Unlike most in Indian restaurants, Chowki specialises in distinctive regional dishes, with each month featuring three regions, each offering three starters, three mains and a pudding.
I started with a quail(£4.25)from Rajastan, the historically war-like, desert state. The bird -- cooked in onion and tomato masala, with roasted cumin, coriander of lemon juice -- was very juicy and had be gnawing at every last scrap in a most unladylike manner.
The semolina prawns (£4.50) hailed from Mangalore, the cashew and coffee capital on India's Western coast. The four prawns were good-sized but a little bit on the dry side for my liking.
The vegetarian curry from Mangalore (£8.95) was luxurious mix of mushrooms and spinach, with an almost cheesy flavour, despite being advertised as coming in a tomato gravy. I thought it would have been a perfect filling for a French crepe, perhaps with a fried egg on top!
The lamb stew (£11.95) -- billed as an ancient Rajasthani delicacy -- featured tasty, juicy meat in a spicy sauce. (The husband's main memory of it though turns out to be the fact that he only got rice, dhal and rotti-type bread to go with it, while those who'd opted for the three-course "feast" menu (£14.95) got four side orders.)
I wasn't a fan of the milk-based deserts (around £3), but I was quite full anyway and the others ate them happily enough, plus there are also ice creams on offer.
The decor was a bit plain and canteen-like, and the service verged on the inattentive, but this was all more than over-ruled by the delicious food. Price-wise it's certainly not the cheapest curry house in town, but I'd say it ranks pretty highly on the value-for-money stakes. It is all the more of a find for being in tourist-central, just a few steps down a side street from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus.
Chowki, 2-3 Denman Street, W1D 7HA; Tel: 020 7439 1330 www.chowki.com; Tube: Piccadilly; Chowki offers 2-4-1 to tastelondon card-holders.
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