The welcome: Situated on the north end of Shaftesbury Avenue – "no Shaft", as someone once wittily quipped – Talli Joe is the latest in a growing and popular line of Indian restaurants serving street food that couldn’t be more different from the old cliché of "chicken tikka masala and a couple of papadums, please". The staff are friendly, clued-up, and keen to offer advice. "I’m coming here with all my friends and family in a week or so, I can’t wait", smiled the waitress. We believe her.
The room: If you’ve been to Dishoom or similarly unpretentious new subcontinental establishments, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect: the style is café-like, with comfortable seating and more casual high tables if you fancy a quick solo lunch.
The food: This is where things get interesting. Under head chef Sameer Taneja, formerly of Benares, the dishes are designed as "half portions", which means that they’re a bit larger than tapas but smaller than normal plates. "The idea is to have four or five", beamed the manager. In the end, we suffered for our art and had considerably more than that, but it was well worth it. Highlights included devilled quail’s egg with crab meat, a spicy chicken dish named chicken 21, on account of its myriad spices, and a perfect beef dish named nihari nalli, which comes complete with veal marrow bones and a very fine roti.
Soaking the food is a variety of cocktails from throughout India; the ‘talli’ part of the restaurant’s name literally means ‘to get a bit tipsy’, and unless you’re spectacularly restrained, you’ll certainly talli. It’s hard not to order the Talli Ho, which combines whisky, beer syrup and orange bitters to heady effect, and unless you’re the most sober of killjoys, it’s also all too easy to order a masala punch, which comes sedately served within a teapot; it lives up to its name by, indeed, packing quite a punch.
Would we go again? Absolutely. Next week.
|What||Talli Joe, Shaftesbury Avenue|
|Where||Talli Joe, 152-156 Shaftesbury Avenue, London , WC2H 8HL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
04 May 16 – 16 Feb 17, 12:00 AM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to book a table|