Spice up your life

Neil Littman continues his tour of the borough’s best restaurants with a visit to Chennai Spice in Edmonton

Chennai Spice specialises in South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes
Chennai Spice specialises in South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes

This is my first review of a restaurant in Edmonton and, although the area is best known for its many Turkish restaurants, I decided instead to visit Chennai Spice, a Sri Lankan venue in Hertford Road.

I visited with a friend on a Tuesday evening at 7pm and ended up with the only free table in the main restaurant (they also have a party room and banqueting suite). It’s a very popular place, with good reason.

In answer to the obvious question about whether Sri Lankan food is similar to Indian cuisine, the answer is yes, in some ways, but there are big differences as well.

Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped by being a hub in the historic oceanic silk road and contact with foreign traders who brought new food items and cultural influences ranging from Indian (particularly the south of the subcontinent), Indonesian and Dutch cuisines.

The dishes that make up most Sri Lankan meals are pretty different from the northern dishes at your local Indian restaurant. Sri Lankan food offers a vivid array of flavour combinations. The cuisine is highly centred around many varieties of rice, as well as coconut. Seafood also plays a significant role in the cuisine.

While many dishes sound familiar, upon closer inspection these, too, have a definitively Sri Lankan spin; thinner curries that tend to be more heavily spiced than many Indian versions, and cuisine that is more inclusive of non-native ingredients, brought by international trade moving through the island.

Rice also comes in pancake form, as savoury dosas and crepes. My dining companion (who’d spent some time in Sri Lanka) approved of the menu before we had even ordered. He thought that the presence of Lion stout and lager on the drinks list, which are not widely available in the UK, was a good sign and the perfect accompaniment with our food.

The long menu at Chennai Spice reflects the different influences in the cuisine and it would take about half-a-dozen visits to gain a wider appreciation of what is on offer – something I am prepared to do with little encouragement!

Our starters were medu vadai, a South Indian-influenced dish of fried lentil donuts with coconut chutney, which my friend said is a typical Sri Lankan breakfast dish and their take on onion bhaji – long strands of onion coated in batter arranged in a pyramid shape on the plate and served with a mint sauce.

For our main course we shared two chicken dishes; tikka jalfrezi with green peppers and ‘very spicy’ Sri Lankan chicken on the bone, with lemon rice and a side dish of okra served in a coconut sauce and a kerala paratha.

We didn’t try their fish dishes, though on a previous visit I had eaten their
squid curry, which is described as very hot and which was mind-blowingly accurate.

Dessert was masala tea and almond kulfi (ice cream made with condensed milk) which was the only disappointment in an otherwise good meal, served from a freezer cabinet rather than the kitchen. Service was
good despite only two people covering the main restaurant.

All in all, I consider Chennai Spice to be one of the best Sri Lankan restaurants in London. Our bill for three courses including two large Lion lagers with service came to £54.

Chennai Spice at 217 Hertford Rd, Edmonton, London N9 7ER is open every day, 12pm-10pm. Booking advisable:
Call 020 8805 9944
Visit chennaispice.com