Two sets of friends recommended Ashers in Wembley for their theplas. Theplas are thin Gujarati flatbreads made with wheat flour, fenugreek and spices. So after one aborted attempt at getting ourselves there and a day of whining that followed, we jumped into the car impulsively one Saturday evening when we got bored of lounging on the couch, and drove to Ashers Africana restaurant.
Ashers Wembley is a very simple dining space. Reminds you of sitting in your college canteen in India. The folk who run it are pleasant and unassuming and could be familiar neighbours. The menu is equally reminiscent of a small-town Indian joint. Thaalis (an assorted platter of curries, flatbreads, rice, snacks and a sweet), theplas/rotis/parathas with a curry of your choice, or khichdi (spiced rice and lentils cooked together) and kadhi (a spiced yogurt curry). Sticking to the basics. Farsan (savoury snacks) is an integral part of Gujarati cuisine, and there are samosas, kachoris, spring rolls, bhajias (gram flour fritters), batata vada (fried potato cakes) and chaat on offer.
As you know (or don't, but now you do), I have a weakness for thaalis. So despite the recommendation, no theplas were ordered. Instead, the special Gujarati thaali was. I learned later when I reported back to the friends who had recommended Ashers, that I could have asked to have my rotis replaced with theplas. Oh well. The special Gujarati thaali was very customisable, and I picked the spicy aubergine and potato curry, and channa dal. I replaced the dal and rice with kadhi and khichdi, and also got rotis, a samosa, and a kachori as part of the thaali, and srikhand (sweetened hung yogurt flavoured with saffron, cardamom and pistachio) for dessert. A very sumptuous meal for only £8.
I can see where Ashers appeal lies. It's affordable, you don't have to dress up to come here, you eat in stainless steel plates, it's all very homely and snug. However, the food let me down. Unfortunately, I found it quite bland and very average tasting. My palate did not sing at any point during the course of my meal. Perhaps I went in with higher expectations that I should have, where flavours were concerned.
Ashers takeaway frozen food is very popular too, and it's common to see people leave with a stack of a hundred frozen theplas or bags of frozen samosas and spring rolls. But where the meal was very reasonable, the 50p for a frozen thepla just came across as disproportionately expensive, and we decided to skip it.
There's a part of me that feels I need to go back to Ashers though - I need to understand why this has been recommended so highly, because I clearly appear to have missed something? And I do want to sample those theplas.