My friend George has this theory about Brick Lane. He reckons there’s a secret factory operating about six feet underground which spends all day churning up two enormous vats of neon slurry. That there are pipes snaking up from the vats to the kitchens of each of the restaurants, which have taps marked “yellow” or “red” depending on the particular hue you prefer your slop. The lane is saturated with naff “Indian” restaurants and it’s so refreshing to see a proper southern place in the area, offering some deeply regional alternatives. Dosa World has been open for three months already, only seats about twenty and the owners hail from Chennai. Although I’m due to visit next week, the nagging siren song of a decent stuffed pancake a mere phone call away proves too much.
The menu boasts some terrific specialities like vellappam (a lacy doily of fermented rice and coconut milk), ghee roasted masala dosa, idlis (steamed black lentils and rice cakes), vadas, bhajis and malabar curries. There’s a dish called erachi ulathiyathu, a dry and fiery lamb curry which I can’t wait to try. I love the fact that most of the main courses are £3 or £4 and you’d be hard pressed to find a dish over £5. In fact it’s so cheap, that when I try to order up to the minimum delivery amount of a tenner I end up with a slew of dishes.
I feel a bit like a kid at Christmas when it all arrives, and as I tear into a hot foil parcel of utthapam; a waft of curry leaves transports me straight to a balmy beach in South India. The soft, pock-marked sponge of rice is ever so slightly sour (as the best ones are) and strewn with curry leaves and tomato. The avial (vegetable curry) bears the murky patina of pondweed, but daisy-cuts my mouth with flavour. Drumstick, aubergine and green banana chunks jostle for attention in the thin, sour gravy and it numbs my tongue in the most addictive fashion. A dish of rasam is the only let down. I like this peppery broth to have a good balance between tamarind and tomato, but this one is a bit too hefty with the souring agent for my liking. The dhal is interesting though, it’s got a very deep, almost “meaty” flavour to it, and a spice I’m unable to pinpoint – it’s completely different to anything I’ve ever come across before. There’s nothing quite like a properly made dahi vadai, and this certainly doesn’t disappoint. Dense lentil doughnuts are heavily anointed with rich cold curds and dotted with fresh ginger and mustard seeds. It forms a soothing counterpoint to the other dishes. A golden, savoury cigarette russe of masala dosa is textbook. Full of textural contrasts the crisp, yet yielding pancake brimming with perfectly spiced mash is seriously gorgeous. If I closed my eyes I could be feasting in a Keralan’s kitchen. An assortment of chutneys that come with are viscous with chilli, tamarind and fresh coconut. I smear them over, tuck in and consider saying it’s all terrible. Sadly though, I doubt this place will stay secret for much longer…
46 Hanbury Street
0207 377 0344