From Mexico to India

TELEGRAPH'Urban Choola Restaurant review
TELEGRAPH'Urban Choola Restaurant review

A chef who opened a popular restaurant on London Road has expanded into Asian street food, finds Julia Armstrong

THE man who brought great Mexican tastes to London Road in Sheffield has now moved on to re-create the street food of India.

Urban Choola is the latest outing from Khalid Wani, who opened Amigos, which quickly became so successful that it had to move to new premises up the road.

He kept the old place on and that has now reopened as Urban Choola. Khalid and his business partner and fellow chef Rohan Karichams came up with the concept of bringing the food that people in India love to eat on the street from vendors.

Khalid said: “People don’t go out to restaurants there. This is the street food we always go out for.

“When we get set up, we will do food for street markets as well.”

He said that the restaurant had proved popular in its first two weeks of opening, despite that being closely followed by the snow.

It’s already attracting quite a few Asian students, said Khalid.

When you walk into the restaurant, the first thing that grabs the attention are the colourful cartoons around the walls, showing scenes of Asian street vendors.

Otherwise the decor is restrained and plain.

The staff are polite and friendly but they need a better idea of good service as, once we’d sat down and looked at the menu for a while and were obviously ready to order, one member of the team carried on meticulously cleaning and re-setting an empty table.

However, at least it’s clear that hygiene is a big priority,

Khalid has kept the menu fairly short and he is keen to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t before they finalise what will be on offer.

In the meantime, the menu consists of chaat, which are described as tasty small bites.

Some of these will be familiar to anyone who has eaten south Indian food and include gol guppa, which is a crispy snack in a spicy dressing, and sev puri, a pancake-style snack which is served with potato, sweetcorn and a dressing.

The hot choices include chapate, which is tangy chicken wings, and different samosas. Prices for starters range from £3.50 to £4.50.

The main courses include kathi rolls, which are griddled filled flatbreads served with masala spicy chips. Fillings include chicken, lamb or paneer, which is Indian style cottage cheese.

Apart from that, choose from the popular dhosa fermented lentil and rice pancakes with fillings, a selection of tandoori chicken and lamb kebabs and ‘all-time favourite’ curries and dhals, which are lentil dishes.

These are all served with basmati rice, naan bread and salad.

The other option is a thali, which is the type of dish that people eat at home, with the entire meal on one dish, which usually has separate compartments, like the ones often used for school dinners.

Prices range from £4 to £9.50 and there are options for vegetarians but only prawns for fish lovers.

They don’t serve alcohol, so I opted for mango lassi (£2).

We ordered the bhel puri to start (£3.50), plus the ragda patties (£4.50) to share.

The bhel puri is a cold dish and consists of puffed rice, potatoes and chickpeas dressed with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce.

It was delightfully tangy and fresh with plenty of spicy kick and good textures. The tamarind really cane through strongly.

Our hot starter, the patties, are big favourites on the famous Chowpatti Beach and are little potato cakes served with herbs and chutneys.

The flavours were excellent and interesting and the soft texture of the potato cakes was lovely and rich.

When it came to the main courses, it was clear that Khalid isn’t keen on street food presentation.

Our chicken makhani thali (we shared everything) came on a wooden board and little dishes held all the components.

The attention to detail is great, from the aniseed-flavoured basmati rice, to the rich yoghurty sauce the chicken came in. The little naan breads were soft and went down a treat and the chutneys worked very well.

We also tried kheema pav (£5.50), which is lamb mince and peas slow cooked with spices. It’s a little like a chilli but has real depth of flavour. That came with tow warm buttered baps.

A carrot gajar halva pud (£3)was a bit disappointing but that was the only low point. Spiced tea was good, though.

We paid £32.50.

* Verdict: a great addition to London Road that will build its own fan base.

* Urban Choola, 272 London Road. Tel 0114 2590 8880.

* Opening hours: noon to 10.30pm daily. Closed Tuesday.