Scores out of 5: Veggie friendly : 5/5; Vegan-options available: Yes; Value for money: 4/5, Quality of cooking : 3/5; Ambience : 3/5; Service: 4/5 ;Atmosphere: 3/5
Walking down Ealing Road, a short stroll away from Wembley Central (tube and train) station, one is immediately transported to similar streets in Madras or Bombay. The Asian reverie is only broken by the toots of the trundling London buses that hurtle past on this busy road. This area is popular with South Asians, especially Gujaratis from nearby Gujju hotspots like Harrow, Wembley and Neasden.
Ealing Road is certainly one of the key retail commercial centres for the Indian community in London and is home to several Indian vegetarian restaurants and a phenomenal number of shops where one can buy everything from Indian groceries, vegetables, the sweetest of mangoes and traditional star-spangled saris right up to (to my complete amazement) an Idli dish to cook typical South Indian lentil dumplings.
Chennai Dosa's vegetarian outlet straddles the corner of High Road and Ealing Road. (Veggies, avoid the meaty twin next door and make your way up the ramp-ish entrance on the Ealing Road side) . Walking in, you'll find yourself amidst its typical clientele, consisting of "Indians from India" alongside a few of those brought up in the West, with the odd Caucasian thrown in to mix it up a bit. So, the atmosphere is very middle-class India - the restaurant is noisy, kids are welcome and noisy, but well-tolerated, and even doted upon by very patient staff, and the focus is pretty much on quickly serving hot food rather than on niceties. The decor is functional, if a bit basic. As is common in most budget, cafe-style places in Bombay, the jug of water is already on the table, and a laminated three-sided menu lists South Indian staples , Mughlai -style Northern Indian dishes (which are more common in the West) and Indian-Chinese fare. Most visitors seem to opt for the staple Dosa (lentil pancake), which as the restaurant's name suggests, is Chennai Dosa's flagship dish. We tried the rava dosa (semolina pancake), which was freshly cooked in oil that tasted like it was a few grades above motor oil , but was otherwise well-executed. The coconut chutney dip that accompanied the dosa was spot-on and the sambar (a flavoursome lentil curried dip) was really spicy-hot but oh-so-good. I've tried the plain dosa on more than one occassion , it's always been crispy but tasteless.
Also on the menu is the mixed platter or thali. At circa £4, it's an absolute steal. Eat as much as you like and ladle portions of piping hot, spicy gravies including kuzhambu (lentil gravy), rasam (tomato and lentil soup-y gravy) and kootu (vegetable stew) into tiny bowls crammed onto a decent-sized plate with just enough spare room to serve yourself some steaming hot rice. R, my boyfriend, managed to stomach the spiciness (he insisted he was an 'ard Northerner), but I must admit, I had to go easy on some of the curries and use only tiny bits to flavour my rice.
If like me, you can't stomach too much chilli, stick with the a-la-carte menu, from which the helpful, super-fast waiting staff will help you choose a more mild and flavoursome dish. The idli, a steamed lentil and rice dumpling is a healthy and safe choice for those whose stomach linings are on the delicate side. Avoid the Chinese dishes on the menu; to me, they tasted like they were flavoured with washing-up liquid.
Soft drinks are very reasonable at £0.60 a can. There's also a selection of lassis (buttermilk drinks) and juices . Not all juices are freshly made, so do check for the ones in season.
We paid £8.50 for a meal for two including soft drinks.
All in all, the place is decent and the food quality is on the right side of reasonable. (Don't expect super-high quality or gourmet cooking.) Best of all, its an absolute bargain. Who says cheap equals nasty???
Ealing Road, Wembley