WHAT? Toddy Shop is the informal, reasonably-priced half of Chai Ki Canary Wharf (a smarter restaurant is opening there soon). Inspired by the drinking shacks found on the coast of southern India – where punters sip alcoholic beverages made from palm tree sap called toddies – the restaurant/bar serves up cocktails, craft beer and street food (though there are proper mains on the menu as well).
WHERE? The lower-ground floor of the new Crossrail station at Canary Wharf, nestled among a handful of other restaurants. There’s plenty going on in the building – exhibition space, cinema, artisan coffee, lush roof garden to name a few – but, judging by how empty it was on a Monday lunchtime, most Canary Wharf worker bees are yet to explore the vast new retail complex on their doorstep.
WHO? It was opened by restaurateur Rohit Chugh, founder of well-loved Roti Chai and formerly of The Cinnamon Club in Westminster. Chugh has impeccable credentials when it comes to intricately-prepared, boldlyfavoured modern Indian cuisine.
ORDER THIS... The food was disappointing, especially given Chugh’s pedigree, though the masala chai, a fragrant marvel, was a highlight.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? Does anything pleasurable happen in Canary Wharf? That said, the vibe is suitably relaxed. The bar is elegantly-designed with row-upon-row of whisky bottles giving off a pleasant amber glow. You would, however, need a huge number of people to generate anything resembling an atmosphere in such a cavernous space.
NEED TO BOOK? See above. It’s hard to imagine such a massive space being filled.
THE VERDICT... For all the promise of the menu – Hyderabadi duck with cracked wheat and saffron served in a brioche bun had my mouth-watering – no dish delivered the big flavour hits one associates with Indian street food. Two sharing plates and two mains blended into a vaguely spicy mulch. The most memorable thing I ate was a potato and chickpea dish that not even a thick layer of yoghurt could prevent from being inedibly sweet.
ONE MORE THING... Toddy Shop has only been open a couple of weeks, so the food will doubtless improve. In the meantime, it’s worth visiting for the drinks: warmly-spiced hot chocolate and chai make a great alternative to coffee if you’re trying to cut down on your caffeine intake.
THE DETAILS: The Chai Ki Toddy Shop and Kitchen is open now at 1 Crossrail Place, London E14 5AR. Visit chai-ki.com to book.