A NEW restaurant offering authentic south Indian food has opened in Basingstoke, giving customers a unique experience with a focus on healthy eating.

Chennai Express is the dream of Unni Bala, a former hotel manager, who hopes to create a homely space for guests to enjoy traditional dishes, cooked with fresh ingredients, inspired by the Southern Indian region.

Unni said: “Our team has travelled throughout south India exploring the food, so there is a wealth of experience. The dishes are tasty and healthy, with the perfect balance of herbs and spices.”

He explained that the food is prepared in a traditional way, resulting in easier to digest dishes than the popular westernised Indian cuisine, with ingredients which are believed to have numerous health benefits, even slowing down the ageing process.

He added: “The ingredients are rich in antioxidants and are free from colouring or artificial spicing and flavour enhancers. It is all completely natural ingredients. It’s so healthy you could give it to a six-month-old baby.”

Unni said the restaurant will offer a fine dining experience, in a newly refurbished building in Wote Street, which has been kitted out with a brand-new open-plan kitchen with a grill, meaning customers can watch live cooking.

He said the team is “passionate” about serving the best quality food and welcoming guests into a “lively and homely” restaurant, adding: “Guests will enjoy quality food and service. Our chefs have worked for a number of years in the industry, so they know what they are doing.”

South Indian cuisine is growing in popularity, and Unni said Chennai Express will serve all the favourites including sambar, a lentil-based vegetable stew; dosa, a type of pancake; and idli, a savoury rice cake.

Other dishes include sea bass marinated with local spices, wrapped in banana leaf; the traditional Kerala dish Kadala curry, made with black chickpeas in a roasted coconut gravy; and South special chettinad, a rich and flavoursome masala cooked with coconut milk, black pepper, curry leaves and red chillies.

The venue will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a tempting range of cocktails to choose from in the evening along with a selection of desserts.

It will also be providing a takeaway service.

Unni said he hopes Basingstoke residents will welcome a new independent restaurant in the town, adding: “We need more independent restaurants and we are looking forward to welcoming our first customers through the door.”