With Diwali in full swing, and The Festival of Lights being celebrated around the world, it seems timely to recommend Dosa Park in Oxford.
If you haven’t heard of it, the unobtrusive South Indian restaurant opposite Oxford Station, next to the barber and newsagent, has been quietly serving some fantastic thalis, dosas, vadas for several years now.
I revisited last week when a friend wanted to meet before heading back to London on the train. He is also vegan which rather narrowed down the options, although everywhere worth its kale, offers a vegan friendly option these days.
We had q quick drink in The Jam Factory, such a cool, convivial spot, full of a bohemian crowd congregating after work for supper or drinks, surrounded by the continual art exhibitions ranging there.
Dosa Park used to be a fast food chicken joint, and will never win any awards for the decor. The door never shuts properly either which means gusts of cold wind are perpetually blowing in, so people tend to eat in their coats.
But what it lacks in door trims, comfort and furnishings, it more than makes up for in culinary offerings. The kitchen here is where the heart is.
I go there a lot, dragging prospective diners, visitors and friends there, an unashamed Dosa Park convert despite its basic premise.
If you’ve never had a dosa, they are long pancakes made with a chickpea batter, served on a metallic Eastern bloc style catering tray with three dhals to dip them in, like Goldilocks, one hot, one cold and one just right.
My favourite dosa filling is the potato masala (£6.99), the spicy mash soft and spicy, but firm enough to sustain the bits you rip off and dip. Such wonderful, heart-warming, basic food, I could eat it everyday.
Then a piping hot pile of onion bhajis, entirely different from the spherical stodgy starters we are used to, the crispy curls rising from the plate, served with a tamarind style sauce, imperative to eat while hot.
Then the thali to share because there’s no point doing things by halves. Served in a proper stainless steel thali dish with its separate compartments, the mix of curries and dhals, yoghurts and dips, pickles, and chutneys, are accompanied by rice, a poppadum and a chipati.
Some thin, some thick, some spicy, some mild, some sweet, some sour – a pick and mix of Indian tastes and textures, dishes and accroutrements. Veggie, vegan or meat, they are perfect to share.
We didn’t pig out any further. We had a train to catch. But just in case you are feeling experimental – the vadas (savoury doughnuts) are amazing and the idlys (savoury sponge) too, all washed down with the chana masala tea a hot spicy milky tea.
So what has this got to do with Diwali? Dosa Park are hosting a Happy Diwali feast for £14.99. The menu features mini punjabi veg samosas or chicken spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce, masala vadas with sambar and chutneys or aloo tiki with minted raitaha, then for mains baltic chicken and egg masala, slow roasted lamb kebab kauai, mixed seafood Goan curry and an aubergine and mixed pepper masala, served with peshwari naan, pulp rice and wheat malabar parata. If you’ve got any room left, try the mixed Diwali sweets, gulab jamun, home made payasam and complimentary sweetbox to finish off your meal.
Diwali lasts until Thursday.
Dosa Park , 25 Park End Street, Oxford. OX11HU.