Cripes! For months I have heard of the intricate delicacies of South Indian food. The dosa, the idli, the uthappam, they were all calling out for me, unable to try it in my small village in Wiltshire. Of course, I didn’t realise there was an opportunity here in Oxford to lay my hands on a South Indian spread at a reasonable price. How wrong I was.
Some friends of mine had been banging on about a curry house called Dosa Park for a while. Of course, once I understood that South Indian was the name of the game, I was a player. I was warned: the décor does have a 3AM-tragictrip-to-Kebab-Kid aesthetic. Off I went, fully prepared to experience restaurant hell.
Again, how wrong I was. This inveterate restaurant-goer was certainly surprised by the overall effect of the contrast between its decoration and its food.
Stark purple and white walls, sticky tables and a coke machine provide the only flash of vibrancy, other than the hypnotic neon lights outside that seem to entrance all the diners in a quiet rapture. Furthermore, the location was a shock. The Saïd Business School and the way to Botley are not famed on the Oxford foodie scene, but next to the Domino’s Pizza place is one of Oxford’s hidden treasures. Truly, eating at Dosa Park is the sort of experience Lonely Planet would call “living like a local” – yet it remains hardly known.
Paneer became the theme of the evening, as we all ordered curry variations on it. Paneer butter masala for me: bright and spicy orange curry with big chunks of paneer and tomato. The thick, ghee-filled sauce literally arrested my tastebuds – never have I eaten a more flavourful curry.
The Palak Paneer, which had the added advantage of mashed spinach, was equally fabulous. The slightly bittersweet taste of the spinach went incredibly well with the chewy and creamy paneer cheese, which, we were assured, was home-made.
My chilli naan quite figuratively set my mouth on fire. However, the tamarind rice, which was nutty and sweet whilst being simultaneously deep and rich, more than made up for any carbohydrate-related mistake I made with the breads.
Dosa Park may indeed look like a postnightclub, low-key treat. However, what awaits the curious curry-seeker on the inside is without description. Cherwell was warned off from reviewing this as-yet ungentrified spot on Oxford’s scene. Unfortunately, a gentrifying vulture I am and always will be: Dosa Park deserves more business, to be honest. Treat it.