Indian meets Mexican on the new speedy lunch menu, but don’t call the cultural appropriation police before you try it.
An Indian restaurant in an old fire station? Spark up the ‘vindaloo’ jokes, but you’d be very wrong if you did. Yaatra is a class Indian with the heat dialled down, the presentation beautiful and the flavours subtle and refined.
You can’t miss the old fire station’s history because, whilst the decor is classy and comfortable with plush banquettes and blinding white linen, the old garage walls are chipped white tiles protected by the Edwardian building’s Grade II listing. You can also still see the big doors the fire engines once hurtled out from, their bells clanging in true Ealing comedy style.
There’s even a fireman’s pole, although the manager admits that it’s not actually in its original place and, yes, they have tried sliding down it. Well who could resist that? Not me.
All this history aside, Yaatra is very modern Indian cooking, with dishes from across the continent as well as Mexico. Yes, Mexico.
Chef Amit Bagyal likes to experiment apparently, but has he strayed into Mad Scientist territory here? The restaurant is in the space that used to be Mathura, an Atul Kochhar restaurant and coincidentally Amit used to be head chef at Kanishka, so actually you know he’s no crazy amateur but a very experienced and talented chef.
So for ‘Street Food Lunch’ he has a menu of small sharing plates, some of which are the new Mexican Indian ones. It’s a selection designed for a reasonably speedy and inexpensive lunch, one that won’t leave you couch-locked afterwards gasping for breath.
So we choose a selection, sit back and let the warm and efficient staff do their thing, first bringing out salmon fishcakes which are delicately spiced so that the fish gets to properly shine, while a lemon pickle mayo and a crispy/crunchy salad contrast perfectly.
Chicken on skewers is so often served dried out. Getting a decent grilled exterior while not overcooking the centre is not easy, but our Kerala Chicken Skewers, with the same lemon pickle mayo and salad, pull it off perfectly the spicing once again applied with a delicate and refined touch. So far, so Indian.
Aye caramba, as Speedy Gonzales used to say, it’s a Jalfrezi Taco! The homemade methi (fenugreek) teplas ( Gujarati flatbreads) tacos with chicken, tomato salsa, lime and avocado, are served in the classic taco holders and they are the usual challenge to get to the mouth without mess.
It’s a fun challenge though, and the tacos are real flavour bombs, even as the salsa gets to carpet bomb my shirt, and indeed some of the actual carpet.
An Anglo Indian dish is a ‘slider’ lamb kebab with red cabbage, onion and mayo slaw, all in a brioche bun. I don’t know if sliders are still fashionable, but as someone who never bought into the great burger craze I do like these. Great spiced meat, a sweet and crispy bun and dribbly mayo all make for heaven in your hands.
Also highly handleable are tortilla ‘Frankie’ rolls’ of Paneer Tikka Masala crunchy slaw, and roasted onions. The cheese resembles Greek halloumi in its firm texture but without the classic squeak.
It’s a brief, but delicious and affordable, lunch, as advertised, and thus perfect for a workday treat and there’s no sense of being hurried. This is top notch cooking, and the evening menu looks even more wonderful
We finish our halves of lager and head for the door, pausing only to admire the old Fire Chief’s office. It was apparently from here that Churchill supervised the efforts to save Westminster Cathedral when it was firebombed in WW2. I bet he liked a good curry, too.
4 Greycoat Pl, London SW1P 1SB