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Lunch at the Thali Café, Southville

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll probably have gathered by now that we absolutely love cooking – we were trying to figure it out, and we reckon we spend more time awake in the kitchen/dining room than anywhere else in our house! Sometimes though, you just have to get out and treat yourself – of course as a food blogger, you can treat this as “research”!

That’s why last week we toddled off to North Street, a short walk from where we live in Bristol, in search of some good lunchtime grub. We knew we wouldn’t be disappointed, as there are tons of great places to choose from. We learned recently that Bedminster was one of the poorest areas in the country only 20 years ago, but you would never be able to tell from the thriving community that has sprung up in the area, with North Street being a focal point of the regeneration – it’s packed with independent cafés, restaurants and shops, and barely a month goes by without a new place opening up.

We settled on the Southville branch of the Thali Café, a Bristol restaurant chain with a focus on Indian street food-style dishes. The chain started out as a van at a festival, serving one dish, but they soon expanded into their first permanent residence in Montpelier (that’s Bristol, not France… never figured out why there’s an area of Bristol called Montpelier… ). The Southville branch opened last year and we’ve already been a bunch of times, it’s a favourite whenever we have guests staying in Bristol as it’s sure to please. Their Thali is definitely one of the best meals out we’ve had in Bristol, for its deliciousness and its simplicity, but we were keen to try out their lunch menu.

Window Seat Thali Café

The restaurant was pretty quiet at lunchtime – we had no problem getting a great table for two by the window. The walls are covered in framed pictures from old Indian films and painted their signature pink and turquoise, and there were old radios and other paraphernalia scattered around the place, making for a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Thali Café Inside

Lunch turned out to be quite the bargain! It was £5 each for a wrap or a special, and there was a glass of chai (Indian black tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves) thrown in. After agonising over the menu (everything looked excellent) Fats decided on a Pollock Kolkata Wrap, while Bird went for an Uttapam, from the South Indian Specials menu – a soft rice pancake with fresh herbs, tomato, red onion and grated coconut, and served with sambar and coconut chutney.

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First up, the wrap. This was great – big chunks of succulent fish deep fried in gram flour batter that was crisp and not at all greasy, wrapped in a fresh flatbread. This all came served with coconut chutney, which was light and refreshing.

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The Uttapam was light and fluffy, and stuffed with herbs, tomato and onion. It had a great roasted rice flavour, and was perfect for soaking up the delicious sambar (a vegetable stew made with tamarind, one of Bird’s favourite flavours!). Bird’s mum used to live in India and was very jealous when she learned that we could get fresh Uttapam 10 minutes from our front door! We’ve promised to take her for lunch next time she’s visiting.

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These dishes were pretty much perfect, and exactly what you want from a light lunch – filling and full of energy, but not the kind of meal that will send you to sleep for the afternoon. We still felt we had to try one last thing on the menu though – the Himalayan Pink Salt Lassi was calling out to us! This is an Indian-style smoothie made mostly with fresh yoghurt – ours came topped with cumin too. We were slightly worried that it might have been a bit too salty (neither of us were up for a glass of sea water), but we needn’t have been – the lassi was cool and refreshing.

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We left feeling completely satisfied, and like we had got more than our money’s worth. We’ll definitely be going for lunch again, and dinner too – just as soon as we’ve sampled all the other delights North Street has to offer!

The Thali Café have branches in Southville, Montpelier, Easton, Clifton and Totterdown. You can also get a take away – if you buy a tiffin, they’ll fill it up for you -what a great idea!

Thali Café Sign