Chai Bazaar at Chor Bizarre – Teatime treats & traditional temptations – review

(This restaurant is now closed)

Chor Bizarre tea

Chai Bazaar at Chor Bizarre was London’s first Indian Tea Bar. Other restaurants serve tea but, take my word for it, tea and its associated snacks at Chai Bazaar are an experience, and one seldom found outside the subcontinent. These days the bar isn’t a physical structure, but rather a menu separate from the restaurant bill of fare.

The Tea Bar was officially opened in 2003 by the High Commissioner of India, Mr. Ronen Sen, along with a host of Indian celebrities. The highlight of the evening was actor and writer Meera Syal reading from George Orwell’s Essay outlining the virtues of Indian Tea. In my humble opinion there is nothing more refreshing than a good hot cup of tea, and it’s no surprise to see it immortalised in such a fashion.

Chor Bizarre is one of my favourite restaurants in the capital: a favourite of any ethnic persuasion, not just one of my preferred Indian restaurants. What better place to come for afternoon tea? ‘An Indian afternoon tea!!’ I hear my dear reader exclaim. Yes, indeed, and there can be nothing more appropriate than to have teatime inspired by the nation responsible for much of the planet’s leafy beverage. India is the world’s biggest tea producer. The country’s climate, soil and altitude make it ideal for growing a wide range of high-quality teas. It isn’t an indigenous plant – it was introduced to India by the British, who in their typical fashion had stolen it from the Chinese.

Chor Bizarre Chor Bizarre offers an authentic Indian bazaar setting. Tables and chairs which were once windows and bed heads, carvings and mirrors, tiles and dark wood all contrive to create an atmosphere of Old World charm. The restaurant is less full during the day than in the evening, and provides an oasis of calm.

We perused the tea menu and sought advice from a knowledgeable member of staff. You don’t have to be a tea connoisseur to appreciate the Tea Bar. Choose your snacks and ask what might be best, but do try Masala Chai with its warming and delicate spices. There is a wide variety of Indian teas to choose from here: I think there are about 30 including Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, Kashmiri Kehwa. Your cuppa might even be served in earthenware kullars. These cups are considered disposable in India, but they are not so easily come by in London’s department stores, so the staff at the restaurant prudently hangs on to them.

Chor Bizarre tables

What would teatime be without something toothsome to accompany the ‘cup that cheers’? Our food arrived on a silver Thali tray rather than being stacked on the typical English three-tier cake stand. This was a striking presentation and gave an agreeable sensation of just having popped over to see a Maharaja for the afternoon. The spread was a magnificent display. Chef Manpreet Singh Ahuja and the other Chor Bizarre chefs offer a selection of spicy and aromatic snacks to replicate those found on tea stands in India. Papri chaat, hot pakoras, kathi rolls and naanwiches (sandwiches of naan rather than white sliced) and Indian sweets which are delicious and a delight to behold, are all on the menu. We were plied with samosas and Bombay mix as well as crisp and spicy fried okra, Kurkuri Bhindi, which is a dish to die for.

Chor Bizarre tea drinker Freshly brewed hot tea is the only libation to enjoy with your ample spread of food. It’s a sort of alchemy. Our tea was poured from a traditional aluminium kettle, the sort you will recognise from watching those documentaries of tea-wallahs in India. Chef Manpreet pays attention to detail, not only of food but of presentation.

Chai Bazaar provides the ultimate authentic Indian tea-drinking experience. The setting is stunning with an ambiance which will waft you away from the bustle of London streets. The rich decor is unique and fascinating. You will feel cocooned in comfort and cosseted by attentive staff. The Ritz across the road has a good reputation for tea, I hear, but Chor Bizarre’s version is equally fine and every bit as memorable. A not-to-be-missed event for Londoners and tourists alike.

Chor Bizarre
16 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HW


Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018


Read reviews of other Afternoon Teas here