Today I am very excited to share one of my favourite restaurants – Rasa in Stoke Newington’s Church Street (they have a number of branches, but this is the original). The food is from the Indian region of Kerala, and the fantastic thing for vegetarians – so exciting – is that the branch at 55 Church Street is completely vegetarian (with the sister restaurant across the road serving meat and fish too, hence the street number). I love being able to choose anything on the menu, plus Rasa offers excellent quality and great value – what’s not to like?
I must confess that these days, I’m not very adventurous in terms of what I eat there. I’ve probably tried everything on the menu over the last year, and it is all, without fail, utterly delicious. It’s just that I now know what I like, and I tend to go for it. But nice to be able to do that through choice rather than because there is only a limited veggie choice.
We started the meal with their selection of snacks – pappadoms, banana chips, murukku (rice flour with spices) and achappam (rice flour and coconut, in the shape of a flour). These are wonderfully crisp and aromatic, and work very well with their pickles. Rasa serves six different types, including fruity, citrus garlic, hot…all great. I would usually have a beer with this, but the mango lassi is also good if you feel like something different.
From the starters, we took idli (lentil cakes with coconut chutney), mysore bonda (spicy potato balls, fried and served with coconut sauce) and medhu vadai (ring-shaped dumplings made from beans). These also come on plates of three or four, so perfect for sharing with a group of friends. They are all quite different, with a nice combination of flavours and textures. They are spicy, but not too hot.
I find the mains really good – flavours are fresh and intensive. The beet cheera pachadi (beetroot curry) stood out a mile and everyone I know who eats there loves it. I’m also a big fan of the masala dosa, a slightly sweet pancake filled with spiced potatoes and served with chutney and a curry sauce. Of course, you’ll also need something to mop up the curry – and there are a great range of wonderful breads, from puffed-up poori to paratha (a coiled wheat bread).
After the curries, I am usually too full to eat a dessert, but if you do have space, the mango ice-cream or the kulfi is a nice sweet treat.
In short – I love this place and go there a lot. The decor is bright pink and there is Indian music in the background, so it’s a little like stepping into a different, brighter world. The service is friendly and pretty quick too. If you’re in Stokey, well worth checking this place out. Be sure to book – it can get busy at night.
Rasa, 55 Church Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0AR. Tel: 020 7249 0344. Bus: 73, 476, 393. Train: Stoke Newington.