I think it’s safe to say I’ve raved about Cargo 1 and 2 on this blog a fair amount.
Why do I love it so much? Well, there are plenty of reasons. Firstly the variety in its offerings; there’s restaurants, watering holes, a good food shop, retail outlets, a florist, bakery and a butchers. The views across to the harbourside provide a pretty scenic backdrop for the crates, and for me, there is always a lovely community vibe and atmosphere in Wapping Wharf.
I kept track of the Cargo 2 developments closely, waiting in anticipation whilst each new venue opened, and one of the restaurants I had been intrigued about was Sholay Indian Kitchen. It finally opened its doors a few months after its neighbours had all launched, with little to no fuss, leaving an air of mystery surrounding it. Luckily for me, I was invited to come down and try a few of the dishes on the menu, so I popped in last week with a friend.
You may or may not know that Sholay is the latest venture from the owners of The Mint Room. This hugely popular and well regarded restaurant has sites in both Bristol and Bath, which focuses primarily on Indian fine dining. Sholay provides the opposite to this, with a menu full of casual Indian style street-food from the open kitchen. “Sholay” is the title of a popular Indian adventure film that is still considered a classic and regularly features in top 10 best Indian movie polls.
The crate sits on the end of Cargo 2’s first floor, at the top of the staircase. Just the same as the companions it sits beside, the inside of the crate is modest and intimate. However, bold and vibrant splashes of colour adorn the walls. A mural of a dancing Indian woman looks down onto the long wooden bench table which runs through the centre of the floor space with the words, ‘don’t talk just chaat’ painted next to her and there are various other illustrations and different film quotes that have been drawn on the adjacent surfaces. The beautiful art work provides a great conversation piece and is in juxtaposition to the simple unassuming wooden furniture packed into the moderate space, with cutlery sitting in tin cans on the table tops. The narrow restricted kitchen space runs parallel to the biggest table in the restaurant, which was designed for diners to sit at communally. There are some high stools at the front window and a couple of smaller tables designed for two, and the space does not feel too bunched up or cramped – it has been used well.
We were greeted by friendly members of staff who brought menus over promptly and took our drinks order. As I have already mentioned, Sholay specialises in offering street food, so we had the choice from 6 small plates, 5 larger one and some sides; the chefs here are making the most of cooking in a confined kitchen space.
We began with garlic and spinach bhajis and Sabzi Ki Tikki, which were small vegetable patties. Served in a wire tray like dishes, we had three of each starter, which came with an accompanying dipping sauce. The bhajis were light and crispy, with the subtle hint of garlic that came at the end of each crunch, and the spinach adding some weight and texture. Not a speck of grease in sight, which has been my experience so many times when eating bhaji’s in other establishments, and the vegetable patties were jazzed up with the accompanying dipping sauce. Sholay’s street food is designed to be shared and I‘d recommend two or three of the small plates as a starter between two or three people.
For our mains, we decided to go with our lovely servers recommendation of Tawa Poussin, a Tawa grilled baby chicken with bell pepper sauce and rice with a side of chickpeas and dry fenugreek. She did not let us down. The chicken dish was absurdly delicious; thick slices of moist, buttery, succulent bird sliced and placed atop a bed of the peppers and onions, with a sauce that was just spicy enough to induce a kick after swallowing each mouthful; everything within the dish complimented each component and pulled together wonderfully; by the time we had finished it, we were licking the plate. I forget the name of the wonderful waitress who helped us, but her knowledge and passion about the food at Sholay was very apparent. We asked questions about a lot of the dishes on the menu, as truthfully, I didn’t know what some of them were and she was more than happy to go into detail and talk us through them. For me, that adds a lovely touch to the experience.
The only thing I would change about our visit is that I wish we had ordered more from the menu, as if the chicken dish was anything to go by, the other courses were sure to be just as delicious. Sholay is proud to offer a simple menu using only the freshest in seasonal ingredients and this is startlingly apparent when tasting the cooking, it was wonderful.
Don’t come to Sholay expecting to roll out of the door fit to burst like you might do at your favourite curry house, for that is not the purpose here. Do come to Sholay with a group of friends, order almost everything from the menu and share amongst yourselves, trying a bit of everything. You are more than likely to be eating dishes you haven’t come across before and most definitely will discover new favourites. I’d highly recommend it for an off the cuff spontaneous dinner, a place to come with your girlfriend or boyfriends or after work on a Friday night with colleagues. I’m most definitely going to book myself back in… if I can tear myself away from ordering the chicken again.