From street stall to restaurant, we chatted to Tania Rahman, founder of Chit Chaat Chai. A restaurant that’s serving up bold and flavoursome Indian street eats in Wandsworth, South London.
We talked to Tania about food, art and music as well as what you can expect from eating here. Watch the video below to get some insight into Chit Chaat Chai including who Tania’s favourite rapper is.
What have been the main challenges and how have you kept yourself motivated?
I don’t think I’ve got all the time to go into the challenges of starting from street food stall to restaurant, there’s been so many but I would say the main challenge, predominantly, has been being a young, female entrepreneur. It’s quite difficult in this industry. You have to shout a little bit louder. I think that’s with any industry really; and you have to hustle a little harder too, but I’m getting there and with the help of an amazing team – I’ve built an awesome team here – we’re doing it together, we’re breaking down barriers.
What do you want people to feel after having eaten at Chit Chaat Chai?
It’s always been, for me, to build Chit Chaat Chai for people to walk away thinking, ‘Wow, this place is awesome, it’s cool, the food is amazing. the people are refreshing’. It’s somewhere they want to bring their friends to just hang out, and that’s essentially why I built Chit Chaat Chai, purely for selfish reasons: to create something where I’d personally want to hang out and be proud to chill with my friends. That’s what I want people to walk away thinking, ‘Yeah, I want to bring my mum here, but I’m also going to bring my date here, or bring my best mates here too’.
Are the dishes typical of how they are served in India or have you got a bit creative?
We haven’t really got creative. The food is essentially trying to keep it as raw as possible, even the serving dishes. They’re steel and unglamorous serving dishes. There’s nothing fine dining about Chit Chaat Chai and that’s okay because that’s not what we’re about. We’re just about real, honest food with great, bold flavours, and we try to keep that very simple even with the presentation.
What is it about Chit Chaat Chai that keeps people coming back?
Three things. The food, the service and the vibe.
So the food: What we’re doing here is nothing like anywhere else you’d eat in London. It’s small plates of real Indian street food.
The service: We have really creative individuals here. There’s no uniforms, people express themselves in what they want to wear and overall how they feel about the place.
The general vibe: As soon as you walk in here, you’ll know that we’re not your typical Indian restaurant from everything from the decor to the table and chairs to the people that serve you to the music playing. You’ll know that there’s something special about this place.
We love your #blackboard banter, how do you come up with these?
We’re really big on hip hop here. We love it, especially a bit of Biggie. We always play his album as and when we can. We also have a WhatsApp group with all the front of house staff and the kitchen staff where we all pitch in ideas. The latest one is a twist on Kelis’ ‘Milkshake’, so instead of milkshake we’re doing lassi, so our lassis bring all the boys to the yard. They’re essentially puns on well-known hip hop songs!
We see you’re running some cocktail masterclasses, can you tell us more about this?
The cocktail masterclasses is something that we’ve just recently launched. It’s a really great way for couples or groups of friends to do something different for their evening.
Other than the cocktail masterclasses, we have a Daru and Dance coming up which is to celebrate our one year birthday. We also have a food photography workshop with a really renowned food blogger so that’s for anyone to come along, have a chit chat and learn some skills about food photography.
Which one’s harder – running a street stall or restaurant, or are they both the same?
I would say they both have very different challenges. With the street food market, it’s more weather dependant. That’s basically what you’re up against. Every time you pitch up a market stall, you’re out in all weather conditions whether it’s rainy, windy, and if you run out of gas, well, you’re screwed basically. Whereas here, it’s not weather dependant but it’s dependant on customers and just day to day running really.
Do you feel there’s a connection between art and food?
Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. For those that think there isn’t, they’re completely wrong. I’ll challenge you to that.
Food is art. It’s an expression and it’s a form of creativity and that was really important to me when I built Chit Chaat Chai, it was to encompass both. When you go out to eat, you’re tasting flavours, it’s visually stimulating and the same with art too. The interior design here is super important. It represents the food and street culture of Indian life.
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To find out more about Chit Chaat Chai, visit chitchaatchai.com