani’s are treating South London to its own unique, immersive Rajasthani cuisine with subtle French influences.
Arriving with great anticipation, we were welcomed by the impressive interiors, bathed in deep red tones and dark wood features. The floor to ceiling windows blend the sights of the riverside with authentic Indian texture and colours. We began our evening by enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere of the downstairs lounge, featuring crescent shaped sofas, brightly coloured wall paintings and glass cases boasting a variety of traditional jewellery for sale. We ascended the staircase leading up to the restaurant, greeted by a wall of multicoloured hanging tota, and were seated at a table overlooking the River Thames. Discovering treasures around every corner, even our table doubled as a display full of beads, bangles and mysterious looking leather bound notebooks. From the art on the walls and decorative sculptures, each intricate detail adds to the unique atmosphere of Chokhi Dhani. “The jewellery has been sourced from all corners of Rajasthan to showcase the talent of the local handicraft people in the region”, says Dan Jelensek, General manager.
As restaurant experiences go, service always leaves a lasting impression and at Chokhi Dhani the extra mile is never too far. We informed the young lady looking after us of our dietary requirements, and she showed an impressive knowledge of the menu offering plenty of mouthwatering recommendations. I always say that the best start to any evening is with a cocktail, so to wet the palette, we began with a glass of Jaipur Fizz; a sweet, flowery, neon pink gin cocktail. Awakening our taste-buds, we snacked on a variety of different bite sized papadums with a trio of chutneys; mango and apricot, avocado and my personal favourite, a rich Himalayan tomato.
The stand-out starter was the Recheado, made up of baby squid stuffed with shrimps and king scallops, a dish so melt-in-the-mouth that the baby squid were eaten before I even had chance to take a picture of my plate. Served with a sauce which gave a welcome kick, the Recheado was undoubtedly the highlight of our meal. The Kadak Momo Chaat, vegetarian dumplings accompanied by chickpeas and potato, was served in a delicate yet elegant edible basket surrounded by pomegranate seeds to add a touch of sweetness to an otherwise earthy dish.
The Rajasthani Laal Maas, a tender lamb rump in a colourfully rich red chilli and tomato sauce is a classic, flavoursome dish, with the Paneer Palak, made up of spinach three ways and pan-fried paneer, providing a welcome juxtaposition with it’s particularly savoury, earthy sauce. Accompanied with some buttery, crispy naan, the flavours perfectly compliment each other without becoming overwhelming.
As someone lacking anything resembling a sweet tooth, I didn’t have any preconceived expectations about dessert at Chokhi Dhani, but the final course ended up being an unexpected delight. The delicately flavoured rosé crème brûlée evoked an especially French feeling, as well as a mango and cardamom panna cotta which was packed with tangy flavour, and a generous piece of golden honeycomb. Our favourite sweet treat, however, was the Gulab Jamun, deep-fried dough balls covered in sweet syrup that were so deliciously light and soft, we could have easily eaten an entire plate.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Chokhi Dhani. However if you’re in the mood for a little drama, the hustle and bustle of Jaipur is captured in the downstairs lounge. Immerse yourself in the experience with henna artists, palmists, dancers and magicians, whilst treating yourself to a more relaxed menu designed to evoke a street food ambiance. Try small dishes such as vegetable samosas, Bharwaan Chilli and chicken lollipop pakora, indulgently complemented by cocktails infused with flavours of the subcontinent. General Manager Dan Jelensek explains that “the split between the floors is currently more in favour of upstairs, but we are hoping as time goes by that they will both be equally as popular”, and in light of the current redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the Nine Elms area, the trendy, street food concept may prove increasingly popular with new visitors flocking to the area.
The role of a writer is to add ‘colour’ and provoke intrigue, this was a job made easy. This is an experience far flung from the string of local curry houses London has to offer. Chokhi Dhani presents a glorious menu of Indian cuisine with a modern twist, a vibrant atmosphere upstairs and down, making this restaurant the perfect destination for the sights, sounds and flavours of Rajasthani culture.
For more information visit www.chokhidhani.co.uk