10c Bradbury St, London N16 8JN
020 8616 7914 / @GujaratiRasoi
The deal: There's sadly been a spate of much-loved restaurants in Hackney shutting up their doors for good (RIP The Richmond, Verden, Sho Foo Doh, Eat17 Homerton...), proving just how difficult it is these days for businesses to keep their head above water. So that's why it's worth shining a light on some local restaurants that might not be all new and Instagrammable, but have been quietly serving up brilliant dishes at good prices for the past few years, and as a result, are consistently busy with a loyal crowd of customers. Gujarati Rasoi is one of those places. Situated just off Gillet Square, this vegetarian Indian venue honed their trade on street food stall at Broadway Market, before expanding to Borough Market, and eventually opening up their restaurant in Dalston in 2013. It's a homely, intimate place, that's been set up with obvious love by owner Urvesh Parvais and his mum, and eating there feels like you've been invited to join the family at home for dinner. And who doesn't love that feeling?
The food: It's always nice to have a bit of history to a meal, and that's exactly what you get here. The Gujarati recipes have been passed down from grandmother and mother to Urvesh, and he's given them a little tweak here and a little twist there to slightly modernise them. It's a short menu - which we actually love, because you can order most of the dishes in a single meal to get the full experience - with a mixture of signature plates and a few specials. We kick things off with a plate of papdi chaat (£4), a tiny mountain of black chick peas, onions, coriander, dressed with a tangy date and tamarind sauce and topped with sweet jewels of pomegranate seeds. Each mouthful bursts with different flavours and textures and it's highly addictive. So we order another. We follow up with katchori, little fried pastry balls stuffed with spiced crushed peas, and a few excellent side dishes; chori ni dhal (an aduki bean curry) served with a spiced cucumber salad (£3.5), cooling raita and as many flatbreads as possible to mop it up with. As a main, we dig into a warming homemade-paneer and spinach curry (£13), served with bhat (£3.5) - cumin rice - and more bread. Stick a fork in us; we're done.
The signature dish: You're going to keep coming back again and again for that papdi chaat.
Damage to pocket: About £40 per person for a few shared starters, a main, some sides and some wine.
When to dine: Weekends are prime time - but make sure to book well in advance - and on Mondays, there's 20% off (at the current time of writing). Closed Sundays.
File under: Weekenders, Date night, Mid-week munches