Hidden in the corner where Clare Street meets St Stephen’s Avenue, Dhamaka is a gem serving a range of Indian street food in a vibrant, colourful space.
We arrived without a reservation and were not really hopeful for a space as the restaurant was already busy and all tables appeared to be taken. But true to form, and in typical Asian can-do, a space was found combining two tables to form a space for the three of us.
Dhamaka is actually only a very small space and the very creative owners have managed to fit a decent amount of dining space in by using relatively small tables and chairs. To circumvent the tight space on the table and perhaps in reminders of the street food vibe of Dhamaka, dining plates were small, rectangular sized plates that provided more space for the dishes that arrived.
Despite this, the space does not come across as crowded but rather casual and friendly. The walls are painted with bright and vibrant reminders of India with images of elephants and the Taj Mahal. The windows are decorated with colourful orange malas – flower garlands.
Prompt & Friendly Service
Service was fast and friendly and despite the busyness of the place, everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves and the food. More people kept turning up and at no point were they ever turned away. The worse response we heard was simply, ‘I’m so sorry. We won’t have a table until about 20 minutes time.’ Despite that people kept on coming, most without a reservation and somehow space was found for them all.
This made a huge change from several places we had tried earlier, before landing at Dhamaka.
The drinks options were wide and varied from a range of personalised cocktails – West Bengal Margarita, Kerala Colada – to the usual wine, beers, ciders and spirits and the pre-requisite mango lassi. Least expected was the hot masala chai, which we tried.
Hot Masala Chai
The chai was served in a small cup on a saucer and although it was cheaper than the other drinks at £2.50 (at time of writing) it was rather unexpectedly small. Still, it was well brewed. The spices were well-balanced and with no evidence of typical overwhelming sweetness. In fact, sugar was optional and offered in individual packs.
We ordered several dishes to share Chicken Manchurian (crispy fried chicken tossed with peppers and onions coated in chefs special Manchurian sauce), Gongura Lamb from Telangana (A South Indian lamb dish made from a paste of spinach, Gongura leaves (hibiscus leaves) in a spicy and tangy sauce), Paneer Makhani (paneer cheese in a butter chicken sauce), mushroom rice and a keema naan.
The food did not take long to arrive and as we asked for everything to be served at once, we soon had an overflowing table. The portions are not overwhelmingly large perhaps inline with the economical prices. But regardless, they were sufficient to fill us.
Chicken Manchurian was a crispy delight, with an interesting sauce not hugely different from the Chinese take-away staple – sweet and sour chicken. It was interesting to try something that we had recently watched on a Netflix series Street Food Asia. Chicken Manchurian was apparently the creation from an Indian cook who had worked with in a Chinese restaurant.
Dhamaka’s Chicken Manchurian was slightly salty although drenched in the sticky sauce and eaten with rice it made a great pairing. On it’s own (it’s meant to be a starter) it might be a little overwhelming.
The Gongura Lamb was absolute heaven for a lamb lover. The serving was generous and the pieces of lamb soft and succulent. The spices of the curry complemented the lamb and it was flavourful without being overpowering. The spinach and Gongura leaves added colour and texture too. This went well with both the rice and the keema naan.
If you’re a fan of butter chicken but fancy a change to a more vegan option, Paneer Makhani is the perfect option. The sauce has all the hallmarks of the perfect butter curry – thick, creamy and tasty – leaving a beautifully satisfying taste. The bowl of Paneer Makhani came loaded with succulent pieces of paneer cheese. Paneer on its own is rather bland and although the texture is firmer than tofu there is a bounce in its chew. Paneer in butter chicken, is a brilliant combination that takes the firm cheese and drenches it in a flavourful sauce.
The staples of mushroom rice and keema naan were both as expected, butter-fried mushrooms lightly tossed in a pilau rice and mince filled naan.
Would we go back?
In a heartbeat.
The food at Dhamaka was a refreshing change from the typical offerings of British Indian restaurants. Their take on street food and the vibrant colourful atmosphere made for a lovely experience. The service was friendly and welcoming and most importantly the food was good.
Address: 15, Clare Street, Bristol, BS1 1XH.
Phone: +44 7483330639
Website: Dhamaka Dining