When it first opened, the Chennai was a strict vegetarian restaurant. Nowadays, although they still serve a fantastic selection of veggie dishes, there are also a few meat dishes on their very long menu - 132 dishes at the last count.
The Chennai is part of a small chain of 4 similar restaurants in London. It is spotlessly clean but fairly basic with formica tables & a bright, welcoming yellow & green colour scheme.
The staff are very friendly and welcoming & will gladly explain the dishes to you if asked. I mention this because many of the items will be unfamiliar to most people, unless you are from Southen India or have tried this type of food before. Such delights as Idyappam Kothu, Special Kothuroti, Chicken 65, Idly, Pongal & Vadai all feature.
You can also find some familiar names such as vegetable biryani & chicken curry / rice but there seems little point in going to a restaurant that excels in a particular cuisine and then ordering something you can get almost anywhere.
My girlfriend and I live 2 minutes walk away from the Chennai. You could say that we are regulars. Shelley is a strict veggie and between us we have tried almost everything on the menu. I can honestly say that we have never been disappointed. Portion sizes are generous too and the prices are ridiculously low considering the fantastic quality of the food. All things considered, the Chennai is an excellent cafe/restaurant. It is open 7 days a week from 11.00am to 11.00pm with last orders about 10.15pm. Unless you are in a very large group, there is no need to book.
I have only one or two small criticisms but allow for them, rather than let them put you off ...
Firstly, because everything is cooked fresh and completely from scratch, you can sometimes wait a rather long time before your food arrives. So please be aware of this before you go.
Secondly, the Chennai does not serve alcohol and for religious reasons you are unfortunately not allowed to bring your own. Try their Mango Lassi instead which is homemade and really scrummy.
Favorite Dish: The various Tiffin Deals or Thalis (veg and non-veg) are all great value and are really filling.
These are set meals served in small stainless steel bowls on a purpose made stainless steel tray. The selection of small dishes usually includes a couple of starters, 2 or 3 main courses, rice, bread and desert. They are ideal for a beginner, as you do not have to worry that you are ordering either too much or dishes that "do not go" with each other.
When I do not have a Thali, my favourites are "Masala Papad" for starters, followed either by a regular size Masala Dosa or "Peppered Chicken with crunchy Tamarind Rice". I rarely have room for a sweet.
I have not tried it myself as yet but if you are with a large group of people, you may be brave enough to order the "Family Masala Dosa" which is a delicious, ludicrously cheap, FOUR FOOT LONG pancake. It is filled with potato curry, accompanied by homemade coconut chutney and a dish of mild vegetable curry. (Forget the diet - Give it a Try - You know you want to - Haha !)
I have eaten at the Yaki Noodle Bar on a regular basis since it opened & have rarely been disappointed.
The restaurant is fairly large but I have never seen it even a quarter full, so there is plenty of space and absolutely no need to book. The layout is basically long formica covered tables with benches (fixed to the floor) on either side. Everything is very clean, especially the toilets, which are much nicer than you expect them to be, for some reason.
Large paper menus cover almost every table & act as disposable tablecloths. They are speedily replaced as people finish their meals. The menu is long and varied & covers dishes from many different countries in Asia & the Far East. In fact the name "Noodle Bar" does not really do it justice. You can get lots of delicious dishes other than noodles.
Portion sizes are very generous, so there is a tendency to over-order and then have to take some home in a doggy (or in our case Catty) bag. For 2 people sharing, I would recommend ordering one rice or noodle dish and one main course each. Maybe if you are very hungry you could have 3 main courses between the two of you & rice or noodles.
Nothing is desperately hot or spicy or for that matter bland and boring. They steer a fairly even course, offending nobody. Vegetarians (particularly fish eating ones) are well catered for as there are plenty of seafood, vegetable and tofu dishes on the menu.
The restaurant is easy to access if you are in a wheelchair and is fully licenced - There is a small but adequately stocked bar from which you can order.
Pricewise it is about average locally, which actually means it is quite cheap. There are tons of restaurants competing for your custom in a very small area and hence you can get some tremendous bargains. The downside is that with prices so low and the council (so I am told) charging more and more for services such as rubbish disposal, restaurant owners are making smaller and smaller profits. I fear some are in great danger of going under.
Favorite Dish: Anything with tofu in it suits me and the hotter the better.
Updated Review - Jul 25th 2010
Since my original review below there have been some great and on-going improvements to the already excellent Farhana ... The outside frontage has been completely replaced with clear glass. Inside has changed a lot too. These days it is brightly lit with the air of a cafe, rather than a traditional Indian Restaurant. (I really must update the pic on the right)- Nowadays, there's a light coloured wooden floor and some contrasting dark wood chairs and tables. The take away counter is at the back. They also offer a free local delivery service with free papadoms, salad & mint sauce.
As regards the menu - Choose either from a card with a really cheap selection of basic, well known Indian dishes. Alternatively, you can select from the longer, more complex dishes and specialities on the a la carte. Either way, everything is delicious and freshly and speedily prepared while you wait. The 2nd menu is slightly more expensive but still great value.
Although it's still unlicenced you can bring your own beer/wine - nowadays you can ALWAYS get sparkling water, served with ice and lemon or choose from a basic range of fruit juices and soft drinks.
Something else has changed since 2007. The Farhana now opens for lunch and remains open from then until closing (every day except Friday). They offer an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for just £4.95 - Amazing value !!!
Original Review - Sep 23 2007
3 things make the Farhana special - the very low prices, the reliability & sheer quality of the food & Farouk, the owner - Such a nice person & a perfect host - Very interested in Indian food & restaurants in general .... "Have you tried that new one opposite the station yet", he asks - Any good ?"
The same chef has been there for years & some of the a la carte dishes are his own inventions. Farouk will proudly explain how a particular item was created. He may quietly reveal its secret ingredient & explain how it was "tweaked to perfection" to fit in with local taste.
Finally, for those who don't live locally, it may interest you to know that the restaurant is only 50 metres away from one of Barking's landmark modern sculptures called "The Catch" (see picture). There is also a sign telling you all about the Catch on the corner of Cecil Avenue outside the Brothers Supermarket.
Favorite Dish: If you choose from the a la carte menu, I recommend Aloo Chat to start - Then perhaps try their "Chicken Tikka Asari", which I absolutely love !
It's chef's own recipe .... A tangy, creamy, yoghurt based, hot and sour sauce poured over marinated pieces of tender, succulent, marinated chicken breast, onions and green peppers - Secret ingredient - A small amount of lime pickle. Another of my favs is chicken rezalla.
Vegetarians are particularly well catered for at the Farhana with no less than 24 ridiculously cheap vegetarian side dishes on the a la carte menu - Any of these can be served as a main course on request. My favourites are Aloo Gobi (potato and Cauliflower) or Matter Panir (Peas and Indian Cheese). Enjoy !
Perhaps I am jumping the gun here but when I learned that a Japanese sushi restaurant was opening in Barking Town, I wanted to be the first to mention it on VT.
The restaurant is called Oishi Sushi, roughly translated it means "delicious" or "tasty" sushi.
It is the first restaurant for the company concerned and as I write at the start of June 2010, preparations for opening are at a quite advanced stage. It will be located in the new Barking Central Development at the rear of the Barking Travelodge Hotel.
This will be the very first Japanese / Sushi restaurant in either Barking or any of the neighbouring towns. According to their very informative and well designed website they will offer authentic Japanese cuisine and feature both traditional and contemporary sushi, along with noodles and grilled dishes.
A modern, clean and stylish interior is promised along with an open kitchen, allowing you to see your meals being freshly prepared.
They are located in perhaps the nicest part of the new Barking Town develpment, on the ground floor of the quaintly named "Lemonade Building" - Although centrally located, it is far away from the hustle and bustle of areas such as Barking Market. Outside, you will find the Barking Town Arboretum .... an oasis of calm with 40 mature trees, benches, mosaics and a clean tranquil environment.
Rumour has it that the management have managed to attract some highly experienced chefs from major Japanese restaurants in London's West End. According to their FreeIndex site, the team previously worked at both "the Ivy" and "Soho Japan".
The big question though is "Are the residents of Barking Town quite ready for the sophistication of a classy Japanese Sushi bar where 15 pieces of "blow torched" sashimi cost £20.00
Where the "Chennai Indian Restaurant" now stands in Longbridge Road, there once was a very high class eatery called "Barfoots". The quality of the food was fantastic and the price tag was rightly set to match. The decor was cool and trendy. There was even a white baby grand piano in the window. Sadly though, customers failed to stream through the door and no sooner had the restaurant opened, in a blaze of glory, than it closed again with barely anybody noticing.
It has to be said though that the ethnic mix in Barking has changed beyond all recognition since Barfoots closed in the late 1990s and the nearby "Yaki Noodle Bar", about which I also had doubts, seems to be doing OK.
I am reasonably confident therefor that our friends from Oishi Sushi must have done their market research and hence will not suffer the same ill-fate as Barfoots.
Good luck guys and well done for trying to bring a bit of sophistication to "Barking Town". You can be sure that my partner and I will be among the very first diners on your opening weekend !
Favorite Dish: As the restaurant is not open yet, it is not possible to specify a favourite dish, so for the time being here is the menu to wet your appetite
There isn't much to make you think that a trip to this fish and chip shop is going to be any different to every other, that is until you tast the food....Then you will see why the Upney Fish Bar has won so many prizes.
I have no idea how they cook their chips or why they taste so great.... nice and crisp on the outside and soft and well cooked inside. The cod and their other fish is always moist on the inside, pure white with no brown bits and cooked in a delicious crunchy batter.
Portion sizes are generous and there is no problem if, like me, you prefer to have it served in one of those yellow polystyrene cartons, rather than the more traditional white paper. Far easier to eat without the vinegar going everywhere haha !
Apart from fish and chips, there the usual burgers, pies, fishcakes, saveloys, cod roe in batter and chicken, lamb and shish kebabs served in pitta with a gloriously fresh variety of accompanying salad, along with wicked home made chili or garlic sauce.
This take away is spotlessly clean and always well staffed, especially during busy periods. You rarely have to wait long to get served, even though there is usually a bit of a queue. Not once have I heard the cry "just waiting for chips mate, 5 minutes " (which you know usually means at least 10).
If I have one criticism it would be for them to remove some of the seriously "in your face" notices such as "DO NOT USE YOUR MOBILE PHONE WHILE ORDERING" - "DO NOT ASK FOR CREDIT" etc etc - There are loads of them - Come on guys. Give us a break !
Favorite Dish: My favourite dish would have to be good old cod and chips without a doubt - large portion - great taste - fair prices. Or for something completely different, try their spicy potatoes, which come with a delicious, tangy, "southern fried" coating.
There are tons of Indian restaurants in Barking Town and nearby, my partner is a big curry fan and we have tried quite a few of them, believe me ! For several reasons though we keep coming back to the Farhana.
(1) The food - lots of choice and plenty of good vegetarian dishes. You can either order several veggie side dishes or for very little extra have one served as a main dish with rice, a naan or chapatties. Very generous portions - We always eat far too much.
(2) The price - Currently it's £8.50 from the "all you can eat" menu (March 2010) or choose from a wider selection at a slightly higher price from the a la carte menu.
(3) The owner - Foruk is a really nice man and goes out of his way to make us welcome. He always comes over for a bit of a chat . . . asks how we are, how was your holiday etc etc. The rest of the staff are very pleasant too.
(4) They do a good take away service if you are feeling lazy - We are on their doorstep but I think it is something like free delivery within a 4 or 5 mile radius - call them and ask.
(5) You can bring your own wine or beer, which is one thing that never is cheap when you eat out. They are unlicenced.
Further info on their website or on http://farhanaindianrestaurantandtakeaway.blogspot.com/
Favorite Dish: Vegetarian Mixed Starters are very nice as are any of their paneer dishes (Indian cheese)
Very pleasant Indian restaurant situated just before Barking Park.
The colour scheme is orange and yellow with a dark marble floor and fairly basic but comfortable tables and chairs.
The food is uniformally very good. I stopped going there for a while though because it sometimes took a long time to get served. I went back again a couple of times recently and I have to say it was much quicker and the food was just as good.
It started out as a purely veggie restaurant but now does a few meat dishes too - not many.
Favorite Dish: I like either the panir (cheese) or gobi (cauliflower) pakodas (barjiis) to start. These are served with a coconut and also a fiery hot salsa dip.
I usually have panir butter masala and either plain or tamarind rice for mains. The portions are fairly large, so there is usually enough to take some home afterwards.
They do nice pistashio kulfi on a stick (a bit like an ice lolly) for deserts and to drink I absolutely love their home made mango lassi. Unfortunately they don't sell wine or beer.
Been there a couple of times with friends. It's nice and clean and quite cozy. If you have ever been to any branch of Nandos this is about the same. The service was good considering it was a Saturday night and quite busy.
Favorite Dish: Peri Peri chicken but not the really hot one, is my favourite Nandos dish.
Like McDonald's, Nando's seems to be everywhere these days. But just in case you have not tried one, I should explain that they are a global fast-food restaurant chain originating from South Africa but with a Portuguese-theme.
They specialise in chicken dishes and you can have either lemon and herb, medium, hot or extra hot peri-peri marinades.
Side dishes include spicy rice, chips with either Chicken Salt, or Peri Peri Salt plus coleslaw, corn on the cob, cous cous, portuguse rolls or side garden salads.
Both "eat in" and "take-away" options are usually available.
Barking's Nando's looks about the same as any other but to cater for the large multi-cultural mix of the population this branch serves Halal Chicken.
Fri and Sat 12.00-00.00
Favorite Dish: Extra hot peri-peri chicken