One of Elm Grove’s newest offerings, Desi Old India Cafe was due to open on 1 February 2021. But, like many things, the in-person launch was hampered by the pandemic.
I got straight onto the online ordering service and enjoyed several delicious meals from Desi at home, but still looked longingly at the Southsea restaurant through the window every time I passed – it looked so damn elegant!
Desi pays homage to the cafes of old India, with home-cooked food designed to bring people together.
Open to eat in since 17 May, the cafe has been impressing diners with their old India decor, ambiance and flavours ever since. I chose to visit early one evening for a midweek catch up with a friend.
While looking over the extensive menu I enjoyed a Coconut and Mango Lassi. Vibrantly coloured and topped with toasted coconut, it was a great introduction to the tastes to come. And it was quite clear from the start that this is not your usual late night, post-pub Indian experience – this is a menu for the serious foodies out there and you won’t find any alcohol on the menu either.
We couldn’t choose a single starter so decided to share a few dishes. The House Chaat was highly recommended by the friendly staff and didn’t disappoint – delicious veggie samosas on a bed of soft chickpeas, drizzled with yoghurt and chutney. We also enjoyed some perfectly cooked Onion Bhajias and Paneer & Pineapple Tikka (such an unusual combo, but very moreish!).
Taking our time and catching up with each other properly – in the pace of old India – we then chose a selection of mains to share with some Bombay Bread, Gunpowder Potatoes and Steamed Rice to go with it.
I’m usually quite adventurous anyway, but doing it this way allowed me to try way more than I usually would. We enjoyed a Hara Chicken Jalfrezi, Lahori Lamb, Konkani Chicken, a Vegan Malabari and House Dhaal.
Every dish had a distinctively different flavour to any curry I have ever tasted, even if it had a similar name. The slow-cooked meat fell apart with ease and you could taste the freshness of the sauce’s ingredients in every bite.
Aside from the cosy seating and plant-themed decor, I absolutely loved the soft lamps and natural daylight coming through the ceiling. As someone who suffers from migraines, I am all in favour of ditching harsh downlighters and mirrored fluorescent lights – because it’s no fun dining in a cap and dark glasses.
For me, the relaxing ambiance made the dining experience all the more enjoyable and the service was impeccable. I can’t wait to visit again.
📍Desi Old India Cafe, 173 Elm Grove, Southsea – www.desicafe.co