New in Bath: Chai Walla

Chai Walla Bath
Chana daal in the sunshine

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I love this city. I adopted Bath aged 18, as a wide-eyed student from a hamlet in Devon that makes Bath look like rush-hour Tokyo, and since then it’s been true love – the sort that lasts a lifetime. As a dedicated follower of food, Bath’s awesome restaurant culture is one of the things I love most about it, but if there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good street food – so imagine my delight when I read on the Bath Chronicle’s website last week of a new Indian street food takeaway on Kingsmead Square. The following day I hastened down there in search of Chai Walla, a tiny purple shopfront squeezed into the pocket-sized unit between Sainsbury’s and Peri Peri Sizzler.

Even before I entered Chai Walla, the smells were incredible – you can’t get much better advertising than that. Inside there’s just enough room for a tiny counter which sections off the ‘kitchen’ – all the food is cooked right there in front of you – and the cheerful, smiling proprietor, Niraj, who does all that cooking. Slightly bewildered by choice, I picked the chana daal – £4 with rice and mango chutney, a seriously good lunchtime deal – and took it outside to eat in the sunshine. Although the sun was making a valiant effort it was a pretty flipping cold day, so the daal was exactly what I needed – packed full of fabulous flavour and with just the right level of spice to warm me right up. The guy sat next to me on the bench was eating a stone cold wrap from Sainsbury’s and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for his poor life choices – I bet he spent nearly as much as me and his lunch didn’t look nearly as appetising.

Chai Walla has a small but devoted following already – while I was waiting for my daal, one of Niraj’s newly minted regulars (after just one week!!) popped in – and it’s not hard to see why. As well as more substantial offerings like the daal you can also choose from one-handed food like samosas and bahjis, some good-looking salads, and combos that bring several yummy things together, all for properly bargain prices. I’ll definitely be going back to try the rest of the menu, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a much longer queue next time.

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