Since opening in 2015, community has been at the heart of Masala Wala Cafe. Run by mother-daughter team Nabeela Muqadiss and Saima Arshad, they’ve successfully brought authentic Pakistani cuisine to the south east, establishing a great local gem, and working with other outlets in the area, such as the Brockley Brewery and Little Nan’s Bar. Add to this a reputation for mouth-watering curries and you can understand why we were keen to try it out.
Venue and Atmosphere
Perched just around the corner from Brockley Station, Masala Wala is the most conspicuous spot on the block, with its turquoise blue awning stretching out over the pavement and bright, painted flowers snaking up its walls.
Inside it’s small and cosy, with simple wooden tables and chairs. The weather has been gorgeous all day and the front windows are thrown open, offering counter dining with views over Brockley Cross. Even on a Tuesday there’s a steady stream of diners, along with a few groups dropping in for takeaway collections or just to take a nosy at the menu. It’s friendly, relaxed, and just what you want after the first post-bank holiday work day.
Food and Drink
They keep their menus stripped back here. While dishes are refreshed monthly, there’s only ever four mains to choose from - two meat and two vegetarian or vegan - and a small selection of sides, sauces and chutneys, followed by two or three dessert options. This doesn’t make the decision process that much easier because everything still looks delicious.
We decide on the Saag Gosht (£13), a dish of slow cooked lamb and spinach, and the Kala Channa (£8), which mixes black chickpeas and ginger in a silky tomato sauce. Grabbing a couple of the homemade rotis (£4.50 each) is a must, and, much to the delight of the vegan on my right, they do a butter-free version. Soft and chewy, they’re the perfect vessel for transporting chunks of tender lamb and chickpeas from the earthenware bowls to your mouth.
Bursting with freshness and spice, the curries might leave a little sting on your tongue, but that’s where the beer comes in. Custom-made for them at the local Brockley Brewery, the restaurant can proudly boast its own Masala Lager and PPA (both £4.50 per 330ml), the latter of which provides an earthy and refreshing accompaniment to our meal.
For dessert, we order the homemade pistachio kulfi (£5) and it is an absolute marvel; a pastel green minar of condensed milk ice cream scattered through with chunks of chopped pistachio. I challenge you to find a sweeter, creamier or more satisfyingly indulgent treat in South London.
Calm and comforting, Masala Wala Cafe is like taking a deep breath at the end of a long day. Offering delicious Pakistani curries and an easy atmosphere, there are few better ways I can think of to spend a spring or summer evening than sitting in the front window of this charming restaurant and watching dusk fall over Brockley.