A journey through India with Dhamaka

If you’re a Bristol foodie (like me!), you may have noticed Clare Street’s newest arrival – Dhamaka. I know I spotted it walking by one morning and made a mental note to try it out. As luck would have it, the mastermind behind Dhamaka, Vinay Reddy, kindly invited me down to check the restaurant out and try some of the food it has on offer. Naturally I was delighted, and this place seems to offer so much more than what we know about Indian food.

Vinay explained to me the concept of the restaurant and what his vision was for their food – at its core, Dhamaka offers Indian street food (as well as many of the curries you may know and love) and its goal is to bridge the gap between British curry house food and authentic Indian cuisine by showcasing what Vinay and his community would eat in India. To me, they offer a perfectly balanced menu – a group of friends would have no trouble finding something for everyone here, and even the pickiest of diners would be spoilt for choice. Vinay recommended either 2-3 small plates each, or a more standard curry and rice/bread. We decided early on that we wouldn’t try any of usual ‘British’ curries, but instead wanted the full street food experience that Dhamaka has on offer.

The kitchen is led by Jyotirmoy Patra (who previously worked at the Michelin-starred Benares in Mayfair and trained in India under celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor) and you can clearly see this fine dining influence in some of the ‘small plate’ dishes. The restaurant itself is vibrant and cosy, with fairy lights donning the windows and huge artistic murals on the walls – even the chairs are in funky colours! If you’ve ever wondered what an Indian ‘tapas’ bar would look like, this is probably the closest you’ll get in Bristol. The atmosphere was great and the restaurant’s location is ideal for a quick lunchtime bite or a longer evening meal in the city centre.

It is evident from the decor and the menu that Dhamaka is a celebration of Indian food, with intense, vibrant flavours and a menu familiar enough to feel like home but many opportunities to try something new should you be curious about ‘real’ Indian food.

We tried everything we could physically eat, and I don’t think there was a bad plate on the table! The DIY Pani Puri Chaat is absurd, fun and delicious – these are small ‘poppadum’ pockets that you fill with either mint water or tamarind water, then you pop the whole thing in your mouth. As you bite, the flavoured water bursts out. Not only does it taste good (I recommend trying a bit of each flavoured water on your spoon first) but the sensation is truly unique and surreal, and these little things were a joy to eat! Vinay said that as children, they would often have competitions to see who could eat the most chaat – he could eat as many as 20! I only managed 4.

Chicken Katacos are a must if you visit! They’re essentially Indian tacos, combining the Mexican word ‘taco’ with the traditional kati roll, originating from Kolkata. The katacos were filled with spiced chicken, lime juice and cucumber and were as delicious as they were massive. Chicken65 is akin to a spicy sweet and sour chicken – really tasty and a notable Chinese influence on the menu. My boyfriend really enjoyed the Dahi Papdi Chaat, a union of chickpeas, sweet yoghurt and mint, though I wasn’t as keen.

Even the poppadums were served with something unfamiliar but delightful – Dhamaka’s pineapple chutney is a welcome breath of fresh air compared to the more commonly eaten mango chutney (though never fear, they have that too). The peshwari naan was very good and the seekh kebab was very tasty, particularly when dunked in the mint yoghurt served with the poppadoms!

If for some bizarre reason you’re still hungry after your culinary adventure through the streets of India, we tried the rice pudding with almond nougatine which was really good. If you’re sensitive to dairy, you may want to sit this one out – it’s extremely creamy but is so much tastier than the tinned stuff. I was a little nervous of the almond nougatine at first (as I’m not a huge fan of nuts) but I had no reason to worry – it’s like crunchy caramel and tastes really good.

Turning to drinks, my boyfriend had a mango lassi which was really good and, I think, made from fresh ingredients (rather than bought pre-made). They also do several awesome cocktails. I don’t drink so didn’t try any of them, but they sounded really good and the restaurant often has 2 for 1 happy hour offers.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Dhamaka to you if you’re in the Bristol area. The food will delight all ages and tastes! It really felt like an adventure and that we were eating authentic, street food dishes I never would’ve heard of, let alone tried, were Dhamaka not offering it on my doorstep. I can’t speak as to the curries here but every small plate we had was utterly delicious and we came away confident we would return very soon.

The kind folks at Dhamaka invited us to try lots of their menu items for free in exchange for a review, however I was not asked to give a positive review – just an honest one! All of my views are my own, as always on this blog.

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