Having won over Londoners with its healthy take on Indian street food at its two restaurants in Beckenham and Hammersmith, Chai Naasto is adding another branch to the family. While the existing restaurants have vegetarian-friendly menus, the new Harrow site promises to be fully vegetarian and vegan in response to popular demand. Chai Naasto Vegetarian Street Café is set to officially open on 11th August.
The restaurant brand was founded by three brothers who shared a love of food, inspired by the homecooking of their “Nani” (grandmother). They wanted to allow people to enjoy the flavours and informality of street food dining while having the comforts of a traditional restaurant.
The brothers are also passionate about sustainable and ethical eating. Co-founder and Head Chef Tilesh Chudasama said “In recent years, we have seen a conscious shift in the way we think about what we eat and how it impacts our planet. This has directly impacted the way we approach food. You only have to look at the burgeoning popularity of independent eateries that embody this ethos; veganism, vegetarianism, zero-waste cooking and the decline in meat consumption, to see how the cost of environmental impact is shaping our palates. This is a huge reason why we decided to make our next Chai Naasto site fully vegetarian and vegan-friendly!”
Nothing on the menu contains meat or fish, and there are countless dairy-free and vegan options too. Chudamsama continues, “Following a vegetarian or vegan diet used to be regarded as ‘a hippie thing’, but society’s attitude and tolerance towards dietary exclusions has evolved significantly and veganism has flourished. As a young Indian, I loved challenging people’s perceptions of vegetarianism. Many Indians are vegetarian for religious reasons and have an incredibly varied and fulfilling diet.”
Fans of Chai Naasto will be pleased to hear that 90% of the vegetarian dishes from its existing restaurants will be available in the Harrow branch alongside some brand new additions. Some highlights include Pani Puri Shots (crisp wheat balls stuffed with spicy potato, served with sweet and sour tamarind reduction), Desi Thepla Tacos (fenugreek flatbread served with chana masala, red onion salad and mint chutney), Crispy Salt & Pepper Okra, Bhaji Vegetable Fondue and the Bombay Sandwich (an Indian grilled toastie with layers of chutney, masala mix, sliced vegetables and cheese). The exciting new Desi Pizza Menu features several pizza options with a variety of Indian-inspired toppings from tandoori parsnips, mustard seed, curry leaves and paneer tikka, on a choice of sourdough, wholemeal or gluten-free bases.
But what does “Chai Naasto” actually mean? The word “chai” means tea, while “Naasto” means tapas-like snacks. The name was inspired by the beloved Indian tradition of enjoying a delicious snack and washing it all down with a hot cup of tea.
But if you’d prefer something stronger than tea, Chai Naasto have you covered too. Alongside a lip-smacking selection of filling and flavoursome street food, there’s also a rustic bar. Diners can pick from a host of craft beers on draft like the restaurant’s very own brew: the Chai Naasto Pilsner. Wine lovers are equally catered for and the restaurant has even teamed up with a wine producer to develop their own range of house wines.
As more and more people embrace vegetarianism, veganism or flexitarianism, restaurants like Chai Naasto are more than happy to make eating out a pleasure rather than a chore.