In the heart of Cape Town’s Gardens lies a beautiful blue house, home to the contemporary Indian tapas restaurant, Thali. It is one of three restaurants owned by the talented Irish chef, author and restauranteur, Liam Tomlin.
Confession time, I am not the biggest fan of spicy food and Indian cuisine would not be my first dining choice, but after two excellent dining experiences at Chefs Liam’s Chefs Warehouse restaurant I wanted to try out Thali as well, and boy they did not disappoint.
They do not take any bookings, so I would advise being there as soon as service start, as they do tend to fill up pretty quickly.
As you walked through their doors, the aromas welcome you, along with their host, ready to show you to an available table. Chef Liam and his team have done a fantastic job with the fit out of the restaurant as it creates the perfect setting for the wonderful contemporary Indian cuisine that was to follow. I loved it, my favourite decor piece, was a large colourful collaged map of India with a vintage post cards background. All over the restaurant, they had interesting features from the décor tiles and wooden flooring used as table tops, different pendant lights to the different wallpapers.
Thali offers a set tapas menu for two, that will allow you to treat your taste buds over four courses with eight dishes. If you are dining alone or in an odd number, do not fear, you would be able to select four of the dishes from their menu, or if you came with an enormous appetite, eating them all on your own is also an option. For all the non-meat lovers they have a vegetarian option as well. The set menu does not include dessert, but make sure to leave space for some, as their bon bon’s are BONdelicious.
The first course arrived, and the first dish was a crispy papadum, steam potato with pomegranate seeds, onion, garlic and a yoghurt dressing topped with chick peas, served with curry and chilli condiments. The potato was cooked perfectly, the pomegranate seeds added a burst of freshness and together with the crunchiness of the pappadum made for a great dish. I tried both the condiments. The chilli pesto was not for the faint hearted, and it added a kick to the dish. If you’re a spicy food lover, you are going to love these condiments. If not, do give it a try and start off with just a small amount at a time. They do have “dirty” (alcoholic) and non-alcoholic lassi’s, that works great to neutralise the palate.
The second course arrived.
The second dish was a chicken and lamb kebabs accompanied with a tomato chilli jam and pomegranate raita. The kebabs served in a small tandoori oven that had a bit of smoke, adding a bit of theatre at our table. The tomato chilli jam and pomegranate raita complimented the kebabs beautifully enhancing the smokiness of the meat.
The third dish was a tandoori cauliflower, coconut and cashew. Although it looked like cauliflower, it sure did not taste like any cauliflower, I have had before. I loved it and was amazed at the different levels of intensity the dish had. The combination of the cauliflower with the crunchiness of the cashews and the sweetness of the coconut was remarkable. The chef knew how to take everyday vegetables and turn it into a dish that I will remember and come back for any day.
The fourth dish was a black dal cooked in a creamy sauce and served with a naan bread. This dish was packed full of flavour and was such an easy dish to eat together with the naan bread.
The third course arrived.
The fifth dish was a deep fried Kingklip papadum taco with a dijon sauce, sundried tomato, red onion and tomato served in a taco, made from a papadum. The fish was cooked perfectly with the outside crisp and the centre soft, along with the freshness of the vegetables made for a tasty dish.
The sixth dish was a seared tuna, spiced butternut puree and coconut. The tuna was Fresh, zingy and exciting and together with the spiciness of the butternut puree and crunch of the crispy butternut made for a delightful dish.
The fourth course arrived.
The seventh dish was their butter chicken, with a tomato based sauce, served with raw red onion and coriander for garnish as well as a basmati rice with a curry oil and topped with crispy shallots. The chicken was so soft and jam packed with flavours, leaving you just wanting more.
The eighth and final dish on their tapas menu was a golden lamb curry served with parathas. The lamb shoulder was cooked in saffron, yoghurt, cream, cashews and served with crispy potatoes. If I had to title this dish, it would be OMG, as this dish was just darn delicious. The lamb was so soft melting in your mouth. Hand down the favourite dish of the evening, nom nom nom.
As we came to the end of a great tasting menu, we peeped at the dessert menu, and there were a few interesting items on the list. One that just jumped out was their chai milk tart. Milk tart is such a traditional South African dessert, and one that I am fond of and I wanted to taste the Indian fusion they added to the dish. Their Indian bon bon’s also looked great with a few interesting flavour combination. I just could not decide between the two, so we ordered both.
The milk tart was a deconstructed chai milk tart with a chai milk foam, cumin shortbread and roasted banana coconut ice cream. Each element tasted great, and together the dish was just a winning combination. A good twist to this traditional dessert.
The Indian bon bons was beautiful and looked like pieces of art and was, therefore, a bit hesitant to eat them at first. My favourite was the cashew and coconut rocher. If you only order one dessert from their menu, I would recommend these bon bon’s.
To finish off the dessert we received a complimentary cardamom and cashew nut toffee covered in a toasted coconut served with mukhwas. A great finale to an excellent meal.
The service throughout the entire evening was great. Thali’s head chef, John van Zyl, along with his team did a fantastic job, in providing us with some of the best Indian food that I have had. Each dish was plated beautifully and just add to the dining experience. I would highly recommend this flavourful spot. Thali, you get the DBM splash of approval.