Since moving to Bristol, I’ve had a few firm favourites and regular haunts, and a consistent one has been The Thali Cafe. I lived in Easton for several years and so the branch there became my go-to for big group meals, quick trips with visiting friends, or even popping in with my tiffin for a lazy post-holiday dinner.
Easton is still my favourite of Thali’s five Bristol locations (you can also find their restaurants in Clifton, Montpelier, Southville and Totterdown, with plans to expand beyond Bristol soon – let’s hope it doesn’t affect the quality!), and so it was that I found myself heading back to this branch to try out the new special summer menu.
The Summer Thali is available at Thali branches until 30th September and has been created in collaboration with TV chef The Urban Rajah – for £10.75 you get their special edition thali and then kulfi for dessert. You can also add a Blow Horn Cider with lime and mint for a total of £14.75 (I wasn’t to keen on this concoction but maybe it’s more up your alley).
£1 from every Summer Thali is donated to the Urban Rajah’s charity for slum dwellers in Chennai, India – so not only are you munching some tasty food, but you’re also doing a good deed too, hurrah!
First up, before diving into a thali, I decided to build up to it and order one of my regular choices from the standard menu – the selection of four homemade chutneys; green coconut, smoky tamarind & tomato, sweet mango chilli, and cool coconut & ginger (if you bring along a jar you can also take some home for a small price).
We also took the opportunity to try them with the new healthy option on the menu – oven roasted papads instead of the fried poppadoms. They were just as tasty and it’s always nice to feel like you’ve made some sort of gesture towards your health when you’re about to tuck into 3 courses of food.
Now, for the uninitiated, the Thali Cafe gets its name from the thalis which make up the core of its recently-extended menu. Thalis are a selection of small dishes served on a tray, so you get to try a couple of curries, a dahl and salad – it’s a great way to be a little more adventurous than you would normally be, or get to sample a variety of dishes and flavours at once.
Anyway, back to the food! I of course opted for the special Summer Thali, although trying to choose between the Dak Chicken Bungalow (free range chicken in a rich tomato coriander and yoghurt sauce) or the Nepalese Mustard Baingan (a warming aubergine dish, consumed in the Himalayas) proved too difficult, so I cheekily asked if I could have a bit of both curries, which they were very obliging about.
Both of the curries come with Safalle dumplings (the Indian equivalent of Japanese gyoza dumplings), basmati rice, dahl and an exotic salad. It came up looking pretty immense I have to say!
For the more familiar Thali-goers, this special is different enough from the regular dishes to definitely warrant a try – plus both curries were seriously tasty. I have already pestered The Thali Cafe’s Twitter account a few times to ask that they keep the aubergine curry on the menu permanently – fingers crossed!
That aubergine curry was thick and lush – the mini aubergines were soft and went perfectly with the rich sauce. Luckily the salad on the side was sharp enough to cut through the richness of both curry sauces, otherwise I might not have been able to finish it all, which would have made me very sad.
Cat opted for the dairy free thali, which came with Punjabi Aloo Methi (spiced potato curry), tarka dahl, crunchy Keralan salad and basmati rice. She was also very happy with her dishes, and it’s great to see a restaurant offer vegetarian and vegan options that are every bit as flavoursome and exciting as the meat dishes.
We ended on a masala chai kulfi (a type of Indian ice cream) for me, and a vegan spiced pumpkin muffin for Cat – by this point we were full to bursting, so not long afterwards we were heaving ourselves out on to St Marks Road to walk off our merry feast.
You’ve only got until 30th September to try the Summer Thali, so make sure you bust a move if you want to try that aubergine curry in particular!
Disclaimer doodle: This meal was discounted, but we were not asked to write a positive review, or asked to send any copy in advance, or do anything else that would compromise our mega integrity and professionalism*.
*Aside from me having a double helping of curry, obv.