"The calm, warm environment and atmosphere is so much nicer than ordinary Indian restaurants "Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
Just a 10 minute walk from Gloucester Road tube station, this modern Indian restaurant is convenient albeit surrounded by competing eateries.
I was surprised to discover a couple eating at the tables outside on the pavement – in December! Whilst I initially found the large glass front a little off-putting (you can clearly see into the restaurant from the street), the interior is charming. It’s a relatively small restaurant which adds to the intimate feel.
There’s half a brightly-coloured bicycle rickshaw on one wall and tastefully framed posters from famous Indian movies on the others. But otherwise the décor is white and calm and has a rosy, romantic glow from the numerous tea lights dotted around the place. The Indian music and incense added to the sense of calm. We were impressed.
The waiting staff were utterly professional and friendly – providing insight and advice on the menu items when asked and happy to answer all of our questions.
At the outset, there were only couples in the restaurant with us. All were Asian which must be a good sign. But as the evening wore on there were what appeared to be a few business folk and small groups of smart locals eating with us. And some more couples. There was also a lone diner happily reading a book while he ate.
The jewelled napkin rings were so pretty I didn’t want them to take them away. I ordered a glass of red wine (good) and my companion a Diet Coke (a bit flat). Tap water was administered throughout the meal. The pappadoms – both rolled spicy and interestingly-shaped plain – were attractively served on a white square dish with a generous dollop of fruity mango chutney.
To start, my companion (who is a cautious and traditional eater of Indian food) choose the chicken tikka (£6.50) which comprised several large chunks of chicken served on an attractive rectangular slate with a tangle of carrot strings as a garnish and a small side pot of mint sauce. She declared the smaller chunks delicious although the inside of some of the larger chunks a little tasteless.
I won with the starter choice though – my three sizeable crab patties (£7.45) were coated with crispy spinach in such a way as to look like they had just emerged from the sea. Happily, the tastier brown crab meat had been used and the flavour was tremendous. The side pot of mustard sauce had just the right amount of oomph to compliment them nicely.
We also sampled one of the house specialities – Palak Chaat (£6.95). This is special crispy spinach with sweet yoghurt and chutney dressing. Some chopped onions added extra texture. This was really good and I can see why it’s popular.
Onto the main course. I was intrigued to see a selection of game dishes – including tandoori partridge and venison bhuna - and I choose the tandoori rabbit with anise (£10.95) which was served with some naan (I elected to have the garlic version but other varieties were available). Some of the rabbit was cooked right through and a little dry but other pieces were beautifully moist. I also opted to have a portion of lemon rice which was unusual in a good way and I enjoyed the texture of the cashew nuts.
But my companion was triumphant on the main course. Her lamb kofta – served in a separate bowl with a supporting roundel of soft pilau rice – was sensational. The sauce – a rich, thick dark brown – was meaty, tomatoey and with just the right amount of spice. The lamb was melty soft and had a pleasant after-burn of slightly warmer spices. I had serious food envy (and I don’t generally eat lamb!) at this point but luckily she was happy to share.
Whilst we are talking about lamb, apparently one of the most popular dishes is Chukander Gosht (£13.45) – baby lamb and beetroot with spices. Must try that next time.
There were a reasonable number of vegetarian options on the menu. What caught my eye were the tandoori wild mushrooms (£6.50) and madras fish curry (£14.95). There was also a vegetarian thali (£12.95 compared to the non-vegetarian at £18.95 and seafood at £20.95). There was also a vegetarian karahi (£7.95 compared to the prawn version at £15.95).
On a trip to the loos downstairs, I was faced with a lovely shrine to elephant-faced god of transitions Ganesha and discovered more tables – with deep red walls and interesting quotes on one of the walls. This space has a slightly different feel to upstairs. It would be great for private parties.
If we were allowed to give half scores Thali would receive a 7.5. The calm, warm environment and atmosphere is so much nicer than ordinary Indian restaurants and there were one or two incredible dishes amongst the more familiar ones you might expect to find. Presentation of the food gets a special mention too.
KimT reviewed Thali on Fri 18 Dec 2015