Restaurant review - Chaat Cart, Marple
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 December 2017
Enjoy a taste of South India at Marple's wonderfully colourful Chaat Cart, writes Janet Reeder.
The first time I tried Chaat was in a shopping centre in Chennai. Two ladies were enjoying the snack and offered some for us to try. It was a delicious concoction of slightly sweet as well as spicy mix of vegetables and fruit and I was addicted. Our newly-acquired friends warned us that it was bad for the waistline but, you know, something that good has to be well worth the calories.
That was probably a decade ago. Now since the street food explosion in the UK, Chaat, which I have since learned is a word used for small plate snacks from Asia, is readily available in the UK.
Indeed it is this street food explosion which has led to the rise of an alternative Indian food scene over here. Now those of us who adore Indian food can discover a world beyond old school favourites such as chicken tikka masala, rogan josh and sag paneer and venture to restaurants offering something a little different and dare I say, more authentic.
I’ve been back to South India quite a few times and what I have discovered is that regional cookery is fantastic. It’s so diverse. As Italian cuisine is distinct from that of its neighbour, France, so a Keralan dish subtly flavoured with fresh coconut, couldn’t be more different than the endorphin-releasing spice of Tamil Nadu. Sad to think that most people’s experiences of Indian cookery are of the Korma and Vindaloo variety. Thankfully, all that is now changing.
I first discovered Marple’s Chaat Cart at a local food festival. It indeed was a cart owned by Aarti Panday, who has eventually made the transition into her own Marple restaurant via a pop up in Spinningfields.
Aarti’s take on her menu is an evolution of her street food journey that combines the delight of being able to sample a snack that might be served up at a roadside stall in Mumbai to small plates that demonstrate just how exciting the region’s cuisine can be.
The restaurant itself is a delightfully modern space with walls painted in bold, dark teal and adorned with bright pop art and light fittings on which dangle monkey figures (a far more attractive sight than the bare-bottomed cocky apes which might come up to you in an Indian temple and steal a bottle of water from your bag). Beside the bar is a fireplace and a sofa on which bright cushions invite you to recline and sip an artisan gin and tonic or a craft beer, such as the aptly named Thornbridge Jaipur, before dinner.
One of the highlights of the menu is the venison croquettes £6.50, which are spicy but tempered with a deliciously creamy coconut chutney and a spiced lentil sambar, a kind of vegetarian gravy. The onion bhaji were crisp and spicy served with a sharp onion salad laced with fiery chilli.
Dishes such as tandoori wings with coriander and mint raita, £6 and dhal of the day, £5.50 offer something a little more familiar, but there’s a freshness about the cooking that is more characteristic of home kitchen than restaurant food and that’s a good thing as it is generally reckoned that the best food you’ll find in India is that which is enjoyed by families every day.
The dhal and rice, £7.50 is cooked homestyle, and is creamy and gently spiced and accompanied by a fragrant basmati and we couldn’t resist the gunpowder fries, £4, finger chips laced with enough spices to blow your head off, hence I guess the name!
It’s great to see small towns like Marple helping to spice up the food scene in the UK. The suburbs are much cheaper for fledgling businesses and are therefore reaping the benefits, as restaurants such as the Chaat Cart arrive on the high street.
It’s definitely worth making the trip for a taste of Southern India.
Chaat Cart, 13 - 15 Derby Way, Marple, Stockport SK6 7AH
0161 427 8234 www.chaatcart.co.uk