There’s no difficult decision-making at Thali, the new Indian experience in Cape Town from Liam Tomlin of Chef’s Warehouse fame.
Arrive early (there are no bookings), order tapas for two and sit back in the peaceful courtyard for the next hour and a half as a set selection of tapas dishes are brought out in four waves on gorgeous copper trays. There are vegetarian and vegan alternatives, too.
“At a typical Indian restaurant here you get a poppadum starter and then everything else arrives all at once. Within five minutes you’re full and everything starts tasting all the same,” says Liam, of the inspiration behind Thali. “I wanted to do it in a more orderly fashion, where we start with light flavours and build up to curries.”
First up are poppadums, with a potato and black bean chaat, and bowls of spice salt and chili paste to add heat as needed for your palate.
A smoking copper vase containing the most succulent chicken and lamb kebabs ushers in the second wave alongside an excellent dish of tandoori cauliflower on a puree and a coconut and cashew salad, a black lentil dhal, naan bread and pomegranate raita.
“We respect the Indian culture, techniques and ingredients; we just deliver it a little bit differently,” says Liam. “Flavour comes first, then presentation – we’ve jazzed that up a bit. We try to bring in all the different elements of Indian: your sweet, your sour, your salty, your hot.”
Sweet and sour contrasts dominate the third course, where dry-spiced pork belly comes with a vibrant tamarind and ginger sauce, and the delicate steamed kingklip with a tangy, fruity dressing.
Last are the luxurious fragrant spices and rich sauces of two curries, chicken with mustard and poppy seed and a lamb curry golden with saffron that would happily grace a Maharajah’s palace of times gone by.
Using the same top-quality ingredients as at Chefs Warehouse and sauces lavishly thickened with nuts and spices, Liam and head chef John van Zyl are creating a new framework for Indian cuisine where it’s no longer seen as a “curry in a hurry” cliché, but appreciated as a leisurely evening of foodie indulgence.
This was originally published in one of the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guides. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za, like YourNeighbourhoodZA on Facebook and follow YourHoodZA on Twitter.