This south Indian restaurant opened on Baker Street in early 2019 on the site of former French eatery Galvin Bistrot de Luxe. It is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Pooja Nayak and Aseela Goenka, with kitchens headed up by Manmeet Singh Bali, ex-head chef of Michelin-starred Rasoi and Vineet Bhatia London. This is the first restaurant venture from the duo, inspired by their childhood memories of Tamil Nadu. While Ooty is a formal sit-down experience, Ooty Station is designed to appeal to the casual diner, with an inventive cocktail menu designed as a sensory journey through the regions of southern India, accompanied by light dishes in the style of its sister restaurant next door.
Where its formal sister restaurant and basement bar have stuck to a hushed, intimate atmosphere – not unlike the bistro that was there before – Ooty Station’s yellow signage brings a welcome splash of personality to Dorset Street. It is decked out in imitation of the Ooty train station in Tamil Nadu, with corrugated blue wall coverings and deep red and mustard tiling – and feels suitably transient with its minimal seating and pavement tables. The terrace makes a perfect spot for people-watching on Baker Street during summer evenings, and its exceptional concept cocktail menu is a great way to begin or end an evening out with friends.
Southern India is represented through fragrant dosas, steaming rice cakes (idlis) and coconut-rich stews, and there’s a sense of play in the presentation. The menus come as cards on mini clipboards, like those used by train conductors of the 1950s, while a clove-smoked lamb slider comes served with a small pipette of searing chilli sauce. The buttery lime tomato prawn is everything it should be – rich and warming, infused with a perfect balance of sweet coconut and tangy lime, served with bite-sized steamed idlis. The Mangalorean chicken curry is addictive, with plenty of sauce to stew the steamed pancake in. But it’s a vegetarian option that stole the show: a crisp little garlic and soy spinach dosa that feels like the street food that Nayak and Goenka cite as their inspiration. And then there are the cocktails.
The cocktail menu takes you through different regions of India, be it the jumble of champagne, gin and tea in ‘Champagne of Teas’ (Darjeeling); the very heady gin, goji berry, rose and vermouth of ‘Rose Garden’ (Nilgiri Railway); or the ingenious vodka, black tea, spices and cream of the ‘Masala Chai Martini’ (Kalka-Shimla). While there’s a long wine list and a range of contemporary Indian beers, there is no obvious option to play it safe with a classic cocktail: a brave move that seems to have paid off, judging by the number of glasses on the tables around us.
Ooty Station is intended as a light bites café and bar, so to fill up you’ll need to order a few plates each. Two cocktails (£12 each), a bar bite (£4.50 to £9), two mains (£9 to £11) and dessert (£2.50 to £7) will set you back around £45-£60 per person.
Ooty Station brings an inventive cocktail and curry concept to the casual dining scene, perfect for summer evenings with friends or to cosy up after work as the autumnal weather arrives for a comfort-food fix from southern India.
Ooty Station, 66-70 Baker Street, London W1U 7DJ; ooty.co.uk/station