Chaula's - The Food of India

I thought I’d eaten everything on Chaula’s menu. As a regular take-away customer, I was pretty sure I’d been through the lot, so when I took a friend there for lunch on Saturday, I was confident my recommendation of chicken methi (fenugreek leaves) and baby aubergines stuffed with cashews would impress.

As I’d never eaten-in before (I’d been put off by the bare tables, bright lights and industrial fridges), I’d never really paid attention to the blackboard behind the counter. Which meant I had no idea Chaula also prepared some special dishes for her eat-in customers, one of which was masala dosa. I can’t think of another place in Sussex that does masala dosa, those thin pancakes from southern India stuffed with spicy potatoes and served with chutneys. And I can’t think of anywhere in Britain that does them for £3.99. We ordered two. Nor could either of us avoid the lure of a mango lassi. We also both fancied the petis, tiny little deep-fried patties of peas and potato. I know it’s not meant to happen when you review restaurants, but we sat down to eat identical meals. As we waited (for all of about ten minutes), we realised how much we actually liked the bare tables, the bright lights and the industrial fridges. As Indian pop music bubbled along in the background and Chaula’s son played with his cars on the counter, it dawned on us that we weren’t just having lunch, we were having a holiday. Chaula doesn’t just serve authentic Indian food, she serves it in a space that’s closer to the real deal than any flock-walled – or foliage-covered – restaurant. And when the rain outside turned into a genuine monsoon, we were momentarily transported. And this was before the food came. (continued over leaf...)

Chaula Patel: does the best value masala dosa in Britain