Between a pawnbroker and a shop selling ugly furniture in Hounslow’s pedestrianised main street is this vegetarian snack bar which specialises in Mumbai-style snack food. It’s run by a Maharashtrian couple from Mumbai; most of the customers are Indian and know what to order, which is just as well, as the illuminated menu behind the counter is far from illuminating.
The names are written in Roman script, but with nothing beyond the name to go on (vada pav; dabeli; pav bhaji), you may struggle. ’Pav’ is pronounced ‘pow’, from the Portuguese word for bread: pão. These soft-batch bread rolls were introduced to the one-time Portuguese colony of Goa, but caught on in Bombay as useful ways to contain deep-fried or sloppy snack food. Hence you have ‘vada pav’, deep-fried balls of spicy potato in a bun, with licks of traffic-light coloured chili sauces; ‘ cheese pav bhaji’, a spicy vegetable curry, slopped into a disposable plastic plate, topped with grated processed cheese; or – our favourite – the ‘bhel puri’.
This bhel puri won’t have a street vendors of Mumbai quaking in their chappals, but it’s a pleasing confection of crispy, deep-fried sev (extruded gram flour) and puffed rice, spiced up with sour-sweet flavours. Chai (Indian-style tea) is squirted from a vacuum flask behind the counter into plastic cups and only costs 50p. The most expensive dish on the menu costs a mere fiver.
Shree Krishna is neither a date restaurant nor a destination for the discerning diner – it’s a fast food place. But it’s very cheap, and as close as you’ll get to eating the real street food of Mumbai without stepping onto a plane.