Probably the cuisine I love the most when I go to a restaurant is Indian, partly because I am hopeless at cooking with spices myself, partly because my husband is Indian, and partly because Indian food in London is just incredible (often tastier than food I’ve eaten in India)! One of my recent discoveries is Talli Joe, an Indian bar and restaurant located on Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of London’s West End.
Talli Joe opened in May with the aim of bringing bold and authentic Indian flavours into their menu of “half plates and full drinks”. They achieved that by creating some amazing dishes and a great atmosphere. It may not be the trendiest Indian joint in London with ever-lasting queues outside, but nonetheless Talli Joe delivers good food at a good price.
It has already received great reviews from food critics such as Fay Maschler and Andy Hayler, and an award from Time Out.
The decor of Talli Joe is modern, with a mix of black and bright furniture. Photos, books, and various random Indian items adorn the wall shelves and cabinets. The space is large with enough tables to sit 80 people in the main room on the groun floor; another small room downstairs is reserved for private parties.
Drinks play an important role at Talli Joe; after all talli in Hindi means “a little bit tipsy”. The cocktail menu is divided into four parts – North, South, East and West – taking inspiration from different parts of India.
All the cocktails I tasted at Talli Joe were delicious. I loved Masala Colada (aged rum, masala tea shrub, fresh pineapple, coconut water) and Talli Ho (with whisky, beer syrup, orange bitters, lime, soda top).
The food menu, developed by Head Chef Sameer Taneja, is meant to showcase India’s lesser known cooking styles. Sameer is originally from Delhi and has previously cooked at the Oberoi Rajvilas, Koffmann and Benares, so he brought different culinary influences to the kitchen at Talli Joe.
There is a sharing menu devised to complement the inventive and strong drinks. The plates are fairly small, but the prices reflect that and I like being able to taste different dishes without spending too much. Personally I would recommend to start with a cocktail and a few snacks.
I love Kela Wafers (deep-fried Kerala raw banana wafers with citrus salt) and Masala Papad, a take on the traditional gram flour papadums.
For a full meal, I would recommend ordering two to three dishes per person. Start with the Messy Thokku: organic egg pickle with Andhra spices and puff roti. Break down the roti into pieces using a fork and mix them with the pickles and sauce at the bottom to create a messy (and delicious) bowl.
Other dishes I tried and loved at Talli Joe are the Desi Slider (banana blossom & black chickpea slider with fenugreek curry, watercress and saag salad); and Bohri Chicken (cooked with Gujarati spices and served with fenugreek flat bread).
The Devilled Quail Egg is a take on our Scotch Egg, made with crab meat and served with tadka mayo. The Himalayan Pilau rice is a tasty and safe dish to calm your palate after the explosion of flavours of the previous dishes. The food at Talli Joe is real Indian food, so expect authentic – ie. HOT – flavours.
My friends ordered the Nihari Nalli (slow-cooked veal bone marrow served on kadak roti) and absolutely loved it, saying it was the highlight of Talli Joe’s menu.
I loved the texture of the meat, but the taste was too intense for me, as I am not a big meat eater. My favourite dish at Talli Joe is the Truffle Ghee Kulcha. Don’t make the mistake to leave the restaurant without having tasted their pillowy soft cheese naan bread, which is stuffed with curd cheese, brushed with truffle ghee and served with a mint sauce.
Another must-have at Talli Joe is the Black Gajar Halwa, a traditional south Indian dessert made with grated carrots, milk, dried fruit and nuts. It’s one of Time Out’s Top Ten Outstanding Dishes of 2016! The halwa at Talli Joe is sticky and sweet, made with heritage black carrots and peanut brittle.
Finish your meal with a steaming cup of chai or Indian coffee, served in steel cups which are used to cool down the drink.
There are many good dining options around Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Soho, but I think Talli Joe really stands out among the competition thanks to its authentic Indian food, refreshing drinks, casual atmosphere, friendly and attentive service.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Talli Joe on my first visit; I paid for my own meal on my second visit. My opinions are my own.