When people ask about my favourite restaurants, it’s always a trick question, because it depends what they’re after.
They usually have an agenda, an idea, a category, an occasion, a reason for asking. They are thinking romance, party, Michelin stars, a log fire in a country pub, the best roast, steak, curry….. the list goes on.
But Dosa Park in Oxford is always on the tip of my tongue.
the less people who know about dosa park the better, so let’s keep it between ourselves
If you haven’t come across it, and before you rush down, Dosa Park is not smart, cosy, intimate, cool or contemporary. It doesn’t wow you on arrival with swanky drinks menus, jaw-dropping interior design or immaculate waiters.
In fact, it’s everything but. There are no velvet banquettes or dark lighting here, tropical cocktails or dynamic backdrops. Nope, Dosa Park is an old takeaway chicken shop near the train station, hastily redressed as a South Indian cafe, and you can tell.
It has a terrible draught so most people huddle in their coats, overly bright lighting, and little in terms of decor, save the odd plant and poster. Even the crockery is positively surgical.
But if you want some truly authentic and interesting South Indian food, Dosa Park ticks all the boxes.
It has no pretences. It doesn’t hide behind a veneer of comfort or style. What it does is serve you the best South Indian food you’ll find anywhere. Which is why people flock there from far and wide.
Yes South Indian food is growing in popularity, but Dosa Park is still head and shoulders above the competition, which is why I dine there so regularly, needing to satiate my cravings for their mind-blowing dosas, idlys (savoury rice cakes) vadas (like savoury doughnuts) and thalis.
READ OUR REVIEW OF BHOOMI KITCHEN IN HEADINGTON HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/review-our-new-favourite-curry-house-why-bhoomi-kitchens-south-indian-cooking-hits-the-spot/
But first up the Masala Chai tea ( £2.45) which sets the tone with its sweet, hot and spicy overtones, followed closely by piles of piping hot, dark brown and crispy Onion & Palak Bhajis (spinach & onion coated with spiced gram flour batter and deep fried) for £4.95.
The onion curls are served with an eye wateringly hot and sour tamarind dip. A ridiculously generous portion, it’s as if the onion has literally been chopped, chucked in flour and flung in hot oil, and makes you wonder what those neat, powdery imitators are masquerading as on menus all over town.
Then a dosa (huge, long, light, rice pancakes with a choice of fillings). The masala potato (£8.95) is a particular favourite, like a spicy mash, rolled in the dosa and served on a long silver plate (think surgical ward) with three different dips/ sauces- one mild and yoghurt, one deceptively tongue numbing and a rich curry in the middle.
I ordered the veg thali (£9.99) because it’s more traditional, but there are chicken, fish, prawn and lamb varieties available. The traditional offering of three veg curries, salad, sambar, rasam, dhal curry, yogurt, pickles, and dessert all crowd round a central bowl of boiled rice, crowned with a chappati, and a pappadam. A feast for kings and queens alike.
The dishes vary from sweet to sour, thick to watery, hot to mild, all served on a traditional thali plate – the Indian equivalent of a pick and mix. And however much you eat and dip into the endless pots, they never seem to decrease.
Our meal was £15 each in total. My sister loved it. She wants to return with her husband. It’s that kind of place. It’s a like a hidden gem, a gift, a secret location that not many people know about. And that’s fine with me – the less people who know about it the better, so let’s keep it between ourselves.
Dosa Park is at 25, Park End Street, Oxford https://www.dosapark.com and is open Monday – Saturday 11am to 10:30pm and Sunday: 12noon to 10pm.