“Talli” means a happy state of intoxication or what you and I call “tipsy”. It really shows how far Indian cuisine has evolved in London when they can place the focus of the restaurant name on inebriation. Then again, when you have groundbreaking, innovative cocktails like Talli Joe, why not broadcast it to the world?
Their cocktail list is carefully divided into north, east, west and south India with most cocktails having an Indian touch using ingredients like lentil and rice syrup, mango-ginger syrup, masala tea-infused vodka. We tried the Badnam milk punch from the north section, which was wonderfully aromatic due to the almond and cashew nut puree, saffron syrup and of course whisky.
Small plates or half plates as they are known here has been going in and out of fashion on a regular basis. We are generally in favour of them, simply because it allows you to try many more dishes. At Talli Joe, you could not find a more balanced menu, with a fantastic selection of meat, vegetarian and seafood dishes as well as food that has varying degrees of spiciness.
Head chef Sameer Taneja has previously worked at the high-end restaurant, Benares in Berkerley Square and his attention to detail is evident right from the very first dishes in the snacks section. Thin wafers of raw banana are fine and crispy and flavoured with citrus salt. Whilst masala papad looked more like a starter than just a snack: conical papadum filled with finely chopped green peppers and tomatoes. It was a little too spicy for my own taste, but both were great for matching with beer or cocktails.
They certainly know how to make vegetarian dishes sexy here. Kale is served in a crispy batter along with potatoes, pomegranates and sweet yoghurt. Whilst their naan dish is stuffed with cottage cheese and brushed with irresistible truffle ghee. These are the kind of moreish vegetarian dishes you could easily end up ordering more and more of. The sweet yoghurt was savoured so much by my guest, the diligently observant waitress got some more for our table, especially as it complemented their spicier meaty dishes extremely well.
Whitebait Kempu was another dish that was crying out to be matched with beer or cocktails. Unlike the English variety, the version here is beautifully marinated with South Indian spices and served with tadka mayo.
Most of the dishes here, you wouldn’t find in a typical London Indian restaurant such as the banana leaf wrapped sea-bass and rice bake. They could have easily overcooked the fish, but here it is fresh, delicate and feels fragrant from the use of the banana leaf. Kochi beef fry was tender and not overly spicy but was crying out for some rice or naan to accompany the dish.
Indian cuisine is of course extremely popular in London, but you can only see that trend continue on an upward curve with smart, modern restaurants like Talli Joe.