There are a countless amounts of fantastic Indian restaurants in London including the snazzy Chor Bizzare, Dishoom and Trishna. However, all of these places can come with a rather hefty price tag and quite frankly, you sometimes simply want quality Indian food that is bursting with flavours for prices that won’t burst your bank account… and this is why I introduce you to my latest good find: the one and only and rather legendary, Chennai Srilalitha. Located at 196 Kenton Road, Harrow, HA3 8BX, this place is located within London and in close proximity to Kenton underground station, meaning that there should be no reason not to visit it if you’re in the area!
Don't judge it by its cover... or simplistic interior
Chennai Srilalitha is a small, cosy café-like restaurant that serves only South Indian vegetarian food (and has vegan options clearly marked on its menu). From the outside, you may not expect that this place is a goldmine of flavourful fun; however, I can guarantee you with my hand on my heart that this is one place that you have got to experience, so please don’t judge this restaurant solely by its exterior.
The restaurant is open from Monday – Friday from 11.00 a.m. – 3.30 p.m. and from 5.30 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.; on the weekends it is open from 11.00 a.m. – 10.30 p.m. and I must advise you to make a reservation if you’re going in the weekend. Yes, that’s right! This rather small, quaint and colourful restaurant is buzzing with people and is frequented by every Indian in its vicinity, so make sure you call and book in advance. As the tables are jam packed and rather cramped inside, you will find that if you do not book ahead, then you will find yourself in a queue that leads all the way outside and on the pavement.
Being South Indian cuisine, Chennai Srilalitha has a menu dominated by steamed, spiced and coconut flavoured dishes which will make your taste buds sing. The restaurant claims that all of its chefs are from Chennai and so its food is definitely authentic—which is a claim that I can certainly attest to. The dishes are definitely not generic or average but are clearly made by those that understand their ingredients, spices and want to share their love of food.
South Indian buffet at lunch and dinner times
Before, I dive into telling you about the delicious food, it’s important that you know that the drinks offered at Chennai Srilalitha have to be equally embraced! On offer are different types of lassis such as a sweet, salty or mango lassi. For those of you that are not familiar with lassis, lassi is a traditional yogurt and water based drink with a flavour. The cost of the sweet or salty lassi is 2.99 GBP (4.20 USD) whereas the cost of the mango lassi is 3.25 GBP (4.50 USD). Thirsty for some traditional Indian drinks? You now know where to go.
When it comes to food, Chennai Srilalitha has a daily south Indian special buffet during lunch and dinner times as well as an a'la carte menu that you can order from. The cost of the buffet during the weekdays is 8.99 GBP (12.60 USD) whereas on the weekends, it is 10.99 GBP (15.40 USD). If you’re new to experiencing South Indian food and you want to sample several dishes, then the buffet is the best way to go. The buffet includes the following items: idly, dosa, uthappam, vada, rava kichadi, upma, rice, salad and an Indian sweet of the day. Sound authentic or what? The names of the dishes don’t give too much away on what exactly they are so read on to find out more about what you could experience in this South Indian heaven!
Idly is a savoury rice cake that is made of a batter from fermented lentils and rice that is then steamed and made into round/oval shapes. Dosa is a crispy Indian pancake made of rice and black gram and is filled with a stuffing of your choice. Uttapam is a thicker pancake which also has a stuffing of your choice but the stuffing is cooked into the batter as opposed to added afterwards (like with a dosa). Vada are different types of fritters and cutlets that are in a more doughnut shape. Rava kichadi is a fine semolina cooked with lots of veggies and lentils in a pot. Upma is similar to rava kichadi in that it is made from semolina, vegetables and seasonings but its texture and the way that it is cooked is slightly different.
As you can see, the buffet includes quite a choice! Some of the dishes such as the dosa and uttapam are made to order as you wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy them if they were kept with the other buffet options.
Over 30 different types of delicious dosas
Interestingly, the restaurant claims that it’s the “World’s Favourite Dosa Place” and whilst I think this may be a rather bold and subjective statement on its part, I do have to say that it is my favourite dosa place. Chennai Srilalitha offers over 30 different types of dosas. This means that there are several different types of stuffing that you could choose to have in your crispy Indian pancake!
Fancy having a dosa that is filled with spicy potatoes and onion (also available from the buffet)? If yes, order the popular masala dosa for 4.99 GBP (7 USD). If you want something spicy and cheesy then I have to recommend that you opt for the paneer masala dosa, which is made by using cottage cheese and a lot of spices! The paneer masala dosa costs 5.99 GBP (7 USD). Maybe you want a bit of sweetness in your dosa? Try the dry fruit rava dosa, which is garnished with nuts and dry fruit for 6.99 GBP (9.80 USD).
All of the dosa are served with sambar, which is a spicy lentil-based vegetable soup, and different types of chutneys including a coconut chutney and a coriander and mint chutney. If, however, the idea of dosas does not appeal to you and you would rather try the idly or uttapam, then you will be pleased to hear that Chennai Srilalitha also offers different versions of these dishes and I’m sure that one version will awaken and ignite your taste buds! Check out the menu on their website to see the variety of options available.
Five stars from me on its flavoursome food
Having visited Chennai Srilalitha on several occasions and worked my way through the dosa part of the menu, I decided to start experiencing other parts of the menu too in order to see if it delivered on flavour and value for money… and my goodness, did it! Ordering even simple dishes like a chilli paneer that is dipped in a batter and fried like pakoras or a cauliflower curry dish with a bhatura, which is an Indian flatbread, is heavenly. All of these options that I have mentioned are listed as super starters and northern specialities and are as generous in portion size as the popular dosa dishes. The price range for the super starters and northern specialities ranges from 0.99 GBP – 5.25 GBP (1.40 USD – 7.30 USD) and are definitely worth a look on the menu! Chennai Srilalitha may not ever receive a Michelin star for its overall dining experience, but its food definitely does receive five stars from me and I recommend that you check it out. Look past the simple décor and enjoy the complex array of spices on offer in its dishes.
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