Every time I go to Bristol I discover something that makes me want to move there. This time it’s the Thali Café
A Bristol institution, this mini chain of Indian restaurants (though chain is a dirty word in this context) spreads right across five areas of the city: Easton, Clifton, Montpelier, Southville and Totterdown. Even Indian restaurant doesn’t sound quite right – what we’re talking here is the most delicious, light, inventive food in a restaurant that manages to be low key and very Bollywood at the same time.
As with all the nicest success stories it grew from humble beginnings, starting out as a street food truck at Glastonbury in 1999.
Founder James Pizer opened his first restaurant in Bristol soon afterwards and also invented the Tiffin takeaway scheme inspired by the metal lunch boxes used by workers in India. Called the Tiffin Revolution, it’s a brilliant concept. You buy a tiffin for £27.50 and then have it refilled every time you want a takeaway.
The Thali Café has staunch eco credentials – no waste and only sustainable, seasonal food of the highest quality. Many restaurants make this claim but you can tell just from eating at the Thali that the produce is exceptional.
In the restaurant thalis come in a metal platter divided up for the curry, dhal, rice, chutney and pickles.
We tried the Mogul Thali, a chicken curry in a tomato and coconut sauce and Rajasthani Lamb, marinated for 24 hours in star anise, ginger and cinnamon – it was a knockout.
Mango lassis came tiered in yoghurt and mango stripes and were unbelievably good.
It’s a far cry from your standard Indian here. There are cocktails such as Love in Shimla, a combination of gin, triple sec, lime juice and soda. There are great sounding breakfasts – rice pancake with tomato, red onion, coconut chutney and a glass of chai.
And surely that Tiffin Revolution scheme has Sunday nights written all over it. There’s nothing else for it, we’re going to have to move there.