Established in 2006, Indian restaurant Imli Street had a revamp and relaunch earlier in the year. I went along recently to the heart of trendy Soho to check out the food and vibe.
The menu is designed to share and is inspired by four distinct areas of India’s street food scene. Food Carts; inspired by street-side and highway stalls, Coastal Shacks; celebrating India’s coastline and beach-fronts, Railway Cuisine; food you get whilst on a journey around India, and Beyond Borders, which are dishes with foreign influences. There is also a simpler option, which has a set meal type of offering in the form of the Imli Stand or Street Stand that have 3 of their core dishes with sides at a fixed price of £19.95.
The menu is a bit of hard work, I mean I get the concept, but at the end of the day I want the menu to be an easy read. If I’m in an art gallery I don’t mind my brain having to work a bit to ‘get it’, when I’m eating out I want to ‘get it’ now – I’m hungry!
After taking advice from our waitress, we select a dish from each scene. From the Food Carts we order chicken livers, from the Coastal Shacks the tempered crabmeat and coastal mix, from the Railway Cuisine the lamb curry, and from Beyond Borders the Naan Pie.
Service is super swift, with staff busying about the 130-seat, industrial looking, loft apartment styled restaurant. Tender, juicy and well-spiced chicken liver hit the table in no time at all, and really hits the spot. Fresh tempered crabmeat follows and is an assortment of vibrant flavours and textures. A delicious array of seafood in the Coastal Mix is next – highlights are the big, zingy prawns and fish finger-like tilapia. The squid, however, is bland and doesn’t match up to the rest on the plate.
We hadn’t even finished these before the other dishes steadily streamed out. The Railway Lamb is tender, chunky and moderately spiced with not much chilli heat. The same lamb (there is a vegetable alternative) is used for the Naan Pie (a nod to Shepherd’s Pie), which is described as having a naan crisp on top, but it’s just the standard Naan bread but sliced. I don’t have a problem with fusion dishes and the Naan Pie is comfortingly pleasing. I love Saag Paneer, but it’s let down here as the spinach is pureed which somewhat mutes the flavours.
I advise ordering two to three dishes and see how you go before ordering more (think tapas, though I hate to associate tapas with Indian food, but that’s exactly the type of dining Imli Street is), because it turns out we over did it by about two dishes, and as a result were too stuffed for dessert. Dessert options included sweets such as cheesecake, bread pudding, rice pudding, kulfi and poached cheese!
It’s also worth noting that the cocktails are a winner, a Snake Charmer with spiced rum is zingy passion fruit goodness – delicious.
I had a lovely time at Imli Street, but as Indian Street food go, it doesn’t quite compare to the likes of Roti Chai, whose cooking is up by quite a few notches.
Imli Street dishes are £5.90 – £9.90, sides £2.90, desserts £5.50 and cocktails £7.50-£11.50.
Food I Fancy dined as a guest.
167-169 Wardour Street
London, W1F 8WR
Tel: 020 7287 4243