Girl in Bristol (finally) visits the infamous Thali Café …
The Thali Café is a well-established chain in Bristol, with plans to expand further but I’m ashamed to say I only just recently visited it, even though I used to work near their Southville branch and I live just up the road from their Montpellier branch. The shame.
Thankfully, Thali Café gave me the opportunity to rectify this situation when they invited me to sample the delights of their newly adapted menu last week. A sweet larger named Desi Biyar, created by The Thali Café and Arkell’s Brewery, was on the agenda too so how could I have refused? It’s a hard life us foodies lead. Well, it is for our waistlines!
When we arrived, dripping wet from the rain, we were greeted by the charismatic assistant manager Zach who showed us to our table beside the window. He then came back with a large refillable bottle of Thali water which had a 50p price tag. The cost of this water, he went on to say, went to FRANK water who work to provide safe water supplies in India which we thought was a lovely touch.
We kicked off the night with several crispy poppadum’s (£1) and a selection of homemade chutneys (£3) which included the coconut and coriander (my favourite of the four) and a traditional sweet mango chutney (Chris’ favourite). I’m not too good with heat but the coconut dip was smooth and mild whilst the mango chutney had a desirably thick consistency and a pleasing tangy aftertaste.
There was also a trio of Mumbai City Snacks on the table (£4.50) which could have easily substituted for lunch rather than a starter, not that I was complaining. The “snacks” included a potato bonda with a golden crispy batter exterior, red pepper pakora which were a bit like fritters and a delicious pea and potato samosa which was served with more mango chutney. I could have eaten those samosas all night long, they were incredibly satisfying on a rainy winter evening. After a quick swig of Alphonso Mango Lassi (£3), we moved on to our mains which nearly didn’t fit on the table! My Lamb Shish Kebab (£12) was too tough for my liking and it took me a great deal of chewing to bite through the large chunks, however the flavour was still there with the help of the spices it was marinated in. I also loved the presentation of the dish, the small silver dishes served on a large leaf with a fresh naan which I later used to mop up the remaining juices. The seasonally based white radish salad which came on the side I wasn’t so keen on though the addition of the toasted seeds and chopped fruit were a great palate refresher given the heaviness of the other dishes. The deep-fried monkfish main, turned out to be the dish of the night for me, although it wasn’t actually mine. The batter gave the fish a finger-lickingly good, golden crispy exterior whilst the meat remained rightly subtle in taste and delicate in texture which created the perfect contrast. The rich sauce smothering the monkfish was perfectly spiced and we made sure none of it went to waste. But just in case there was a twinge of hunger left, we ordered a side of Aloo Paratha (£3.50), a flatbread stuffed with spicy potato which came with even more dips. Thali Café certainly don’t scrimp on their dips or portion sizes. You will get your money’s worth, so wear your elasticated trousers. I wish I had.
Montpellier’s Thali Cafe was an oasis of calm with its cosy, quirky appearance and genuinely friendly staff who happily chatted to us for a good while after our desserts were taken away. The food wasn’t faultless but it was generously portioned and very tasty. I’ll be returning here again, as soon as I can.
12 York Road, Bristol, BS6 5QE
PLEASE NOTE: Whilst I was invited to review and our meals were complimentary, all opinions are my own. You’ll find no bias here! All photography belongs to me, please don’t reuse without permission.