Dhaba Lane is a cosy, subterranean café between Shoreditch and Old Street, run by Arti and Upma, who left their existing jobs to run their own food business, focusing on the fresh, healthy Indian food they grew up eating and cooking. I joined the lovely Jason and Chiara from Goan to London on a freezing Saturday afternoon for their traditional Indian high chai, or afternoon tea.
High tea in India is an intrinsic part of the culture, and the time when marriages are decided on, disputes settled and deals made. It’s all about several rounds of sweet and savoury morsels, and of course the tea itself. Now I’ll confess, I don’t really like tea, but this one was deliciously sweet and full of the lovely flavours of cardamom and ginger, which completely made up for the actual tea aspect.
The first course was several rounds of little sandwiches, including cucumber, mint and apple, spicy mixed veg and garam masala chicken. They were nice and spicy, and an interesting twist on the English varieties.
Hot bites followed, with onion and sweetcorn fritters, aloo samosas, mini uttapams (semolina pancakes) and little raw banana and pea fritters. I was dubious about the banana but it was subtle, adding texture and sweetness rather than a full-on banana taste. All these dishes were delicious, spicy and warming, and there were plenty – they just kept coming.
Sweet dishes followed, with coconut and carrot halwa (sweetened balls), saffron and cardamom shrikhand (yoghurt) and sweet, syrupy bread with cream. The balls were slightly too sweet for me ( I don’t have a sweet tooth), but the yoghurt and bread dishes were lovely.
The food just kept flowing, and I was stuffed by the end, making it really good value. The atmosphere is cosy and friendly, and they use gorgeous crockery that I loved. Definitely worth a visit for something a bit different, and I’d love to go back to try their curries.
Get your high chai tickets here and more info on Dhaba Lane here. They also do takeaway and delivery of all sorts of Indian dishes, not just high tea – try their delicious curries for a lovely winter lunch – I’ll certainly be back.
*The Indian high chai experience is £25 per person, but we were guests of Dhaba Lane.