'Spice master' serves up hearty Indian street food
- Credit: Chris Winter / Wembley Park
It was peak Diwali when we visited Atul Kochhar's latest restaurant Masalchi, and Wembley was resounding to the boom of not-so-distant fireworks.
The Hindu festival of light tends to crossover with bonfire night around this North West London neighbourhood, illuminating the skies over the stadium arch for days.
With huge windows overlooking the bustling Olympic Way - just a 'hello Wembley' from the arena - we had a ringside seat as we feasted on dishes that were as warming on a frosty autumn night as bangers and mash.
Influenced by his tours of India's markets, the Michelin-starred chef's new venture aims to bring well-spiced, hearty street food to hungry diners - indeed Masalchi broadly means ‘the spice master or spice blender’.
There's an industrial flavour to the high ceilings, concrete floors, and canteen chairs but there's nothing industrial about the food, which is designed to be shared, with 4-5 dishes between two costing under £20 a head.
Crisp onion bhajis of spinach and potato served with a tamarind chutney banished memories of bad take-aways, while Chukunder Chaap were pleasant torpedo shaped croquettes with beetroot and pine nuts, and a kuchumber salad.
A 'proper Punjabi samosa' with lively spicing sat on a chickpea curry masala, and Aloo Kachori proved to be an unusual and fragrant potato curry from Agra and Mathura.
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Meat dishes included a Keema Aloo, a 'Royal recipe from Lucknow' made of minced lamb and potato that resembled a comforting, delicately-spiced shepherd's pie. Chicken tikka marinated in garlic yoghurt and almonds then put to the grill was delicious, fresh and punchy. Accompaniments included a range of papads with tangy dips, soft tandoor rotis and a nan style bread stuffed with paneer and served with chickpea curry.
With all those carb-heavy dishes we could only manage a little ice-cream and mango kulfi for dessert.
And while we washed it all down with pints of draught Cobra, Masalchi has an enticing cocktail list including a Herbal Harmony made with Himalayan gin, and 'Atul's Favourite Martini' with passion fruit chutney and juice.
Damn, I will just have to go back.
Masalchi is open for all day dining at 2, Wembley Park Boulevard.