Michael at Dosa darlings on Cowley Road

Michael Raphel is fulfilling a dream by opening Dosa Darlings tomorrow on Cowley Road, because having worked in a curry house up the road in his teens, he vowed to open his own restaurant there one day.

So when Tarifa, Clinton Pugh‘s former bar, came up for grabs, Michael jumped at the chance.

The light, funky, organic, spacious interior now beckons, with a fun menu reflecting Michael’s Keralan roots.

Dosa Darlings

His tenth restaurant – he owns Bhoomi Kitchen in Headington, and several more in CheltenhamDosa Darlings is a new departure, something a bit different to match the engaging Cowley Road vibe.

“We have to give Cowley Road what it wants and I don’t think a Bhoomi Kitchen would have worked here. People want something new, fun and exciting – it needs the novelty factor – but done well, and that’s what we’ve tried to do here.

Cocktails at Dosa Darlings

“So yes it’s always a gamble opening something new, but we want to make people happy and there has already been some really positive feedback. We think Dosa Darlings is really unique without being pretentious.”

You can expect some spicy cocktails, a great wine list and a varied South Indian menu, the onus being of course on dosas, the delicious thin stuffed savoury crepes that we absolutely adore.

The food on offer at Dosa Darlings

Inspired by his grand-father’s cooking, Michael enjoyed dosas from an early age, and is keen to pass on this authentic offering to the avid foodies in East Oxford.

“It will be nice to bring back Indian food to Cowley Road,” he reflects, “because so many of the curry houses I grew up with there, and worked in, have now gone. But our customers have also moved on. They know what they like. They have travelled and visited South India, and we want to reflect that.”

Dosa Darlings

And while it might look easy, Michael has worked hard at building his restaurant empire, the first two years being very touch and go. “When we first opened Bhoomi Kitchen in Cheltenham it was tough.

“It took two years to catch on and we near lost our house. We had to sell the car and walk everywhere. It was a really tough time.

Bhoomi Kitchen in Headington

“But slowly people started coming from further and further afield and our first Bhoomi Kitchen became a local favourite. We then spent eight years building on that before we started expanding.”

So he Michael always had his eye on Cowley Road? “I remember when The Moonlight Tandoori closed and even though I had no money and no experience I went to the owners aged 20 and said I’d love to take it on. They very politely showed me out of the door,” he plugs, “but now 20 years later here we are!”

Dishes at Dosa Darlings

“And I love Cowley Road – the different cuisines, the people, the atmosphere. It’s very different to Headington. And while there is a lot of noise at the moment there around footfall (read LTNs), we love what we do and have a great team here.”

So after a four month refurb, Dosa darlings is finally ready to open its doors “We can’t wait. we are really excited to see what everyone thinks. We hope they love it as much as we do,” Michael adds.

Dosa Darlings is at 56-60 Cowley Rd, Oxford and is offering 25% off all food for two weeks. Full review to follow https://dosadarlings.com