Bhel Puri or Bhel Poori
Today is my day off and I’m heading for the back streets behind Euston Station where I recently staked out a selection of cheap and cheerful South Indian vegetarian restaurants known as ‘Bhel Puri’ houses. There used to be these kind of Indian and Sri Lankan snack offerings available here in East London but as the populations and fashions shift about they seemed to get replaced by Masala Dosa houses instead, which are lovely and great value for money, but I miss the specifically sweet and sour flavour of the chaat dishes and little pani puris that never seem to be quite the same when from the Chennai style of restaurant, at least that’s what my memory tells me, and today I will find out for sure by sampling a full buffet style meal from whichever looks like the best from the street.
I’ll let you know how I got on later, as well as how I get on at the Euston Cider Tap where I’m expecting to reaquaint myself with some top quality real cider and perry, or maybe try something I’ve never come across before.
The Euston Cider Tap is London’s first dedicated cider house, located in a classic gate house building outside Euston Station, just opposite the Euston Tap, a twin building that I’m told sells beer – if course I’ve never been in that one.
Well this was the result: We had a lovely vegetarian buffet meal in the Diwana Bhel Poori House, which my research had led me to believe is the one of the longer established and therefore more likely to be authentic Bhel Puri houses in the Drummond Street area. The range of dishes laid out for lunch was extensive and they all looked appetising, fresh and tasty. There were lots of salads, vegetable curries, breads, rice, little fried snacks, legumes, dhal, and also hummous, chutneys, fruit and desserts. The tofu in coconut curry and the cauliflower, carrot and broad bean curries were rich and tasty, but none of it particularly hot in the chilli sense. The flavours seemed to be a mixture of traditional British vegetarian, Thai and Pakistani. Very much a London fusion, with the absence of anything including tamarind, rice crispies, pani puri and extruded gram flour paste leaving me still wondering what happened to the Bhel Puri style I used to know from Green Street in the Nineties. So it was a very enjoyable meal, and great value at under £20 for two people with salt lassi but still not the authentic Bhel puri sweet and sour snack sensation I’m yearning for. Next time we’ll try another one nearby, but I wouldn’t mind going back to Diwana some time as well, probably on a Monday to Thursday when the lunch will be slightly less busy. We arrived early when it was still quiet but by the time we left at half past one the tables were ful and they were queueing up to get to the buffet.
So what about the Cider Tap then? Well that was a big disappointment because it was closed at 2.00 o’clock ona Friday lunchtime! There wasn’t any notice outside to suggest what the opening hours are meant to be either, so I poked my head inside the Euston Tap beer pub opposite and asked about the Cider Tap to be told it would be open at Three pm. It’s not a good sign is it? If you can’t expect the cider bar to be open at a reasonable time then you might not bother to make your way over there another time, and slowly but surely the momentum builds up to close it or change it over to selling beer due to lack of interest. Well let’s hope that’s not what happens.
We went over to the Bree Louise North London pub instead and I enjoyed some Gwynt y Ddraig pyder and another half of Black Dragon, both excellent drinks but then didn’t fancy anything else much from the rest of the smallish selection on offer – Orchard Pig, something strawberry and a single Millwhites.