Cafe KaatiPosted: June 25, 2010
Living around the corner from Brick Lane means I’m always getting hassled for decent curry house recommendations. Despite being surrounded by a multitude, there really aren’t many in this area that I would actually rate. Most serve up dishes that are either creamed and sweetened beyond recognition or are so authentic, that no one but the most local of Bangladeshis would really want to eat them (dried fish curry is definitely an acquired taste). I quite liked Chaat when it first opened, a little place on Redchurch Street, but my last visit was disappointing. Tayyabs is the main reason I live where I do, and I’ve eaten there regularly for the past few years – so it’s nice to have a bit of a change now and again. I was therefore performing all manner of double take when I spotted “Cafe Kaati” from the top deck of the 205 the other day.
The kathi/kaati (meaning stick in Bengali and referring to the long iron sticks the kebabs are grilled on) hails from Calcutta. The first kaati was wrapped in the Nizam restaurant in 1932, and legend has it that this was the result of a happy accident involving a glut of parathas and a dearth of plates. The original; a simple kebab wrapped in a paratha has now spewed forth a myriad of versions. The best ones are flaky parathas, cooked over hot embers and drizzled with beaten egg, which sets to a wafer thin omelette. Spiced chicken, lamb or vegetables are added along with slivers of red onion and chutney, before being rolled up, wrapped in paper and devoured on the hop (The Spice Spoon has an excellent recipe). It’s also been said that they were invented for famished commuters who wanted a fast, portable snack and others refer to fussy British overlords, desperate to avoid any sort of haptic interaction with their meat.
Exhausted after a long day in the office, I really wasn’t in the mood for a sweaty evening with the hob. A spot of light Googling revealed that they delivered, have been open since last June and haven’t had any official reviews yet, although a lot of satisfied sounding folk out there seem to have some glowing things to say about their chilli lamb. Of course, they were always going to ensnare me with chicken 65 “flour coated deep fried chicken sautéed in chillis, curry leaves and sauce”, wrapped in a fresh paratha (according to my South Indian friend Rancheev, Chicken 65 is a dish with even more anecdotal tales surrounding its origins than the kaati roll). In the name of research, I also went for a lamb seekh in roti, a katchori (a pastry snack filled with spiced lentils) and a salted nimbu pani. The whole lot came to about £9, not bad at all for a London takeaway.
The chicken was very good, but lacked crunch (I’d been anticipating something that might give KFC a run for its money, but apparently chicken 65 isn’t actually meant to be crisp). Nonetheless there was something comforting about the combo of buttery, fragrant flesh and flaky bread. The paratha was ever so slightly chewy, but this was because it had cooled down en route to my flat. The lamb seekh was the star, a soft earthy girdle of wholemeal roti enclosing intensely juicy meat, the spicing every bit as good as Tayyabs. The katchori was ok, but I could have had better from Ambala down the road, and the nimbu pani was the perfect heat quencher, the refreshing balance of iced citrussy bubbles laced with the merest rumour of cumin. My only complaint was that the food was a bit cold by the time it arrived, but that probably serves me right for being so bone idle. I’m definitely planning on a visit, and soon - while it’s still an undiscovered gem.
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