At first glance, this long and narrow vegan restaurant looks more like a takeaway joint, but hidden down the back is a little restaurant, which was a bit like walking into someone’s home in India: there was the faint scent of incense, old-school Indian music was playing, the sun was beating down through the glass-panelled roof and the air con was blasting.
The deep, rich flavours that erupted from the food made the vibe feel even more true. Two large crispy (free) poppadoms with a side of sweet mango chutney were dropped off at our table. We demolished these before starters swiftly arrived. The refreshing chana chaat (a mix that included diced cucumber, spiced chickpeas and coriander leaves, all smothered in chutney and yogurt) was creamy, crunchy and cooling. We couldn’t get enough of it. The loaded bhaji was just as brilliant: a heap of deep-fried, crisp onion bhaji shreds, topped with onions and chutney, were tangy and moreish.
Of the main courses, the fiery jackfruit jalfrezi had a good kick; the meaty texture elevated the dish and by this point we’d forgotten that this was a plant-based menu. The tarka dal was warming, and we mopped it up with the paratha while taking little bites of the fresh turmeric pickle (a must-have) and spooning the brinjal (aubergine) chutney on to bites of paratha. Our only gripe was that the garlic naan was a little stodgy.
For afters, we were defeated by the banana chai doffle (a waffle made with dosa mix). It didn’t have much bite, but the accompanying coconut ice cream had plenty of flavour.
This is the first permanent location for SpiceBox, which started life as a food market stall. We were made to feel right at home; the staff were chatty, and on the way out the chefs in the open kitchen asked how our meal was. I can’t wait to go back.