55 Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0AR
A stalwart on Church Street since 1994, the original Rasa – eight others are now scattered through London and beyond – is where Keralan chef Das Sreedharan first honed his winning formula. A pretty pink tardis of a place devoted to vegetarian South Indian cuisine, it offers superb, healthy food at extraordinarily good value. If you’re uncertain what to order, you’ll be more than happy with the £16-per-head Keralan Feast, but choose from the best of the menu and you can eat very well indeed for half that. Of the curries, surefire winners include beet cheera pachadi (an unlikely-sounding combination of spinach and beetroot, which is both exquisite to look at and deliciously moreish); the unusual aubergine dish bagar baingan in a creamy sauce blended from roasted onions, coriander seeds, tamarind, yoghurt and cashews, or the tangy thakkali, made with fresh tomatoes, yoghurt and ginger. The assorted lentil dals and dosas are great, while the so-called side dishes offer so much more than their name implies – and it’s hard to resist the stir-fried savoy cabbage or the spicy potatoes. Look out, too, for unusual breads and snacks, like the coiled rice-flour flatbread uzhunappam, and the wonderfully tart tamarind rice. It’s best to reserve as the place is packed with happy regulars every night. If you can’t get a seat, Rasa Travancore across the street is similar, but serves fish and meat dishes as well (the crab is highly recommended). Rasa don’t deliver, but you can phone in an order and pick it up to take away.