I love a roast potato more than the average person (ask my mum about the Christmas she threw the leftover ones away and the reaction that elicited from me!), and a Sunday lunch is one thing the UK continues to do that doesn’t cause total international embarrassment. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to most components of a roast dinner, and I will fight you about the inclusion of a Yorkshire pudding, but sometimes a little change to the familiar can be a good thing, and the Sunday thali at Tandoor Chophouse is an exception I am more than happy to make.
A thali is essentially a meal made up of various dishes served on a large circular platter, and at Tandoor Chophouse this is the only option on the menu on a Sunday. Rested slightly precariously on a stand next to our table, there wasn’t much logic as to how we attacked such a feast, it was more a case of trial and error, but luckily without much error. The dishes are split between bowls, tandoor and breads, so an approach of a little of this, a little of that, worked best – pace yourself, because this is not a lunch for the faint hearted!
We started with the centrepiece item: the seekh kebab – tandoor cooked beef on naan, covered in coriander and pomegranates, two ingredients that I am a total sucker for. The dish was small enough to give us a taste of the flavours we would be diving into, but also gave us a bit of sturdy texture next to the first two bowl dishes we tried: the chickpea chaat and the Punjabi chole. I love chaat, it’s such an expertly blended variety of crunch from fried bread and smooth coolness from yoghurts and chutneys, and this version was no different. The chole is another chickpea dish, essentially a chana masala, the perfect thing to dip one of the fluffy buttery naans into.
Other notable bowl dishes were the keema masala, something that we make a lot at home (although we follow a recipe from the Dishoom recipe book which is always a winner) and the bhaji onion rings. The black dahl was certainly not to be sniffed at, but wasn’t as creamy as I’d hoped for, and I feel like the Nimbu masala fries were added purely to placate the one fussy person in your party who only likes a tikka masala, rather than to add anything super unique to the selection. The dishes that sang the most were the ones most akin to traditional Indian food, although do correct me if masala fries are a big thing in India, I wouldn’t know for sure!
Each dish that came from the tandoor was exceptional. We could see the oven being used from semi-open kitchen and the speed of the chefs was so impressive and wonderful to watch. Tandoor ovens impart such a beautiful smoky, charcoal taste; little flecks of blackened skin signal the areas you’re going to experience the most flavour, whether that’s on meat, dairy or vegetable. Although smothered in that killer combo of yoghurt, coriander and pomegranate seeds, the cauliflower was a little al dente for me, however the Amritsari lamb chops were spectacular; I was practically sucking the bones to get every tiny bit of flavour I could. I also adored the paneer which was served as huge cubes and really stood their own against the meat dishes which you’d expect to take the lead.
To finish, we dipped into a bowl of carrot halwa, an Indian dessert made with semolina, ghee, sugar and water. The shredded carrot along with notes of cardamom and cinnamon made it taste like a bowl of carrot cake. Delicious, but we dived into it directly after all of the savoury dishes so it felt a little jolting to my tastebuds. I’d definitely leave a little time between the mains and this one sweet thing in order to make the most of it.
We made a pretty decent dent into the Sunday thali but couldn’t quite finish off the entire thing. Add a third person to the mix and we would have wiped the platter and all the accompanying bowls completely clean, no doubt. For £60 it is an impressive and exciting array to make your way through, especially if you can make it a more leisurely pursuit and have zero plans for anything but a nap afterwards. I’ll keep my Yorkshire puddings, but I will definitely be returning for thali on another Sunday soon.