A Dosa Chennai
Sunday 4th May: Chennai Dosa Regent Circus, Swindon
What? Yet another Indian eating house in Swindon I hear you cry? Well yes, but this is one with a bit of difference it being a dosa and authentic South Indian restaurant – though other foods are on offer too of course including Tandoori dishes.
When I heard Chennai Dosa were coming to Swindon I was rather excited as I’m familiar with the chain from visits to a branch on Tooting Broadway in London. So I was interested in doing a ‘compare and contrast’ on them and today I got the opportunity. In town with a couple of friends and on the search for a spot of lunch we hit on giving this place a try.
Now the branch I’ve been to, several times, in Tooting is very much a canteen. It has Formica tables and basic chairs and nothing in the way of ambience or comfort as such – though I can always sacrifice such things for the food! Clearly there they are primarily targeting the huge Asian market that is ‘on tap’ as it were and who, I imagine, probably have different requirements and/or expectations in a restaurant than some. Nor is it, as far as I can recall, licensed. There are several Asian canteens there, all of them doing the most amazing food, but generally they are unlicensed – though some will let you bring in your own booze and don’t plonk a corkage charge on it – which is nice.
Anyway, this branch is somewhat different, aimed I suppose at a more mixed eatership. It’s been done out in a very contemporary style. The tables are a shiny black onyx effect – not unlike a kitchen worktop if I’m honest – and the chairs are those high-backed, ‘pleather’ upholstered and padded chairs one sees about, but they are comfortable enough for sure. As seen in Tooting each table has a stainless steel tray with a stainless steel jug of water and stainless steel beakers. You may by now be detecting a theme.
Unlike the Tooting Bec version this one has a fully licensed bar and of course there is Lassi and soft-drinks if your palate dictates. It being lunchtime and being aware I needed to do more revising when I got home, I sensibly stuck to the water.
Now for the food. The three of us were all wanting something light so decided to have only a dosa platter. Dosa incidentally is a very fine form of crepe, the batter for which is made of rice flour and lentils.
Between us we chose a Paneer dosa, a Masala paneer dosa and an egg dosa. You shouldn’t by now be surprised to hear that these came served on a stainless steel platter with compartments round the edge of it for the ‘sauces’. The idea being you tear off a piece of dosa, dip it in one of the accompaniments and enjoy. The three ‘sauces’ a basic dosa comes with are coconut chutney, a mix of tomato and mint chutney and sambar – which is a very light lentil soup. Don’t be confused here by the term ‘chutney’ – it bears no resemblance to the heavy, sweet/sour confection of western cuisine that bears that name.
Mine was the simple paneer dosa, with the paneer grated inside it, whilst the Masala paneer dosa that Sam ate had potatoes enfolded in it. With Kris’ there was an extra accompaniment of chicken gravy which was, I have to say, particularly tasty. It had just the right amount of kick to it without being too much. It was so good I slurped down what Kris didn’t eat with a spoon. It was all of it very delicious just as I expected it to be.
The prices for these dosa plates were between £ 3 and £4 which is extremely reasonable for a light meal that is fresh, healthy and tasty. As I said there’s an extensive menu of other stuff and an interesting looking hot buffet too – so I rather fear a return visit is in order to try some of the other fare on offer.
The place is certainly popular, unsurprisingly it was rammed full of Swindon’s Asian community – we were I think the only non-Asians in there today. But that’s cool. All in all – great stuff. If you haven’t tried dosa before then here is a great opportunity to do so right in the centre of town. To paraphrase the immortal Arnie: “I’ll be back!”
You can find them on Facebook of course. Oh – important to some I know – if the ladies loo is any indicator the place is spotlessly clean.
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