Talli Joe, Shaftsbury Avenue, WC2H

  • Food and Drink
Talli Joe, Shaftsbury Avenue, WC2H


Fri, 01/07/2016 - 11:20


Talli Joe presents a modern take on Indian food
Talli Joe presents a modern take on Indian food
30 June, 2016

IN these uncertain times, it’s worth remembering our past. Britain, one friend reassured me, has always been an enterprising nation of traders. 

Imports of spices began way back in the 11th century and London has always embraced foreign ideas. 

Search online, for example, and you can read the amazing story of Hindoostane Coffee House, the capital’s first Indian restaurant, which opened in 1810. 

Fast forward to the present and Talli Joe, a new restaurant in Shaftsbury Avenue, is a good bet for a modern take on Indian food. 

The dishes here are quite unlike the generic fare often found elsewhere. “There’s so much that the world has yet to see of India,” explains manager Chirag Madan. 

Betel leaf, bitter melon and banana blossom are among the ingredients put to creative use by the chef. 

He travelled across the subcontinent to discover authentic regional dishes, inviting himself to people’s houses to discover the secrets of how they really cook.

“We wanted to meet the mothers and grandmothers,” says Madan, “and be more close to real India.” 

The large dining room at Talli Joe is painted sultry black with flashes of gold, pink and yellow. 

It looks out on Shaftesbury Avenue and sits directly opposite Nisbets, the catering supply shop that’s on many a chefs’ speed dial. 

The vibe at Talli Joe is fun and informal: smiley young staff; Hindi slang on the walls; mottos urging love, laughter and the sharing of stories. 

The drinks menu is well worth exploring. The cocktail list is divided into the four corners of India. A Day in Delhi involves intriguing flavours such as biryani oil.Their Madras Gimlet is a shake-up of turmeric infused gin, lime juice and sugar syrup. 

I stuck with non-boozy options, which include home-made tonic water infused with betel leaf and a Cucumber Cooler spiked with mint and coriander. 

The food here is often remarkable, well-priced and served in small dishes to share. 

To start, there’s a witty snack of twists of papadum, fried into the shape of an ice cream cone then stuffed with diced tomato and red onion. 

Karela, aka bitter melon, is a knobbly Indian vegetable shaped like a large cucumber. Here it’s baked then stuffed with heavily spiced lentils – a hint of clove, cinnamon and other mysteries I could not decipher. 

A fillet of sea bass is baked in a banana leaf, sandwiched between a layer of rice and spiced yoghurt – an ancient technique from Bengal. 

For something meaty, there’s a fiery beef fry, tandoori guinea fowl, stir-fried chicken with curry leaves and a dark and sticky lamb curry. The latter is proper home-style cooking, complete with whole green and black cardamom pods.

All credit to Talli Joe for not playing it safe. Goan pork and offal pickle, for example, is not a dish you’d find on any other menu in London. 

“There are thousands of Indian restaurants but none are using our ingredients,” is the bold claim of Madan. 

152-154 Shaftsbury Avenue WC2H 
020 7836 5400

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