The Christmas countdown has started with most of the larger companies in Bristol having booked and paid for their parties back in August (solidarity with all those having to sort that particular nightmare). Smaller offices who perhaps would like to avoid crap food in an Airport hotel event suite may be panicking that they haven’t booked anything yet, I am here to save you.
The Bristol institution Thali, famous for serving takeaway tiffins of authentic South Asian thali that can be equally enjoyed in one of their gorgeous restaurants has launched their Christmas menu curated by head chefs Ramesh and Asha, bringing tastes from home to Bristol.
After a round of crisp, warm popadoms and a wonderful mixed selection of chutneys, we started with plates of pakoras to try with choices of free-range chicken, mustard leaf and mango paneer. Each bite-sized morsel fried with a light, spiced batter and served with matching chutney. The overall winner of the night was the mango paneer pakora that came with a tart tamarind chutney, slightly sweet and plenty of cheesy goodness, we could have eaten a bucket of them!
The main menu had plenty to choose from with dishes suitable for coeliacs to vegans. Each main is served on a traditional Thali made up of pilau rice, cabbage and coconut thoran (similar to a coleslaw), Bengali aubergine curry, spinach daal and mint raita. I went for the lamb nihar, a lamb shank on the bone cooked with cardamom, fresh ginger and turmeric, I cannot resist a lamb shank, low and slow is pretty much the perfect description of my favourite foods. The shank was enormous, tender and fell off the bone into the rich, earthy and thick gravy. The aubergine curry was sweet with a baby aubergine in each portion, the thoran providing fresh crunch and the daal, a savoury balance. Others at the table were tucking into chunky, marinated jackfruit, fresh seafood, creamy paneer and chicken thigh with nothing but silence or satisfied mmm’s to be heard for a few minutes.
Plates cleared, a sample of desserts were paraded out with many of us not sure if we could possibly fit anything else in. Ever the gastro-explorers, however, we did our best. We shared a portion of sweet, rasmali in a pool of chai, a stewed fruit “crumble” and a chocolate cheesecake. The rasmali is an Indian style rice pudding, very sweet with the comforting, warm spice flavours of the chai encouraging me to think about changing how I make rice pudding at home. The crumble wasn’t really a crumble but a bowl of warm stewed fruit topped with a scattering of roast oats and nuts. The stewed spiced fruit, figs and apricots, were warm and sweet with a hint of bitterness from the red wine and made a lovely alternative to a heavy fruit pudding. Of course, the dark chocolate cheesecake was a total hit, a rich, thick wedge of indulgence, a chocolate lovers dream.
We thoroughly enjoyed our “Christmas” meal without the trappings of turkey, crackers and forced paper hat wearing. The depth of spice and flavour in each dish provided welcome relief from boiled veg, bland meat and watery gravy and would heartily recommend that if you haven’t booked or can rebook your Christmas party meal, do it at Thali!
**Please note this meal was offered free of charge but did not impact on my review**