For those of you that don’t know, ‘thali’ is a selection of small dishes which make up a traditional Indian meal. Living just shy of Brick Lane, my experience of this cuisine has been pretty much confined to the area, however when the opportunity came up to visit Thali, a hidden gem in the south-west, I jumped at the chance.
The Venue and Ambience
Between Gloucester Road and Earls Court stations lies, what I can only call, a tiny village-like setting. Within this humble and small area is a simple pub, a little shop and some independent restaurants, one of which being Thali. Upon arriving, we were greeted warmly by a member of staff and shown to a lovely, bay window table. One thing we noticed from the off? Thali makes you stop to take in their interiors; low lighting makes it an intimate, cosy atmosphere and the candles placed everywhere are a lovely touch. The restaurant presents itself beautifully, with white linen cloths draping the tables, Bollywood film posters dotted everywhere, and a beautifully coloured Rickshaw-art-piece hanging up against the wall.
With such a well presented set-up, you would think this would be a formal dining affair, right? Everyone was however greeted like an old friend from both staff and manager, as if they hadn't seen them a while. It was such a delight to watch them greet each other and catch up as if the customers were coming home, of sorts. Once our coats were taken, we sat down and snacked on the plethora of poppadoms that were immediately placed on the table. Our waitress came over with the menus and explained the specials, what type of starters compliment each other, as well as her recommendations.
The Food and Drink
Settling in, we ordered the ridiculously drinkable Pinot Grigio La Scala at £18 and waited patiently as two starters per person were on their way, alongside a chef favourite. Our picks: Lamb Chops (£11.95), Aloo Parpari Chaat (£3.95), Aloo Tikka (£3.50), Palak Chaat (£6.95) and Seekh Kebab (£6.25). To give you an idea of what all of this consists of, the Aloo Parpari is a wonderful, miniature dish which infuses herbs and spices in with potatoes, served with a light yogurt and chutney. Alongside this was the Seekh Kebab: a long lamb roll with a side salad. The Lamb Chops were beautifully cooked with just the right pockets of crisp and charred fat, topped with a refreshing mint sauce for balance of flavour. Finally, the Palak Chaat, as chosen by the chef. Rightly so, as it stole the show. Deep fried spinach is not something you would normally see on the menu, but this superbly set-up starter was a surprisingly light contrast to everything else we had ordered, and really won over the initial dishes for me.
Could we tackle mains after all that? You bet, and the next dish we tried shows why. Ordering the Honey Lemon Duck and Lamb Karahi (£11.95), this is a ‘wow’ worthy dish for sure. The lamb really looked the picture, the meat melted in the mouth and was complimented by the rich, aromatic sauce that it was covered in. As soon as you had a spoonful, you were hit with the intensity of the tomatoes of the dish, as cumin, coriander and then garlic danced around the background with a final soft hint of chilli. The duck on contrast, was a mixture of sweetness from the honey, while the underlying lemongrass brought out another side to the meat that I’d never experienced before. To say our expectations were met with this meal is definitely an understatement.
We all know that travelling from one side of London to the other is quite the mission, but heading back to Thali is a journey I’d gladly endure again. This restaurant has been going for a while now and knows what it has to offer to succeed: a warm welcome, excellent food and a relaxing time.