Thali and Pickles, 5-6 Balham Station Road, London, England, SW12 9SG, 0208 673 3773.
Meal for two – £30
After a day of shopping in Covent Garden, the family and I thought it might be a good idea to head to the highly acclaimed Dishoom nearby. Having discovered that the queue to get in was an hour and forty minutes, we decided on trying something closer to home and discovered this little gem right off the hustle and bustle of Balham High Street in South London.
As you enter, the restaurant seems a bit too cosy and it wouldn’t be a surprise if you mistook it for a café. However, the restaurant’s website states it specialises in Indian street food, so the rustic style fits in very well with the idea of eating street food. The decor does very well to emulate what an Indian street food café would look like, complete with polished metal cups to drink from.
The menu is varied, but doesn’t offer too much choice to confuse someone new to Indian food. There’s a variety of soft drinks and lassis to choose from, so I chose a refreshing nimbo pani – a thirst-quenching lemon and lime drink, which truly delivered in terms of a strong citrus, yet well-balanced sweet taste.
With hunger pangs beginning to kick in, we followed the recommendations by the Tripadvisor reviews to try one of their thalis from the menu – a platter of several dishes in small pots, with a mixture of sweet and savoury to balance the tastebuds, so we delved straight in and ordered a thali each, one chicken and one lamb.
I went for the lamb thali, which was served with a mixture of vegetarian curries, as well as rice and bread. The vegetable curry, a potato and chickpea medley, was notably delicious and the raita and pickles as accompaniments further accentuated the taste of the rest of the curries. The lamb was everything it should be; the flavours of the spices brought out the taste of the meat and it almost literally melted in my mouth. The only letdown in the entire platter was the daal, or lentil curry. It was too bland for my tastebuds and needed a bit more flavour. However, neither thalis disappointed on the whole; my husband was highly satisfied with his chicken curry, which I personally wouldn’t recommend as I thought it to be too sweet. He, on the other hand, thought it was a rather distinctive taste for Indian food and therefore disagreed with me.
The portions were more than sufficient for one person with the rice and naan as complements to the dishes leaving us both feeling fit to burst.
Service was satisfactory – food was brought promptly when requested; our 3 year-old was getting a bit restless for food, and received his rather quickly, but we were happy to wait for our meals. There was only one item that we ordered that was missing when the food came; my husband had ordered a drink and we never received it, which was just as well given that he had changed his mind midway.
For its size, we felt that Thali and Pickles might have been unsuitable for young children, but it was deceptively spacious and we were sitting quite comfortably on padded cushioned seats. There were a variety of customers ranging from couples to families with older children, so we certainly didn’t feel unwelcome with our child in tow.
As a restaurant in a zone 3 location of London, you get value for money with Thali and Pickles. It might not be Dishoom in its location, but it won’t break the bank either and you’ll get a very good meal for the price. It’s very well located; Balham has attracted a generation of young professionals, which means that establishments like Thali and Pickles are in demand and highly frequented. Considering its location, it’s no wonder it’s busy as it is right across from the tube station, and parking in the nearest Sainsbury’s car park is a mere 30 second walk from the restaurant itself.
In spite of a couple of curries not entirely to my taste and an oversight in the order, we really enjoyed our meal at Thali and Pickles. It’s suitable for everyone with its easy-to-access location and variety of food on the menu, which isn’t overpriced considering the area and the quality of dishes and service. It’s a place we’ve already recommended to friends and family, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself there again in the future.
Halal: Yes – I called in advance.
You can find out more on their website: http://www.thaliandpickles.co.uk/