* Talli Joe is no longer in business *
Talli Joe is not just another Indian restaurant in London – it is an Indian restaurant that runs the concept of cocktails and tapas. Since we don’t drink, we couldn’t care less about the cocktails but we’ve heard a lot of good things about their food and that’s why we decided to check this place out.
If you’ve followed my Instagram, you would’ve known I visited Talli Joe on a Monday when the tube strike was on. In a nutshell, instead of being stuck in horrendous traffic for hours (it took me over two hours to get into work as opposed to the usual 25 minutes!), I thought I might as well take a walk after work towards Westend and have dinner outside with friends until the rush hour crowd is gone so that we can all have a relatively smoother journey home.
I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Monday or because of the tube strike, the restaurant was weirdly quiet. The restaurant is located at Shaftesbury Avenue near Covent Garden / Tottenham Court Road, which are really busy areas all the time so I must say we are quite surprised that there’s hardly any tables filled that evening.
After we sat down, the waitress immediately came over to bring us a bottle of tap water and poured us each a glass of water. Funny thing – for some reason she seemed quite eager to get us ordering drinks and snacks before we even get to look at the menu. We politely declined that and asked to be left with a couple of minutes to read through the menu.
The menu covers a range of traditional Indian dishes, all in ‘half plates’ which means half portions. As mentioned above, Talli Joe runs the concept of tapas so it’s all about ordering a number of small dishes onto the table for sharing.
Truffle Ghee Kulcha (£3.75)
First off, you cannot not have naan bread when you’re in an Indian restaurant. But this is not just any naan bread. This is naan stuffed with cottage cheese (paneer) and brushed with truffle ghee. Doesn’t that sound absolutely heavenly??!
This dish was absolutely incredible in terms of flavours, texture – everything! The naan was warm and fluffy, and what a bonus to have cheese stuffed in it! There is just the right amount of cheese, enhanced by the truffle ghee, to give you an alluring tease to the taste buds. One simply wasn’t enough and we ended up ordering two afterwards.
Devilled Quail Egg (£5.50)
Next up is the Devilled Quail Egg – which is a crab meat scotch egg served with tadka mayo. Where should I start with this one? All I can say is this is an absolutely phenomenal creation. The coating was perfectly golden and crispy. It enveloped all the tremendous flavours that this dish contains.
The crab meat was beautiful. I love seafood like crazy (grew up with lots of it back home) and the taste of good crab meat has got me so emotional and happy. It was incredibly well seasoned with a great kick of spice. Not to forget the luscious quail egg in the middle of it. The egg had the perfect texture as well. It wasn’t overcooked and remained with this soft and slightly runny yolk. The use of quail egg really lifted up the flavours as quail eggs have stronger flavours than our typical chicken eggs, which provides you an irresistible dance of flavours.
Raghogarhi Sea Bass (£7.50)
Following that, we had the sea bass dish where the fish and rice are wrapped in banana leaf and baked. The sea bass was soft, smooth and flakey. It was very well seasoned and aromatic. The banana leaf really contained all the flavours and fragrance altogether, resulting in a very full-bodied flavour to taste. The rice was fluffy and has soaked in all the flavours from the fish and banana leaf. It was all in all once again a superb dish!
Konkani Seafood Curry (£9.50)
Moving on, we had a curry. Ordering curry is unmissable in Indian cuisine and Talli Joe has a variety of curries available on the menu for you to choose from. After a hard time making a decision, we decided to go for the coastal seafood curry served with tender coconut & neer dosa.
The curry is served in a typical Indian copper bowl with a piece of coconut dosa on a separate plate. We also ordered a bowl of rice separately to serve with the curry. The curry was smooth and velvety. Curry being curry, it was absolutely fragrant, with a subtle hint of coconut. At the beginning it doesn’t taste spicy but after a little while the spices kicked in. There are chillies in the curry as well and I accidentally ate one, which is quite hot for me to handle but not like unmanageable crazy spicy by Asian definition. By seafood it meant prawns and fish in the curry. Since it was a rather small bowl of curry, there isn’t that much seafood in it either.
The coconut & neer dosa, on the other hand. was pretty interesting. It’s not something that we’ve previously tried so we’re all quite curious about it. It has quite an interesting texture – soft, tender, and slightly elastic. Flavour-wise it basically tasted like coconut pancakes of a different texture. Wouldn’t say it’s something particular impressive but it is definitely something new and interesting.
Gol Baari Kosha Mangsho (£8)
After that, due to small portions, our bellies were not satisfied at all at that point. So we ordered another dish plus two more extra bowls of rice. The additional dish we ordered was the lamb roast on the bone served with luchi (deep-fried flat bread).
This one was also quite a stunner. The meat was juicy, tender and succulent. The flavours were on point as well – savoury, mildly spiced, and finger-licking addictive. While luchi is a Bengali deep-fried flat bread, which we kind of expected it to come out crispy, but it was actually of a relatively soft texture. It was puffy and soft, with an aromatic buttery flavour (it’s from the ghee!).
All in all, this place certainly serves some awesome and stunning food. I think Talli Joe breaks the stereotypical impression of having huge hefty portions in Indian cuisine, which made it stood out from the numerous Indian restaurants in the city. While the tapas concept is quite smart and would appeal to westerners (particularly to their drinking culture), I feel it took away that cozy feeling of Indian comfort food and subsequently somewhat took away the main essence of the cuisine despite the high quality of food.
I love their food, I genuinely loved the food – it was sophisticated, joyously flavourful, and very well-executed. But I am also genuinely not a fan of the portions at all. To me it was one of those meals where my taste buds were very impressed with the food but it somewhat lacked that hearty satisfaction in my belly. Nevertheless, worth a try!
Halal (pork and alcohol are served at this venue)
020 7836 5400 | www.tallijoe.com/
Address: 152-156 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8HL
Closest Underground Station: Covent Garden