Talli Joe 6.4/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/10
VENUE & ATMOSPHERE: 6.7/10
NOTE: ALL MEAT IS HALAL, BUT PORK IS SERVED ON THE PREMESIS ALCOHOL IS SERVED ON THE PREMISES.
After checking his diary and fitting me into his busy schedule, TopsyTurvy finally found some time to grace me with his presence. I even invited The Adopted One for dinner, as God only knows when we would see TopsyTurvy again.
After providing TopsyTurvy with an extensive list of eateries I wanted to try in London, he chose Talli Joe, a vibrant, casual dining destination on Shaftsbury Avenue, which serves up ‘Indian tapas with a twist’. I’m not going to lie, when going out to dine I would rarely (if ever) choose to go to an Indian restaurant, as I’m of the firm belief that you can get better Indian food at home. However, on this occasion, the Indian tapas idea intrigued me, and if this wasn’t enticing enough, Talli Joe has also been featured in the 2017 Michelin Guide, and has a menu created by the renowned ex-head chef of Michelin-starred Benares, which to me, meant that we had to give it a try.
It was busy for a Tuesday night, but we were in the midst of London’s latest foodie hub after all. I was a fan of the dim lights and quirky décor, but couldn’t comment much beyond that as I was to hangry to care.
We argued for what seemed like eternity over how many small and large plates to share, mainly because The Adopted One is the fussiest eater on the planet, and refuses to touch any form of seafood, period.
Anyway, we eventually settled on the Old Delhi Butter Chicken Samosa, Seafood and Okra Kempu, and Chicken 21 small plates, and the Kathal Biryani with Gol Baari Kosha Mangsho (lamb roast) large plates. All this was to be washed down with a cucumber cooler mocktail.
The Adopted One demanded that we ordered the chicken 21, described as such due to it taking the chef 21 attempts to perfect this dish, which was described as stir-fried chicken tossed with South Indian spices & curry leaves. Although the marinade was tasty and aromatic, and the exterior crisp, I felt that the chicken was a tiny bit on the dry side, but perhaps I’m being a bit picky, as TopsyTurvy and The Adopted One seemed to enjoy this one.
I was a big fan of the seafood and okra kemp. Now, I’m a huge advocate of deep frying the hell out of okra, (any excuse to turn a perfectly healthy vegetable into an artery clogging health hazard), and this dish was no exception. Served with fried classic Mangalorean crispy seafood, such as prawns and crab, the okra was the perfect accompaniment to this appetiser, and I genuinely felt that the tadka mayo added a tangy burst of flavour alongside the spiced, peppery taste of the batter.
The Butter chicken samosa was my favourite of the three small plates, for this was no ordinary samosa. It contained tender chunks of tandoori spiced Chicken thigh cooked with tomato & fenugreek, and stuffed within the crisp samosa pastry. The combination of fragrant flavours were pleasing to the palate, and the samosa pastry shell somehow remained crisp under the creamy, tomato masala and chicken. Between the three of us, we consumed this small plate the fastest.
The Gol Baari Kosha Mangsho (Lamb roast on the bone), and luchi (which is essentially puri), was a good call for the mains. It came with masala yet wasn’t too heavily spiced, but I don’t believe roast lamb ever should be. The meat was tender and fell straight off the bone, and was marbled with just the right amount of fat. I enjoyed this alongside the puri, and felt that this combination was somewhat novel compared to what you find in your standard curry house.
I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the vegetarian Awadi style dum biryani. It contained chunks of one of my favourite fruits, Jackfruit, which initially seemed intriguing to me. I was impressed with it’s presentation, but unfortunately, this was proof that being adventurous doesn’t always pay off! I didn’t feel the sweetness of the jackfruit complemented the other spices in the biryani, and there was an overwhelming punch of cardamom invading my palate (I bit into one too many!). It just wasn’t for me, and the other two agreed.
TopsyTurvy was too busy summarising his life events from the last year and a half since we last saw each other, so I seized the opportunity to put in a quick cheeky order of 3 Desi masala chai’s and the black gajar halwa topped in salted peanut brittle, which was listed as one of Time Out’s top ten dishes of 2016. Despite spitting out the masala chai (I think it was a bit heavy on the masala for him), TopsyTurvy was more than impressed with the halwa, as was I. This warm, black, sticky bowl of goodness was beautifully sweet, and the caramelised salted peanut brittle was beautifully crisp, transforming this traditional Indian dessert into an even more delicious showstopper.
I found Talli Joe’s concept of ‘Indian tapas’ extremely novel, and found their menu selection fun and quirky. Most of the dishes range from £3-£10, and the bill came to £80… a bit OUCH! If I’m honest I was satisfied but not overwhelmingly full. The service was close to exceptional, and the staff were incredibly attentive. That being said, I wasn’t overly sold on the ‘value for money’ factor, especially when looking at some the portion sizes, and consequently, although I am curious to try some of their other special dishes, I may just leave this in my back pocket for a more special occasion.