Street food – chaat – provides some of India’s most delicious fare, yet only now with the opening of Chaat Street is Wellington seeing this genre of fluffy dumplings, puffy puris, tasty curries, gorgeous chutneys and moreish flatbreads.


Chaat Street offers a fresh tapas-style alternative to the capital’s sixty-odd tandoori restaurants, which have traditionally aspired to the buttery, creamy grandeur of the Mughul emperors. This unique selling point probably explains why, despite being small and not exactly posh, Chaat Street is typically as bustling as Churchgate Station in Mumbai, from where the restaurant’s logo is borrowed. But what truly conjures up the environs of an Indian railway station is the co-mingled aroma of chicken tikka, poori alu and chole bhature.


One of Chaat Street’s star attractions is gol gappe from north India. It’s rigorously traditional, yet you’d swear this hollow semolina sphere had been borrowed from molecular gastronomy. The customer fills each crunchy orb with an intriguing liquid flavoured with coriander, mint, spices, plus a dash of sulphuric ‘black salt’, then eats it in one go with cubed potatoes and tamarind ginger chutney. Vaibhav only expects about a 20% success rate in making these spheres, with the failures going into the papri chaat, a zingy Indian take on nachos. Equally wow-inspiring is dahi vada, airy lentil balls dressed with yoghurt, sweet tangy tamarind and mint chutney. The drinks list includes The Grayling Pinot Noir from Waipara, intensely varietal and good value at $12 a glass, as well as old-new Indian cocktails such as Sherbet, made with tequila and an imported Indian berry, jamun.


Chaat Street is the debut restaurant from Vaibhav Vishen, formerly head chef at Mr Go’s and the DoubleTree by Hilton’s Spring Kitchen. His mission is to bring us the street food he misses from his north Indian childhood in its truest form, regardless of effort or cost. Vaibhav feels he has really nailed two flatbreads – both the Delhi-style bhature served with chole (spicy chickpeas) and the kulcha served with the Kashmiri lamb. He tells of one customer who was so taken with the kulcha that he ordered 17 in succession.


A large open kitchen dominates this tiny restaurant where the young chefs weave around each other to pump out the succession of small plates that characterise this sharing-style eatery.


Word of Chaat Street’s early success has evidently spread. Already Wellington’s giant Kāpura hospitality group is said to be planning a chaat house around the corner in Cuba Street. If so, then Chaat Street has set the bar formidably high.

99 Victoria St, Wellington
Check Instagram for opening hours
SMALL PLATES: $11 – $17
CONTACT: 0210 233 9210
INSTAGRAM: @chaatstreetwlg