Thali Ho (Indian) – Surbiton, London
Having only been open since October of last year, Thali Ho has already enjoyed success, having been voted Asian Curry Awards 2017’s “Best Casual Dining Restaurant, London Suburbs” last month.
The Surbiton restaurant is the decade-long dream of two brothers, Shamim and Shah Malek, whose ‘Indian Kitchen’ serves “dishes created from recipes handed down from their parents and grandparents”.
And if the Thursday crowd we witnessed is anything to go by (apparently, it’s like this almost every day!), then it appears that the locals have already taken quite a liking to both the restaurant’s food and its novel concept of Indian Thalis (and that too, we were told, with zero advertising and promotion).
The 100-cover restaurant is a fairly large one housing 30 at the front end, where the alcohol bar is also located adjacent to the entrance, and an additional 70 around the corner and towards the back.
A combination of wood and brick work makes up the bulk of Thali Ho’s decor, which, given its obvious pursuit at achieving a semi-rustic atmosphere, has created a spacious and well lit eatery.
An effective, though minimalistic, decorative approach sees a number of large and intricately designed wall patterns, which, coupled with chipped and scuffed multicoloured chairs, bright blue upholstered-seating, and trendy caged light shades, complete the place’s rustic theme.
After a good amount of papadums and crispy multi-coloured puffs, which came with a trio of sauces, with the tamarind being the strongest followed by the mildly-flavoured mango chutni, it was on to the starters.
This large portion of Spring Onion and Cumin Bhajees were crispy, though slightly on the oily side, subtly spiced and a decent.
And these daal-filled ones looked perfectly cooked, with an attractive lightly brown-cum-golden exterior.
More importantly, they also turned out to be wonderfully crispy and flaky, and came with a yoghurt sauce.
The lightly spiced daal therein appeared to be minced, making these puris light and fluffy in texture, and a delightful little snack.
These slices of Chilli Cheese Toast were quite underwhelming.
While they certainly delivered on a thick, cheesy and stringy soft top, and despite retaining a crispy bottom, it was all a bit too oily for us, with both the spices and the resultant heat being mild in nature.
And how superbly executed they were too – golden on the outside and demanding attention.
Texturally, these were perfect, with a delicately light and thin, crispy batter, containing soft, shredded fish that was sufficiently pungent enough to keep things very interesting.
With a hint of lemon in the background, these fish cakes married really well with the heat generated by the tamarind sauce.
STREET MEATS / GRILLS
Nevertheless, we were reassured that the kebabs would still be just as tasty.
We’re happy to say that what we received was, as one Lion put it, “Very tasty [and] very well cooked given these weren’t grilled.” Not only were these juicy, soft and succulent, but were perfectly spiced and seasoned, with a level of smokiness to them too.
It has to be said though, we can only imagine how much better these would have been had they been grilled to properly enhance that smoky taste, while providing that familiar charred exterior. Oh well; next time!
This non-grilled Chicken Tikka was a little confusing though.
Firstly, while these were tender and well executed, the marination was so insipid that the chicken pieces turned out to be fairly bland and boring.
Add to that the wilted onions and, even more bizarrely, the yoghurt accompaniment, and the entire plate simply didn’t resonate with us.
Had these been grilled, then perhaps the smokiness, etc., could have enhanced the flavours somewhat. However, as they stood, we suspect they suffered from a distinct lack of spices.
Co-owner and Chef Shamim Malek brings you the GUNPOWDER CHICKEN CURRY in 15 MINUTES.
Gunpoweder Chicken Thali – Chicken chunks, thick spicy madras sauce (SS), £13.95
On to the business side of things and Thali Ho’s intriguing looking thalis.
Now, if you don’t know what a thali is, then it’s a large metal plate containing a number of smaller metal bowls, each filled with a variety of food types to keep things interesting (just think of tiffin boxes made famous by Mumbai’s lunchtime tiffin delivery service).
Hence, while each component is available separately as larger individual dishes, the Thalis here allow one the convenient option of trying a selection of foods across the menu and at an affordable price. Happy days!
What a cracking (attempt at a pun) curry this was! Unlike many other Indian restaurants who, given their local clientele, tend to dumb things down, there was no signs of compromise here.
The explosively strong madras sauce was banging – rich in flavour, with one hell of solid masala kick, that cleverly abated to leave a gentle, pleasant heat.
The chicken itself was gorgeously cooked. We just wish we’d ordered the larger version.
This was another well balanced dish with the cauliflower being soft and delicately spiced without being bland, and kept our interest till the very end.
Slightly anaemic looking sure; but this semi-thick Tarka Daal was, in terms of taste, satisfying and fragrant. And though the subtle use of spices allowed the tempered garlic to come through in the background, two of the Lions felt it could have been a touch spicier.
That familiar fragrance of masalas so distinct of a well made pilao were definitely there!
Taste-wise, it had that soothing, mellow heat of the garam masala coming through well. What’s more, though some may consider this blameworthy (and one Lion did argue this point), there appeared to be those crispy bits of rice that invariably get caught on the side and bottom of the pilao pan. Notwithstanding such a minor point, it was obvious, given the texture of the rice, that this pilau had been poorly reheated.
The yoghurt and pickled mango achar will definitely be called upon at some point during your munch, particularly if you need the cooling element of the yoghurt or if you require the tangy-spicy kick of the achar to spruce things up.
A crispy, tasty naan that’s perfectly made, and light and fluffy.
The dish itself was indeed “lightly spiced” and well cooked, with the peas retaining a good bite.
Nevertheless, while it was a decently balanced little bowl of vegetable goodies, it wasn’t anything remarkable.
A good alternative though if you’re seeking after something lighter in taste than the pungent chicken.
The prawns were beautifully soft, with just that right amount of give to them, while the spinach had a relatively smooth texture without being stringy (as some saag dishes can be).
In the end, the spices were well balanced, with nothing overbearing spice-wise, and thus an enjoyable eat.
Thali Ho offers a good selection of Thalis too, so there’s plenty of combination options.
An absolutely delicious fish dish with the star of the show swimming in a vibrantly rich tomato-based sauce that had a touch of spicy heat to it.
Couple that with the perfectly crispy fish skin along with the tender and flaky flesh, and what you have here is a dish that had us purring and masticating in utter delight.
Be sure, however, to utilise the segments of lemon included to give this Goan Curry Fish a slight tangy edge. RECOMMENDED!
For one, the latter, though nicely made with a crispy exterior, was filled with a layer of meat that was, texturally speaking, closer to a thin layer of doner kebab than minced meat, i.e. keema!
Worse still, it was extremnely bland and uninspired.
DRINKS & LASSIS
Although the selection of J20s were good, the Appeltiser was the strongest flavoured. And while the mango lassis were okay, we prefer ours far more robust, with more of sweeter mango taste to it and thicker consistency.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
As the name suggests, the concept revolves around India's thalis, or platters, which contains a selection of smaller plates comprising of a variety of dishes for one to enjoy.
Perhaps it's this novel and convenient style introduced to Surbiton's locals that's made Thali Ho a popular destination in such a short period of time.
Whatever the case, we enjoyed their food overall, though there were a few items that could have been executed far better, as well as the concept. After all, who doesn't like to be served a platter consisting of an assortment of dishes, with multiple styles and flavours, to try and enjoy?
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