Cafe Kaati

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.

Cafe Kaati

123 Houndsditch

London

EC3A 7BU

0207  283 0444

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12 comments

  1. I like the sound of the Chicken 65 and I’m now intrigued as to how it got its name. It’s also funny that ‘research’ is one of the main reasons why I order extra food too!

    PS: Sounds like an ideal snack during the World Cup.

  2. I love hearing stories about food, it really adds to the whole eating experience. Like Mr N above, i am also intrigued about Chicken 65 – wikipedia has no less than 6 different stories as to where the name came from.

    On another note, it is always good to know where to find decent subcontinental food among all those places in and around Brick Lane. Other than Tayyabs, i’ve yet to manage it.

  3. bilbo

    I’ve been going here a lot recently – its near where I work – a right proper little find.

  4. gastrogeek

    bilbo – I hear it’s pretty popular with the city workers nearby, bet it gets super busy at lunchtime.

  5. Given my addiction to Moolis I think this would fast become addictive too…

  6. I passed it the other day being nosey cause it used to be my shop before we closed down. I was a bit late for lunch but might now give it a try on my break.

  7. Thank you for the honourable recipe mention, darling girl. Interesting write-up- I didnt know where the term kaathi came from. x shayma

  8. I didn’t end up getting here on Saturday like I said I would (did go to Green Valley though!), so I’m still itching to try it out. Spicy stuff in a flaky flat bread. What’s not to love?

  9. gastrodood

    very very good news mike is doing well in chiswick we have been following him for years a great talent! well done. now to hit brick lane yum! yum!

  10. Aish

    Cafe Kaati is closed but Tiffinbox (E1 7DB) in harrow pl is opened. It seems its run by the same cooks in Kaati on Houndsditch and their menu is very similar.

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