Thali Cafe new autumn specials: Review

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Cookery writer Meera Sodha has been collaborating with Thali Cafe since June, creating seasonal specials for the restaurant that add something a little different to the menu. From June, diners were able to enjoy her Buttermilk Sigri Chicken and Malai Paneer Tikka, but as of mid-October, there are six brand new dishes to try. We headed down to their Southville restaurant to try them out…

The venue has changed somewhat since we last visited – the bar is now directly in front of you when you walk in, and, strung with multicoloured lights, it looks very inviting. The new positioning of the bar, we both agreed, makes it more likely that we’d pop in just for a drink, whereas previously it was located in the middle of the dining area.

 

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Bar

 

We were led to our table at the raised section at the front of the restaurant, and immediately brought a bottle of tap water while we perused the new specials list. Not that we needed to, mind – we’d already decided that with two starters, two mains and two desserts from Meera Sodha on the list, we were going to try them all…

Our meal began with two different samosa options: a vegetarian mushroom and walnut (£4.50), and a plate of venison samosas (£5) – both starring lovely autumnal flavours. The presentation was great, and the pastry lovely and flaky in both – not excessively greasy as some have the habit of being.

The mushroom and walnut were by far my favourite: the texture was beautiful, they had a great earthy flavour and the filling was lovely and moist. They were served with the same coriander chutney that accompanies Thali’s poppadums: it added a lovely fresh flavour to the smoky samosa filling, as well as a decent kick of chilli heat.

The venison samosas were pretty good too – a bit drier than the mushroom version, though, and the venison flavour could have been stronger. They were spiced with cinnamon, which came through strongly, as well as cardamom and star anise, and were served with a vinegary cranberry chutney, which was delicious. Because of the slight dryness, though, we felt that a more liquid dip would have suited better.

 

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Mushroom and Walnut Samosas

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Venison Samosas

 

We were excited about both of the new thali options, with both a vegetarian and a meaty thali on offer. Chris went for the Goan pig cheek thali (£13.50) – a sweet and sour curry that was relatively mild, but with heat added by the sticks of ginger on top. The pig cheek itself was very fatty, but incredibly tender: the meat fell apart under the fork, and the fat dissolved beautifully in the mouth.

 

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Goan Pig Cheek Thali

 

For me, the vegetarian option: a pumpkin, black-eyed bean and coconut thali (£12). Absolutely beautiful. Served in a creamy coconut based sauce, the black-eyed beans added texture, and the big chunks of pumpkin were soft and tender, and beautifully creamy in the mouth.

We loved the seasonal sides that made up the rest of the thali too: a mound of flavourful caramelised red onion rice; a creamy spiced kali dal; a filling potato and chard subji and a crunchy radish, red cabbage and pomegranate salad which was lovely and fresh. We loved the raita too – not just mint, but grated apple too, for plenty more seasonal flavour.

 

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Pumpkin, Black Eyed Bean and Coconut Thali

 

I never normally order dessert when I go out for an Indian meal, but the two on the specials menu looked amazing. First up, the chocolate kheer with almond chikki (£4.50) which again, was beautifully presented – and pretty big too! Proper comfort food with an Indian flavour, this: beautifully cooked rice, lovely warming spices and flaked almonds caramelised in jaggery: a dark brown Indian sugar. We stirred the chocolate layer at the top through and loved the finishing touch of the long dark chocolate curl – I’d happily eat this dessert again and again during the colder months.

 

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Chocolate Kheer with Almond Chikki

 

Sadly, we weren’t quite as impressed with the tava pineapple with cardamom ice cream (£5). Presentation-wise, it didn’t look fantastic (especially when sat on the table next to the other dessert), as I’m sure you’ll agree from the picture below. The cardamom ice cream had a beautiful flavour, but no care had gone into its presentation (we thought the portion was a little stingy too), and while the spices and crushed pistachios that embraced the pineapple were tasty enough, the fruit itself was a little tough. A real shame.

 

Thali Cafe Autumn Specials - Tava Pineapple and Cardamom Ice Cream

 

For me, it was the vegetarian options that won hands down when we visited – hardly a surprise, in a way, as Thali Cafe are known for their exciting and well-cooked veggie options. With lovely autumnal flavours and ingredients and a decent price point, it’s a great shout for a warming meal out. Stick with the kheer if you’re ordering dessert from the specials menu, though…

 

Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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