There’s two sides to the brilliant Chai Street in Cardiff’s busy Canton area with it boasting both truly amazing food, and some of the worst service we’ve ever experienced outside of the Burger King at Culverhouse Cross. However, no matter how slow, confused or apologetic the service was, we still managed to walk out of the place happy enough just on the sheer taste sensation of the food alone.
When we first walked into the little Indian street food restaurant with its beautifully colourful, shabby-chic style, we were greeted by a very friendly man, who we’re pretty sure was the manager for the night. Things took a bit of a nose dive when we realised the place was absolutely packed to the modest rafters. We kind of thought we’d have a little wait for a table, which we didn’t mind too much and in hindsight would have been the best all round, but actually our man managed to find a little table for two tucked away in a corridor in the back next to the toilets. Herein lay the beginnings of our Chai Street blues.
It’s not that we’re particularly snobby about getting the best table, in fact we would have been perfectly happy with the questionably location had it not been for the complete obscurity from service that it presented. Out of sight, we were completely out of mind for the limited service staff, so food took a very, very long time to arrive, some was forgotten and we had to remind them what we’d actually ordered, only for them to head back to the kitchen to set things in motion.
The good news though is that when we did finally get our eager mitts on some of the street food delights it was all genuinely delicious. What’s more, it was nothing like any other Indian restaurant we’ve ever been to, not least because it was clearly a big draw for the local Cardiff Indian population, which is a rarity, but also because there were so many stunning dishes that we’d never tried before in our lives.
In addition to an array of great Thalis, which consist of different types of dhal with raita, pickles, mini poppadoms, rice and nan bread, there’s also an excellent selection of street delights and rolls that are designed as Chai Street’s equivalent of fast food (at least it would be fast if they hadn’t completely forgotten about us and confused the order so badly). Our favourites include the Chai samosa basket, which includes a combination of three deep fried samosas – one lamb, one chicken and one surprisingly tasty cheese samosa – the bhaji basket and the sumptuous break pakora, which is a little wonder of a bread-based savoury snack stuffed with chutneys, potatoes and green peas, battered and deep fried. Check out the image below to get of flavour of what to expect.
The only negative on the food side of the equation was that the poricha kozhi, a spiced and breaded supreme of chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and green chilli, didn’t quite inspire as much rapturous delight as the rest of the meal. It’s not that it’s not tasty or perfectly cooked, it’s just that it lacks a little fire and comes across more as a high-class piece of breaded chicken, as opposed to an exciting taste of India.
Chai Street Cardiff definitely had its ups and downs on the night, but there’s a big part of us that hopes that the service issues were a bit of a one-off as a result of being a bit short-staffed. With such tasty food, we’ll definitely be heading back to give it a second chance in the not too distant future.
Chai Sreet Cardiff review – 3.9/5