An authentic journey through some of India's most popular street food dishes
Deccan Tiffin was born out of a passion for the richness and variety of food in India, and chef owner Priya has been running a series of exciting pop-ups around Brighton & Hove, focused around authentic, regional Indian dishes.
Priya was kind enough to invite me along to her latest pop-up at Cafe Plenty, and I couldn’t resist the lure of an evening featuring her most popular vegetarian and vegan small plates of Indian street food.
Cafe Plenty is a pretty solid supper club venue, with spacious tables and a relaxed ambience, but anyone who’s visited Cafe Plenty will know bench seating is some of the most uncomfortable in town. Too high? Too deep? I’m never sure. Luckily I wasn’t sitting on that side!
The truth is that supper clubs can be awkward, and unless you’re the first to arrive, you’ll have to quickly judge who you want to sit next to and hope for the best. We chose wisely and had a great evening chatting to an older couple, Ray and Sonya who live near Priya and come to all of her events – a good sign.
The night was sold out and once everyone had arrived, Priya came out to give some (brief) background to the first dish, as she did with every course, which was a nice personal touch.
First up was Ragda Pattice – potato patties served with a dried pea curry and tamarind sauce. A popular dish in Mumbai, and an absolute stunner. It had a fantastic balance of textures and was topped with some crunchy noodles made from a seasoned gram flour paste. The tamarind sauce was rich, sweet and sour and brought the whole lot together. I could have eaten another couple of portions of this!
Next was Pav Bhaji – a dish I’ve seen on TV a few times and have always wanted to try. Literally translated to “bread and vegetables”, the mix mix of vegetables cooked with spices is served with a toasted pav bun, with plenty of butter.The vegetable curry was beautifully spiced and made rich by the melting butter on top. I make a lot of daal at home, and this kind of homely comfort food is right up my street.
Our next dish was Pohe – pounded rice cooked with cumin, mustard, green chilli, coriander and tomato. I found this course a bit underwhelming compared to the first two. I was looking for something punchier, and the texture of the rice wasn’t to my taste.
Paneer Tikka was up next – marinated pieces of Indian cheese, served with a mint and coriander chutney. Very popular in Delhi where its often eaten standing up, at markets and roadside dhabas. It’s a dish I’ve had many a time, and Priya’s version went down really well with everyone on our table. I would have preferred chunkier cubes of paneer, rather than slices and I didn’t get a huge amount of flavour from the marinade coming through. The chutney was the star of the show though, with plenty of zing and freshness.
Mrs. Scoffers and I are well known for clearing other peoples plates, and tonight proved to be no exception with Ray and Sonya struggling to finish course four. My eyes lit up.
Course five was Sabudana Vada – deep fried tapioca and peanut cakes, served with some more of that delicious tamarind chutney. Another strong dish, and a popular road-side snack in western India often eaten in the morning or at tea time. The stodgy texture of the filling wouldn’t be to everyones taste, but it worked well for me with the crunchy coating.
I was expecting the last course to be sweet, but what actually turned up was a pretty disc of fried aubergine called Vangyache Kaap – marinated slices of aubergine dredged in rice flour and pan friend. Topped with raita, this was a nice end to the meal, but I did leave craving something sweet.
I’ve always had good experiences at supper clubs, and Deccan Tiffin was no different. The setting was nice, staff were friendly, and there was plenty of good food on show. Some dishes didn’t hit the mark for me, but others surpassed my expectations and the sauces and chutneys were stunning. So much so that I made my own tamarind chutney earlier this week!
The £35 price tag for six vegetarian small plates will feel expensive to some, and I’d have to agree (although it did include a free cocktail) but having run my own supper club last month, I have a newfound respect for how much work and prep goes into it.
The charm of Priya’s cooking is that it’s homely, tasty and authentic and I’ll definitely be back for more.