Our return to Thali: we couldn’t resist

I don’t often blog twice about the same restaurant in the same year and this is the second time I’ve done it this year – we’re heading back to Thali. And it’s no coincidence that it’s two restaurants from the same group.

Chef Liam Tomlin is behind both Thali and the Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia (my other double blog). You can read about my previous lunches at Thali and Beau Constantia times two!

As well as great food, it’s a great concept. A set menu of dishes to share that are served as four courses for a set price. No menu indecision to cope with and no food envy, just loads of delicious flavours to savour.

And I find the food of Thali so inspiring that I think I produced some of my best food pics ever. Enjoy the extravaganza.

What’s on the menu

This crispy spinach bhaji came topped with two spicy sauces. Spinach has never tasted this good (and I love spinach).

Thali: Spinach bhaji

Deep fried spinach bhaji, mint and coriander dressing, date and tamarind

The next course was a delightful mix of vegetarian offerings served with the softest of paratha. The extravaganza of cauliflower was incredible – tandoori cauliflower served with cumin cauliflower puree and cashew and coconut salad. Who knew you should tandoor cauliflower? You really should!

Thali: Dhal, Paratha and cauliflower

The platter also included the wonderfully creamy and satisfying smoked tadka dhal, perfect for a bit of paratha dipping.

Thali: tadka dhal

Close up on the smoked tadka dhal

Thali: Cauliflower

What a delicious cauliflower collection

Tandoori chicken skewers were served with tomato chill jam and cucumber coriander raita. Triple yum. I do love the individual mini tandoor ovens that are delivered to your table.

Thali: Tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken skewers served in your own mini tandoor oven

Next course was the two fishy plates. The fried fish tacos added a lovely fresh, crispy element and some beautifully zest flavours

Thali: fish tacos

Zesty fried fish tacos

Fresh line fish was served with delectable Cape Malay dressing, a coriander emulsion and saffron pickled onion. Such a fabulous combination of tastes and textures, I could so easily demolish a whole main course of this all by myself.

Thali: Line fish

Delicate line fish with Cape Malay flavors

The final course – and it’s curry time. Mappa duck curry with spiced mango chutney, Phatch Shoran seafood curry, warm buttery naan, perfectly cooked rice and a fragrant tomato salsa.

Thali: Curries

Two of the most delicious curries ever

I tend to avoid duck curries most of the time as it can be a somewhat chewy experience. Tonight’s dish gets my award for best duck curry ever. The flavours were so incredible and I can’t remember ever eating such tender duck.

Thali: duck

The tenderest of duck in a gorgeous sauce

The seafood curry was deliciously creamy with just the right hit of spice. A mix of mussels, prawns and line fish – heaven in a bowl.

Thali: Seafood curry

The delightfully delicious seafood curry

Thali: Rice

Even the rice is delectable at Thali

Thali: chilli jam

The glistening chilli jam

Thali: Raita

A bowl of cooling raita

Thali: salsa

A bowl of vibrant, zesty salsa

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town.

Today’s price point

Tapas for two at Thali is R700 (41 pounds at today’s exchange rate). For two, not each. Really great value as the portions are ample and you won’t get a better Indian meal around here. Seriously.

Tasty Indian cuisine tapas-style at Thali

Thali for two

Today we’re heading up bustling Kloof Street to an exciting new Indian restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Chef Liam Tomlin – who runs the successful Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street (where I still haven’t been – must remedy that soon) and also recently took over the kitchen at Beau Constantia.

Thali has the same menu concept of Tomlin’s other two restaurants – a set menu of dishes to share that come up in groups, making for four tasty courses. Thali literally means “a set meal at an Indian restaurant” which for me means the joy of no menu indecision and a chance to taste everything the chef wants to offer. The food comes served in small dishes arranged on large round copper platters which look stunning but do make photography tricky (food blogger problems!). However, I’ve done my best to give you a good flavour of what’s in store.

What’s on the menu

So first up we received the Aloo Tikki, a beautifully soft and spicy potato cake served topped with yogurt and a touch of tamarind paste. I love potatoes and I could definitely consume this version of my favourite starch on a regular basis. It’s served with curry salt and spices which you keep on your table for the duration of your meal.

Thali: Aloo tikki

Starting off with a delightful potato dish

Thali: aloo tikki

Close up on the delicately spiced morsels

Our next course consisted of three dishes (dhal, cauliflower and tandoori chicken), a buttery paratha, two dipping sauces and an onion mix.

Thali: second course

Never have vegetables looked so vibrant and tasty

The cauliflower plate was a veggie revelation with Tandoori cauliflower and cumin cauliflower puree served with a cashew and coconut sauce. A genius way to showcase the humble cauli, producing a dish with incredible depths of flavours and a wonderful range of textures.

Thali: cauliflower

Close up on the spiced-up cauliflower

Beautifully flavourful and creamy smoked tadka dhal was served with the softest of buttery paratha. Dipping heaven.

Thali: dhal

A beautiful bowl of glistening dhal

And the tandoori chicken skewers arrived in their own little tandoor, complete with burning coals. Great theatre and these little morsels were so perfectly cooked they melted in the mouth giving a pop of those tasty tandoori flavours. Another wonderful dish that was very difficult to photograph well, but you get the idea.

Thali: tandoori chicken

Happiness is…your own tandoori oven

Time for some fabulous fish

The fish course added a real freshness to the dinner. The fried fish tacos were packed with juicy cubes of kingklip, crunchy fresh veg and chilli.

Thali: fish tacos

Vibrant fishy tacos with a chilly bite

Unusually for an Indian restaurant, a ceviche-style bowl of raw line fish was served with a Cape Malay dressing, coriander emulsion, saffron and pickled onion. Even more fabulous flavours and textures to savour.

Thali: Linefish

Fresh fish with a Cape Malay dressing

Wonderful curries to finish with

Our final tray of delights brought the curry element to our table. Another incredible combo of dishes. Two curries, served with rice and naan – the perfect ending to our Indian extravaganza. The smokey lamb curry was packed with flavour with a silken sauce and wonderfully tender meat.

Thali: curries

A tray of curries to finish with

The Panch Phorand seafood curry was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Wonderful cubes of flaky fish, plump prawns and the freshest of mussels in a rich and spicy sauce. The mussels are so fabulous in Cape Town at the moment. So I’m eating them whenever I have the chance and boy were they great in this curry.

Thali: seafood curry

A masterpiece of spicy seafood

The rice was also spectacular – which I think is a sign of a really great chef. I battle with cooking good rice dishes – wonder if they’d be available to give me some lessons?

Thali: Rice

Rice doesn’t get better than this

Phew! What a great selection of dishes. Portions are substantial at Thali, and there’s quite a lot of heat in the sauces, dips and spices. You can taste the love and care that everything has been prepared with and you can feel the energy emanating from the busy kitchen.

Thali doesn’t take bookings (one of my pet hates) so we got there just before 6.30 to make sure we could nab a table for six. The restaurant was already about three-quarters full and soon filled up completely. While we were having dinner people queued up at the bar and some didn’t even stay, having been told they would have over an hour to wait. This is one popular place! Because of this service may be inconsistent.

The menu tells you to expect a selection of dishes to share which can take up to 90 minutes – it will probably take longer (as it did in our case). But what’s the rush? Arrive prepared to take your time and enjoy the courses as they come and I guarantee you’ll enjoy a wonderful Indian extravaganza.

Thali: kitchen

There’s plenty of activity in the open kitchen

Thali: kitchen

Making sure the platter looks perfect

Today’s price point

And finally, Thali for two is R700 (about £45 at today’s exchange rate).

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town, just off Kloof Street