The untutored might not know that Imli Street is part of the celebrated Tamarind Collection which includes the world-famous Tamarind restaurant with Executive Chef Alfred Prasad at the helm, and Tamarind of London in Newport Beach, California. Imli Street is the casual-dining face of the group but the quality remains the same.
Imli Street in London’s Soho has changed over the years and now it has a classy urban ambiance that fits so well with the area and diners. It’s an Indian restaurant for sure, but it’s evolved to present a menu of classic dishes served in a fashion to charm the Indian food aficionado as well as the many visitors to Soho who are less familiar with sub-continental dishes. Indian, for sure, but equally part of buzzing London.
Chef Nirmal C Save has been working with Tamarind and Imli for a number of months now and he has made his mark. He has great experience in both Indian and European cuisines and he seems to be a good fit here. He has enthusiasm, flair and skill, and is the class of chef that one would expect from this group.
We have visited Imli down the years and the last meal we enjoyed here was breakfast. Yes, a flavourful Indian-inspired brekkie and they are few and far between in this town; but this day we were looking for lunch. Lots of choice here: one can have a full meal or lots of small plates on which to graze. Consider an Indian beverage of Natural Coconut Water or a Mango Lassi to sip along with your main course.
Papdi Chaat makes a delightful nibble – wheat crisps, chickpeas, yoghurt, chutneys and sev (which is a crispy and thin noodle). Kolkata Puchka are crisp puris or puffs filled with spiced potato, sprouts and pomegranate kachumber, and ‘pani’. That pani is a liquid made with tamarind. One eats these in one bite. Light and refreshing for a warm London day.
For slightly more substantial fare one must try Juhu Beach Pav Bhaji which is a classic of spiced potato and vegetable curry, served as a topping for a toasted brioche bap – the ‘pav’ element of this confection. The vegetables are moderately spiced but the carrot gives a delicate sweetness. Aloo Tikki Ragra is another traditional street-food dish of potato cakes with spiced chickpeas. This is real comfort food.
Imli is a pan-Indian restaurant which also recognises outside influences. Chinese food in India has been popular for generations. Chilli Chicken is a Calcutta-style Indian-Chinese dish with a rich and spicy chilli-soy sauce with onions and green peppers. This is ideally served with Chinese Egg Fried Rice, or Vegetable Fried Rice.
For those who are unfamiliar with Indian food there is support in the guise of a Railway Thali Meal. It’s a full meal with all its components. One just chooses the curry from a selection of options including a vegetarian curry. It’s a bargain for less than £10. A Thali is a collection of small dishes that are often served on a metal tray divided into compartments. That’s the case at Imli Street and that presentation adds still more authenticity to this substantial meal. Each tray comes packed with potato, lentils of the day, raita – a yoghurt sauce – rice and a poppadum. Curries on offer: Anglo-Indian style lamb, Chicken tikka masala (a British invention but it’s popular because it’s delicious – let us not be food snobs), Kerala fish curry, or Saag paneer, which is a vibrant green spinach preparation with Indian cheese. The breads at Imli Street are fresh and hot and are great with any curry. This thali is a meal inspired by the renowned Indian railway system, which provides so much more than a curly sandwich to its passengers.
It might just be lunch, but Doughnut Holes are Chef Nirmal’s signature sweets and they are addictive. Miniature doughnuts are dusted with five-spice powder and sugar and there is a little pot of chocolate dipping sauce alongside. These are worth swinging by for even if you don’t have time for a meal. Delicious and moreish. Nothing better than a cup of traditional tea with these.
The Tamarind Collection never disappoints. They prize quality, they respect tradition and they don’t fear innovation. Imli Street flies the Tamarind flag with culinary pride.
Monday – Friday: 8.00 – 23.00
Saturday: 9.00 – 23.00
Sunday: 9.00 – 22.00
167-169 Wardour Street
Phone: 020 7287 4243
Fax: 020 7287 4245
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018