February 2018 marks the 7th anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Thali Café, Clifton – India by Day

In an attempt to eradicate the notion that Indian cuisine is merely a dinner-time indulgence, the brains behind The Thali Café's four-part franchise have designed an 'Express Menu' which, offering an alternate interlude to one's day, aims to provide an authentic, yet light and timely dining experience - suitable for a lunch-time affair. Consequently, and prior to trialling these particular dishes with its Clifton-based clientèle, a selection of Bristol's finest foodies (even if I do say so myself) were invited to address whether they could be deemed fit for purpose; an offer keenly accepted on my part in light of my self-confessed weakness for this gastronomical go-to. Furthermore, given that my lunch break (when I remember to take one), typically consists of what can only be described (at most) as a snack, it would well and truly put the concept of 'light' to the test!

Date and Time: Monday 23rd April 2012, 12:30
Name of Establishment: The Thali Café
Location: 1 Regents Street, Clifton
Reason for Visit: An unmissable opportunity to sample The Thali Café’s brand-new lunchtime menu 'on the house' - though you should know that this has not, in any way, affected the review that follows...

A lot of thought has clearly gone into The Thali Café brand; its décor proving both quirky and inviting whereby the pleasing pinks of its interior are offset with the leafy green of the abundant foliage and accentuated with surfaces of mirror-ball style mosaics. Even its website channels this vibrancy; the unearthed portraits of Indian citizens (of both famous and lesser-known calibre) featuring amidst The Thali's online-presence as well upon the walls of its cafés and as part of the really rather animated menu. The friendly nature of the staff support the relaxed ambiance overall, their can-do attitude and attention to detail predominant factors in terms of the cafés' fantastic reputation; something which became increasingly evident; initially given the envious effects of informing others of my whereabouts and later, upon discovering that this an award-winning business; having been bestowed with the likes of; The Observer Food Monthly Award (2010) and the BBC Radio 4 Best UK Takeaway Award (2009) - for its re-usable (and quite frankly ingenious) take-out Tiffin design.

Back to the afternoon at hand and a table of 'welcome drinks' which featured the café’s Nimbu-Pani (a home-made sweet lime soda), home-made Indian Ginger Beer and the Thali's speciality Lassi (an Indian-style mango smoothie). After choosing the ginger beer, with its delicate fizz and palate-warming appeal, I followed the rest of the group to the tables cosily tucked beneath the staircase (which ascends to the restaurant's upper levels) upon which crispy poppadoms had been stacked alongside an assortment of condiments; the latter subtly twisting the classics with the likes of coriander and coconut pickle and, my particular favourite; a sticky mango and chilli chutney – yum!

When it came to lunch itself, we were encouraged to ‘try as much as we wanted’ and so, deviating from the concept of a lighter lunch after all, our table embarked upon what I will unashamedly refer to as a feast; starting with a couple of salads (from the chalk-board on the wall) and a portion of the ‘Chowpatti Beach Snacks’ (£5.95) to share between us. Here, handmade pakoras, samosas and bondas demonstrated the authenticity of the fare in terms of their perfectly executed disposition and the salads comprised a colourful arrangement of leaves, vegetables, pulses and seeds with a flavoursome contrast of texture and taste. We were also treated to tasters of the Masala Fish Fry (£7.95) which consisted of flaked fillets of white fish within a light masala batter (which, for the record is what I would order in the event of a return visit) and also the Muttar Paneer (£6.95) which featured a golden-fried Indian cheese – just delicious! The main event for me consisted of the Chicken Mogul Curry (£8.25) whereby rich tomato and the sweet, earthiness of ground coconut had been intricately layered, expertly spiced and punctuated with slow-cooked, free-range chicken. I also have to mention the Masala Dosa (£6.95); a crispy rolled pancake which, of comparable length to an adult male's forearm, ultimately proved the dish with the wow-factor - tentatively suspended over one of the Thali's signature stainless steel platters and served with coconut chutney and sambar. Yes, although arguably quite a feat for lunch-time dining, this was unanimously well-received nevertheless! To wash-down all this fantastic nosh, a commendable range of tipples including organic wines (my choice constituting the Pinot Grigio Veneto at £4.50 for 175ml), two Bristol Beer Factory brews, classic Indian 'Kingfisher' and Wyld Wood Cider – an ample selection as I’m sure you'll agree...
Sharer Salads
Chicken Mogul Curry

To finish, bite-sized tasters of Choc-Praline Cluster Kulfi (£3.50), an experience that I almost missed out upon given the capacity-based complaints from my stomach. Thank goodness I powered through however as this was, without doubt, no ordinary ice cream - it's rich, velvety texture warranting Great Taste Gold in 2011 in fact! The Masala Coffee (£2.50) was another winning entity to the afternoon's proceedings which, although I'm sure would prove too sweet for some, is beautifully aromatic; its burnt-sugar noted appeal developing into an almost smoky after-taste which, in my view, lends to the concoction a uniquely satisfying edge that steers it away from being sickly altogether.

In conclusion, The Thali Café have certainly succeeded in carrying their exceptional cuisine through to a varied and thoughtfully arranged lunch-time menu and yet, for me, the portions were still a little too sizeable for a time-frame typically constituting momentary respite from one's workplace whereby a hefty lunch equals an uncomfortable degree of afternoon fatigue! Yes, we did relish most of the menu and yet, even one of the dishes, especially those served with Keralan salad and seasoned rice, would have been a struggle to finish – for me at least. Furthermore, with the view that Indian fare so often factors as an end-of the-week treat (in light of its tendency to be rather calorifically decadent), it may be an idea to highlight the menu's healthier options so that those who usually save their 'blow-outs' for dinner time wont be put off. Lastly, and rather incidentally, it would be preferable to receive a mint or two with one's bill – let's face it, no one wants to sit with a colleague who has had curry for lunch, (come one, we all know that a little spicy output is inevitable!) That said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Thali Café as a daytime destination or otherwise having been so impressed with the fresh, unmistakably top-end ingredients utilised as well as the rapid turnover of the dishes ordered and their value for money. It lends new meaning to 'making a meal of it' as these guys (led by Jim Pizer – one of the Thali's founders) have certainly done their research; aiming to crack the concept of lighter Indian edibles with the influences that they have taken from their travels, (from the likes of simplistic street-food to week-long wedding celebrations). And, comfortably completing a spin class just hours after my visit, (which to be fair could have ended very badly indeed), is surely testament to their triumph...
1 Regents Street, BS8 4HW
t: 0117 974 3793
Open 7 days. 12:00 noon till close
64-66 St. Marks Road, BS5 6JH
t: 0117 951 4979

Open 7 days. 10:00am till close
12 York Road. BS6 5QE
t: 0117 942 6687

Open 7 days.
Weekends: 10:00am till close
Week-days: 6:00pm till close
1 William Street. BS8 4HW
0117 933 2955
Open 7 days. 6:00pm till close

1 comment:

  1. Hey really liking your blog and I'm a huge fan of Thali Cafe! I'm a bit of a foodie myself and was considering doing something like this. Also sounds like we live close as I'm round the corner from The Cross Hands! Thought I'd make a suggestion for your 'M' section- 'Mezze at The Green Dragon', Downend! :)