Review: Rasa N16, Stoke Newington (Indian vegetarian restaurant)

Kathrikka - sliced aubergine in a spiced batter
Kathrikka – sliced aubergine in a spiced batter

I am dedicated to my carnivorous ways, despite being fully aware of my hypocrisy: I believe there is no ethical justification for eating meat, but life is just too short for me not to enjoy it. I don’t cook a huge amount of meat at home, so when eating out, it’s something I seek. Desperately. Determinedly. Especially beef, which tops my absolute most favourite food list in the whole wide world. (‘Obsessive’ doesn’t quite cover my devotion to beef.)

There are occasional moments, however, where I open my meat-crazed mind to the possibilities of delicious vegetarian fare out there, in the capital. Albeit this only occurs when dining out with vegetarians, but the point is that it does occur.

In addition to the meat bias of my blog, I try to keep it as a space for sharing food I enjoyed – even if it was just part of the meal, or one dish. Yet sometimes culinary atrocities are too great and they must leap out from my traumatised tongue onto a blank page or screen, as the case may be.

There was a veggie among our party of four and so the mission was on: find something to please all. We dined at Rasa N16 because it served Indian food – specifically south Indian/ Keralan – and that was universally popular choice. It wasn’t the easiest place for us to get to, but positive reviews online told us that we could expect some seriously tasty vegetarian Indian fare at ridiculously good prices. We voyaged out, ready to feast whilst feeling all ethical and healthy. Sadly though, these positive feelings were not enough to counterbalance the gastronomic sacrilege that was laid before us.

Mysore Bonda
Mysore Bonda

We tried four starters (£3.25 each): Kathrikka (sliced aubergine in a spiced batter); Mysore Bonda (spiced potato fried in a chickpea flour); Masala Vadai (deep-fried lentil patties); and Bhel Mix (essentially bhelpuri – a famous Bombay street snack of puffed rice, chickpeas and veg with tamarind juice and coriander). None of these were memorable or flavoursome, requiring a good deal of coconut chutney.

Masala Vedai
Masala Vedai

The Masala Vedai were particularly dry and bland and the Bhel Mix was initially interesting – coriander always adds a fresh tang – but quickly became monotonous. It was left unfinished.

Bhel Mix
Bhel Mix

Never mind, we thought. It’s hard to make a bland curry. How naïve we were. A tomato and aubergine curry appeared (Rasa Vangi, £4.50_ that was about as inspiring as X Factor reject auditions, save for the fact we couldn’t even laugh at its attempts.

Rasa Vangi
Rasa Vangi

Still, there was one more dish of intrigue – one dish onto which we could pin all our hopes. Our waiter had advised us to order Beet Cheera Pachadi (£4.50) a very adventurous beetroot and spinach curry, in a yoghurt sauce with coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves.  This is apparently a Rasa speciality. Highly recommended.

Beet Cheera Pachadi - all kinds of wrong mixed into one
Beet Cheera Pachadi – all kinds of wrong mixed into one

My friend tasted it first. She wrinkled her nose. “It tastes like salad!”

And she was right. Somehow, the chef at Rasa has created a ‘curry’, which seems to use salad cream as its base sauce. Had it contained a few potatoes, we would have been convinced it was supposed to be salad, served up next to charred meats at a barbecue. The dish remained, untouched. None of us could stomach it.

Re-reading the online recommendations for Rasa N16 makes me wonder whether my friends and I suffered some kind of collective hallucination. Yet whilst the service was good and the prices were undeniably reasonable, the food was something that we would never pay for again.

I have been told there is some very good vegetarian food to be found in the capital. Please restore my faith. Recommendations please.

Rasa N16 2/5 – The food was appalling. Vegetarian food deserves better. The ingredients deserve better

Food 1/5 – I think this might be my first 1/5 scoring on this blog. Sad times indeed.
Value 2/5 – It was very cheap but we would never pay for it again!
Atmosphere 2/5 – It was empty yet somehow a little claustrophobic.
Service 3/5 – Prompt and efficient.


3 thoughts

  1. I was that famous veggie and from a German perspective, I can assure that the food wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’d give at least a 3/5 for our Indian friends who were very friendly and welcoming. It’s only your fine British taste that wasn’t satisfied :p

    1. I hate to point out but a) Germany has a pretty awful rep for food and b) Nora is German and she definitely didn’t agree with you about the other veggie place. And I trust Nora 😛

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