In recent years, London has seen the opening of many a new Indian restaurant purporting to be innovative and different from all the rest - yet so often it’s the same old thing, the same old dishes; not so with Talli Joe. This new offering on the London culinary scene is a refreshing and delicious new venture from a Mumbai-based, first-time restaurateur, with a menu created by head-chef Sameer Taneja. It provides a much needed injection of spice into the market for high quality, interesting dishes of subcontinental cuisine, and is equally successful in creating a great social spot for sampling their well thought out drinks and cocktail menu.
Upon entering the warmly-lit, spacious venue we were immediately transported to a fragrant, colourful and welcoming space, quite at odds with the grizzly, puddle-ridden streets outside. The hugely hospitable front-of-house team, cheery décor and buzzing atmosphere can't help but lift your spirits and put you in a good mood. On a typically wet summer's evening in the heart of London theatre-land, this was the perfect escape from the unseasonable weather.
Everything within the venue, including the giant bulb light fittings, the plates, the bar stools and the colourful wall-hangings have come from India. I love the relaxed yet stylish vibe that has been created, making it the perfect setting to sit and enjoy the evening with friends, family or colleagues.
Food and Drinks
Talli Joes’s slogan of #halfplates & #fulldrinks is the concept behind this new Shaftesbury Avenue hangout, and it works brilliantly. This was some of the best Indian food I have ever tasted. No chicken korma in sight, these well-crafted dishes combine a variety of interesting flavours and ingredients and each tapas-style portion had a completely different combination of tastes to the one before.
We had the benefit and delight of being able to sample a significant portion of this delicious menu. This was good as I'm not sure I could have picked just a few options to try! There is a story behind every dish and the team recommended many of the best half-plates for us to try. From the introductory chakhna onwards - which included the delicious Sindhi pickle (£1) and Kela wafers (£2), we eagerly awaited each new dish.
While I won't list every single item that we tried, there are a few that I just have to talk about. The Kale Chaat (£4.50) was great. Crispy fried kale, served with potato, pomegranate and sweet yoghurt, it was Talli Joe's nod to the best of Delhi-style street food. We probably wouldn't have tried the Messy Thokku (£5), an organic egg pickle with andhara spice and puff roti, unless it had been specifically suggested to us. I'm so glad we did - it was delicious. The Stuffed Karela (£5) was also recommended by the manager as something a little different. The slight tang of the bitter melon worked perfectly with the smooth, gently-spicy taste of the chickpea recipe and it was one of the many great and unusual dishes on the menu.
All the meat dishes were really slowly cooked and delicious, but the Gol Baari Kosha Mangsho (£7.50) was one of my favourites. Really tender lamb, roast on the bone, and cooked with a fantastic mixture of spices. I should also mention the Chicken 21 (£6.75), so named because the chef apparently experimented with twenty-one different variations of the recipe before settling on this one as the best.
Right, the cocktails! We mustn't forget that Talli Joe is designed as a cocktail bar as much as it is a restaurant, although with food this good it is an easy mistake to make! My favourite cocktail of the night was possibly the Holy Basil. Each cocktail comes with a story, and the story behind this one is thus: in the South of India, Basil is worshipped by the woman of the house. Every morning she will get up, shower, and pray to the basil plant as a way of starting the day. And so springs the inspiration behind this delicious and much-worshipped whiskey based cocktail! Others we sampled included the Day in Delhi, unusually flavoured with biryani oil, the Pan Aam, featuring the betel leaf - a very distinctive flavour used in many of their drinks and not often featured on British menus, and the Mango-Ginger Mule. There is a great and unusual selection of India-inspired cocktails here, and I encourage you to branch out and try something a little different!
The Indian word Talli is described by the venue as 'a happy intoxicated state of being that often renders the legs useless'. It is one of the many handy Indian phrases that are emblazoned across the walls and menus of this warm and buzzing London venue. As this and many of the other 'sayings' of the house suggest, the atmosphere at Talli Joe is hugely fun and very friendly.
The great cocktails, interesting tapas-style dishes and cool vibe draw in a vibrant and young crowd from the surrounding Soho area, yet I would say that as of yet Talli Joe is still something of a hidden-gem, undiscovered even by some of Soho’s most frequent diners. Such a great spot is not going to stay a secret for long however, so I suggest you head down soon to check out the exciting menu and good vibes afforded by this positive, ambitious little venue on Shaftesbury Avenue.
Amazing food, interesting cocktails and a great atmosphere. I love it. I will certainly be returning to Talli Joe many times in the future!