On a cold, damp evening in Southwest London, walking through the doors into the emerald green, fragrant warmth of Indo Chinese restaurant Dalchini was a delight. Established in 2000, Dalchini specialises in the UK rarity of Indo Chinese cuisine, extremely popular in India and how Chinese food is served in almost all Chinese restaurants there. In the late 19th century, migrants from the Hakka Chinese community settled in Kolkata, from this local street vendors merged textures and ingredients from China with spices and aromas from India.
The welcome we received was warm and the type you only enjoy at a true neighbourhood establishment that values its clientele on a personal level. And what a neighbourhood it is, affluent Wimbledon but away from the mainstream tourist hustle where one can relax – my dining partner and I had both grown up in the area and it was interesting to return and see how this corner of London has blossomed with an array of exciting and diverse dining options.
We sipped on balanced and refreshing cucumber and gin cocktails, sat in our chic velvet chairs and took some time to enjoy the photography on the walls that beautifully juxtaposed images of distant India and its smiling faces of joy with the stylish green and pink art deco design of the interior – Dalchini took the time during Covid to fully refurbish the Indo Chinese restaurant and it shows.
Please come with an appetite as it will be well rewarded! We sampled an array of smaller bites for our shared starters which I highly recommend allowing you to truly enjoy and understand this fusion cuisine. We crunched on perfectly crisp vegetable spring rolls, delicate and highly enhanced with Indian spices, Hakka fried chicken flavoured in true Hakka style with chillies garlic and soya sauce, prawn gyoza and my dining companion’s love affair of the evening – crunchy mushrooms tossed in a tangy sauce, these are a must. Each dish was dexterously presented, the adept marriage of Chinese and Indian spice was remarkable, and I noticed, not greasy in the slightest which is often the case with fried dishes.
Our sharing banquet continued with yet another cucumber cocktail – the mint of which is a wonderful palette cleanser in between mouthfuls. Kung Pao chicken burst into our mouths, lamb with black beans and peppers was such a fabulous twist on a classic whilst complemented by delicately burnt ginger garlic rice and vegetable Hakka noodles. Our two stand out dishes of the evening were the vegetable Manchurian balls served in a garlic, chilli and coriander sauce and the fish served in the most fragrant coconut and lemongrass sauce. The sheer depth of flavour running through these two dishes whilst simultaneously balancing freshness, delicacy and texture is reason enough to return to Dalchini time and time again.
Stomachs full we gracefully obliged our generous hosts by devouring some stem ginger vanilla ice cream with crispy honey noodles. For a Tuesday evening the restaurant was pleasantly humming and gazing at the clientele I realised this is what makes Dalchini so special – the food so exceptional, a marriage of cultures and cuisines mastered perfectly, the décor is stylish yet welcoming with top notch service.
Dalchini is that utter rarity of an establishment that manages to have the tenderness of a local neighbourhood restaurant and still be a destination venue for those willing to travel for this gastronomy – I highly recommend that you jump on the tube, train or plane and do just that.
To discover more, visit: dalchini.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of Dalchini.
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