We’re sitting amidst the ruins of three curries, two types of naan and a surplus of pilau rice, exhausted from the effort of eating.
It’s hot, and the collective moans and howls of Spain v. Netherlands are drifting in from the adjoining complex.
My food baby is so far along I swear I feel it kicking, yet still I’m picking at bits of paneer and trying for one last taste of aubergine. This is the point where I decide that the new indi.go café at Shoreditch’s Rich Mix has some rather good things going for it.
Rewind a week or so to the opening night, a packed and heady event of cosmopolitans, Bollywood-inspired tunes from DJ Ritu, and wait staff in saris bearing trays of Indian street food-inspired canapés (a shout-out here to the waitresses, who displayed astonishing forbearance with the iPhones clustering around each new tray of nibbles). And while it’s nearly impossible to judge a place on its opening, with the furniture cleared away, wine flowing freely, and the menu reduced to single bites, what we tasted was simple yet flavoursome, and executed with a visual flair unexpected in a style of cuisine best-known for, well, curries. We were intrigued enough to pay a return visit.
The opening may have been ‘star-studded’ and the finger-food fancy, but it’s important to remember the context of indi.go’s – the fifth in the group – new venue. Rich Mix is a charitable enterprise dedicated to providing opportunities and support to people of all ages and cultures, particularly within the local community. All money raised by the venue is injected straight back into financing these opportunities, so anyone expecting a sleek, chic dining venture in the indie-artsy Shoreditch tradition will likely be somewhat confused. Furniture reinstated, tinny radio tunes piping away, and potential customers all busy watching the World Cup in Rich Mix’s cinema next door, indi.go on the night we visit feels like a café crossed with an empty refectory, trimmed in patterned paper and painted blue. It’s a space intended for utilitarian, friendly dining at all times of day, whether you’re after coffee and cake, a light lunchtime salad, or the Indian street food indi.go is known for. This may be the reason why the menu looks like a compromise between indi.go’s raison d’être and that of an English caff: croissants, full breakfasts and cheese fries nuzzle up against chaat bites, idly sambar and masala dosas. The takeaway menu is more concise and gives a clearer idea of what exactly indi.go is about: quick and delicious Indian food, ideal for sharing and eye-catchingly presented.
We start with two of the chaat bites options: papdi chaat and veggie somosas. The papdi chaat is a delightful mess of wheat crisps, potato, chickpeas and yoghurt, laced with loads of coriander and fresh red onion. The plate is ringed with tiny poppadoms – like petals – for scooping. It’s crisp, zingy, and perfect for sharing. I have to confess I’m yet to be bowled over by a somosa, and these are no exception – but they have a nice thick crunchy skin and flavourful insides, which is all you can ask of a somosa, really.
Once these are cleared away we’re treated to a cavalcade of naans and pilau rice. The garlic naan is delicious and buttery (ghee-ey?) while the peshwari – filled, as far as we can tell, with coconut – packs the sweetness of an almond croissant. So much for flavour, but both naans arrive at room-temperature, which does not endear them to me. However, my reservations are knocked sideways by the arrival of the curries. The one closest to my elbow – where I insist it remains for the rest of the meal – is methi paneer, a gloriously rich, melting affair with a sharp tang of coriander and fresh, light cubes of paneer balancing the heaviness. Meanwhile my companion has monopolized the one closest to his elbow, the aubergine bharta. This one is lighter and zingier than the paneer, sparking with chilli, coriander, garlic and cumin, with an amazing fullness of flavour imparted by the smoked aubergine. After those two the kasmiri lamb, excellent though it is, simply cannot compete.
Have you ever been served a curry in one of those dainty steel bowls and felt slightly cheated – until you tried to finish it all and realized you couldn’t? Well, at indi.go the bowls are bigger. They’re filled fuller. You’ll need to bring a friend (or several friends, or just your whole extended family) to do it justice. We could have comfortably fed four with our (admittedly generous) meal-for-two. Luckily the attentive wait staff package it all up for us, and we share it later that evening.
All up, indi.go really is a ‘rich mix’ (apologies) of a place, with many ideas competing across the menu and the venue alike. If you’re after an intimate, atmospheric dinner this probably isn’t the place to find it (although you can always have it delivered; it’s free when you spend £16). But if it’s great food at affordable prices you’re looking for, brave the menu and you’re likely to leave very happy – and extremely full.
Indi.go at Rich Mix review by Marion Rankine