2 November 2017: Chettinad - Nad as good as we'd hoped
It was the end of the work 5-a-side football season and time to commiserate. I'd been talking up going for a curry for a while with some of the lads at work so we killed two birds with one stone and booked in some beers and a curry for a post-season knees up. With my [questionable] curry expertise the unenviable task of organizing had been me left to me. But where to go? Whilst smack, bang in the middle of Soho - a contemporary culinary oasis - the choices for curry have always left me underwhelmed and hankering for my beloved Tooting.
Of course there are trendier options if you're willing to wait your whole life queuing (Dishoom/Hoppers) or small plate/tapas-style venues if you want to leave with an empty wallet as well as an empty stomach (Tamarind Kitchen/Talli Joe). Other more traditional outfits nearby (Punjab) are lost in a time warp when it comes to all but price and are pretty disappointing. And, whilst my fellow football playing colleagues are fairly liberal and open-minded, it wasn't the time to be pushing the Jainist, vegetarian options of Govindas (although the libtard in me will keep trying).
Instead, I turned to Twitter for recommendations. Some contributors wrongly assumed market research was a lucrative employ and recommended some of the more premium, West end restaurants, but in the end I opted for Chettinad. Reviews seemed positive and the menu pleasantly authentic so off we went, but only after a few cheeky Guinnwas in the Jack Horner over the road first.
Chettinad is situated on Percy Street, off Tottenham Court Road, next door to another curry house, Sagar. The restaurant is named after a small village in the Southern Tamil Nadu State of India and the menu reflects the cuisine of this area.
Inside, the decor is contemporary and the atmosphere lively. Everything is clean and in good order, and eye-catching artwork adorns the beige walls, whilst mock slate-stacks line the adjacent borders. Exhibits include sculpted friezes, wicker baskets and a strange vaulted ceiling dripping with hanging bells - all lovely stuff.
No real complaints about the venue and good central location, 8/10.
Starters and sides
Eral (prawn) poriyal
Chilli eral (prawn)
We cracked things off with a poppadom each. These were accompanied by the most miserly sized dips this blog has ever witnessed. Worried about the rest of our order turning up in Hobbit sized portions and being the butt of the football team 'bantz', I hurriedly ordered a few more starters. These included a couple of prawn dishes and the Chettinad platter.
The chilli prawns were to die for - cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection. The house meat platter wasn't up to the same standard but still decent enough, consisting of: Aadu Chukka (lamb), Poritha Meen (fish), Eral Poriyal (prawn) and Poricha Kolli, and served with salad and mint coriander sauce. However, at £18.95 we could be forgiven for expecting something a little better; it certainly wasn't comparable to the platters yours truly has sampled elsewhere. Disappointing.
As for the sides, being a South Indian joint naans were absent from the menu much to my fellow (amateur) diners chagrin. However, to my delight a range of breads were proffered in their stead including my personal favorite, the fluffy, slightly oily poori. The paratha were also solid and who doesn't like a cheeky chapati?
So a mixed bag really for sides and starters, with the prawns a real gem, but things quite literally taking a dip with the size of the accompanying sauces. 6/10
Chettinadu Kolli (Chicken)
Chettinadu Aadu (Lamb)
(I think...among others)
Not going to lie, I can't really remember or work out which mains we had - the menu online doesn't look the same as the one in the restaurant. Needless to say there were a lot of dishes kicking about, but none really left a lasting impression. Our resident veggie and renowned food hater, Jack, did not rate the saag paneer claiming his 'missus cooked a better one' the previous night.
I can't attest for his wife's cooking, but can say portion sizes were again on the stingy side, particularly with respect to the quantity of meat in the dishes. I don't think they were as bad as Jack would have you believe; the flavours were good, particularly in the lamb curries, but the chicken was dry. If you're looking for a recommendation, I noted down that the chicken at the bottom of the menu was the best...so ye, go for that.
In summary, a poor 5/10 for the curries.
The service here came with a smile and matching uniforms, two things that any avid reader of this blog (I like to believe there are some) would know are commonly absent. Attentiveness and speed of service was also pretty good - we'd barely ordered a round of drinks with one waiter before another offered us more - commendable in any circumstance. This willingness to ply us with alcohol may explain why we got a little rowdy at times. However, whilst a French tourist on the next table called us out for it, the restaurant staff didn't give a monkeys. Top lads. 8/10
Value for money
As alluded to already some of the dishes were pricey, but value for money is also about quality. Unfortunately, the food, whilst in parts was good, didn't quite deliver enough to justify the elevated price tags. Add to this the 660ml beers weighing in at £6.50 a pop and the bill started to look quite princely. You might expect some economies of scale with 7 of us eating, but alas it wasn't to be, with each of us forking out over £40 each. Yes, this is central London, but we were looking for more bang for our buck. It's therefore a low 4/10 for value this time around.
One of our lower scores and given that 16 points were given to the venue and staff I don't think we'll be returning to Chettinad in a hurry. We still had a good time, despite being shushed by a Frenchman, and used the occasion to conduct an amusing end of season award ceremony that saw no one win Most Improved Player. Hopefully any future visit will see this award go to Chettinad, but in the meantime our attentions will be turning to Drummond Street in Euston and its curry offerings.
Address: 16 Percy St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1DT
Cuisine: Tamil (South Indian)
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Lively central London venue serving dishes from Tamil Nadu. Nice inside, but food fairly average and slightly overpriced