Six of One Is Back!
Dalchini, plus five other London restaurant recommendations for this weekend
Welcome back to Vittles Restaurants and to the first instalment of Six of One for 2024. A map with all 97 of the Six of One recommendations published in 2023 can be found, used, and enjoyed here.
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Six of One is a column dedicated to London restaurant recommendations. In each issue, six writers will share a restaurant, bakery, cafe or takeaway spot that they believe deserves to be better known.
You can find the full Six of One back catalogue below:
Polentina and five other recommendations; Inihaw plus five; Kulcha Express plus five; Triple One Café plus five; Samak Seafood plus five; Lakehouse Hungarian; Restaurant plus five; Salteñas Martin plus five; Best Foods Supermarket plus five; Thenga Cafe plus five; Charcoal Champ plus five; Chai Kadai plus five, Fine Cut Butchers and Steakhouse plus five; Souvlakiland plus five, Bali Satay House plus five, Yasmina plus five, and Orchid House plus five.
Today’s recommendations are from Ciaran Thapar, Yanyu Sun, Zayneb Al Asaadi, Gavin Cleaver, Alex Loveless, and Ned Sedgwick.
The first time I ate Indo-Chinese food was in 2005, when my family stopped at a packed dhaba while driving between cities in Punjab. It was halfway through a fortnight-long trip – my first time in Asia – and I was ready for a break from bread and curries but resolute in wanting to avoid a return to Western food. So I ordered chow mein. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted: noodles cooked in a karahi, equal parts soy sauce and green chilli, my local Surrey Chinese takeaway merged with Hounslow or Southall.
When I eat at Dalchini in Wimbledon Park I am taken back to that moment; of borders collapsing and southwest London’s diasporic dining migrations dovetailing. By turning right out of the tube station and heading over the zebra crossing – away from the village of gated mansions, tennis courts and mossy brick walls perched like a Tory fort at the top of the hill – you will arrive at what has become one of my favourite restaurants, a building whose thick garlic aroma floats among the quiet residential roads like a public air freshener.
The restaurant’s fusion food has roots in Kolkata, where migrants from the Hakka Chinese community settled in the late 19th century, bringing with them a cuisine that would be replicated across India and then hop across to the UK (Dalchini claims, on a plaque by the entrance, that it was the first Indo-Chinese restaurant in the country). Opened in 2000 by a team from Mumbai, its managers double as waiters, leaving no inch of the small dining room out of their care. There is a deep seriousness about how they help you navigate the menu – starters include pepper chilli paneer, crunchy mushrooms, Hakka fried chicken, kung pao potatoes – and a committed delicacy with which they place plates of food down on your table, followed by offers of another drink (another pint of Cobra, please). The mains I ordered on a recent visit, following a cold walk on Wimbledon Common and a visit to the palatial Buddhapadipa Temple tucked beside it, was the best spread I've had there (but you can order anything and it will slap): crispy duck pancakes, prawn pak choi in ginger wine sauce, lamb rubbed in red chilli with water chestnuts and burnt ginger rice. In 2023 they hired a pastry chef who makes all their desserts in-house, some cold and some hot, from yuzu mousse to deep-fried coconut ice cream balls.
Dalchini is not cheap – I go every couple of months, as a treat. But I can think of no better example of paying for quality. Ciaran Thapar
147 Arthur Rd, SW19 8AB