A lifestyle blog bringing you fashion, music, food, and everything else that's just nice about Bristol and beyond!
I can’t remember exactly where I was the first time I had a curry from the Thali Cafe. I know it was at a festival and it was about 10 years ago so I would have been poor, starving and in desperate need of some good eating and that’s what I got. I had their signature Northern Thali, which I think is all they had on offer at the time, and so began the love affair.
The Thali Cafe has moved on a bit since then, I’d like to say I have too but I’m still poor and starving, and they now have 5 resturants in Bristol: Easton, Montpelier, Clifton, Totterdown and recently opened Southville. When Meg and I found out about the new cafe we had to go down and check it out, plus our good friend Polly was visiting from London so we had the perfect excuse!
I was a little bit worried as the new Thali lives within the Tobacco Factory, which is very large and very industrial and the thing that I love about all of the other cafes is that they sit within old, small, higgledy-piggledy buildings with bags of charm. This isn’t to say that I don’t love the Tobacco Factory; it’s very bold, I just didn’t think it was right for a Thali Cafe. Plus the resturant that used to be there, Teohs, was one of my favourites (They still have resturant on the Front Line, so I’m cool).
Having said all this, I was reasonably surprised, and pleased, when I walked in to see that they had managed to keep most of the Cafe charm, despite the volume of the building. It is very large and you’re not tucked away in some corner next to a bright pink sofa, but the colours and vibrancy of the other cafes is there- so lots of pinks, greens and turquoises. Unfortunately, for me, it just doesn’t have the same “oooh look at that over there” or the “do you think they’ll miss that pink and gold chair if I steal it?” appeal. But it is very pleasant and we were really there for the food.
It’s called a Thali because of the small metal plates that the food is served on and it’s essentially a few small, complimentary, dishes. I’ve not been to India so I can’t tell you how authentic it is but it’s definitely not the standard Westernised version of a curry that we are normally served up. And if you’re a laaaaaadddd looking for the hottest curry you can find so you and your mates can all lad off with each other to prove who is the ultimate man, this place is not for you.
There is now a lot more selection on offer and over the years they have added a Southern (Goan fish curry), Mogul (chicken), Lamb Kofta (that one is pretty obvious, right?) and a dairy free thali. There is also now a large selection of snacks and starters. I’m a little bit in love with the Southern Thali and I rarely go for anything else so I can tell you with total confidence that this is the best fish curry I have ever had. It’s a light coconut sauce with a subtle chilli kick, and the white fish is coated in a batter so it stays in nice chunky pieces. I’m not even joking when I say I could marry this curry, I might cheat on it with Pieminister and fill a pitta every now and then but it would understand. Oh and if you’ve been watching Hugh’s fish fight and you’re now paranoid about eating anything from the sea, everything on the menu seems to be marked as responsibly sourced, and even their meat comes from a local butcher.
I think that the Thali portions are pretty big but we wanted to try it all so went for some starters too and I’m glad we did as they were all delicious. We spent a lot of the night going “mmmmm” and “what’s that I can taste? fennel?” I also learnt that you can get a free refill on your curry – I don’t see how you could ever do it because you’d be too full but apparently the option is there for you.
Overall I thought the new Southville Thali cafe was lovely. Our waitress was very nice and attentive, despite the fact that the cafe had only been open for 3 days and they were experiencing a few teething problems (totally normal in my opinion and we got free poppadoms – winning). The atmosphere was good, Polly commented that the lights were a bit bright but they turned them down a little while after we got there and it all got a bit warmer and more sexy. The building doesn’t have the same charm as the other cafes but the sentiment of them is there- it’s all about good food, good value and a good time.
Personally I think it will thrive because of the Tiffin takeaway service they offer. If you don’t own a tiffin yet and you live near a Thali get on it! A tiffin is an Indian lunch box that you can buy from the Thali Cafe, filled with curry, for £25 which is a total bargain in itself but then you own the tiffin and you can get it refilled for £8.50. I find that one Tiffin and a box of pakoras is enough to feed two and it’s so much nicer than your standard take away. So, if you’ve never been to a Thali Cafe before, what are you doing? Go now! And if you’re a firm lover of the Cafes and you live in Southville, boom, you win.