It had to be one of the sunniest days yet of 2017 when we walked up a very steep hill to get to Clifton. Once we reached the High Street I was feeling a tad dehydrated and to avoid getting hangry we walked into the first restaurant that caught our eye, which happened to be the Thali Cafe.
About the Thali Cafe
The owners of the Thali Cafe first began serving their Indian dishes from a street food truck at Glastonbury Festival in 1999. They were inspired after they travelled to India and fell in love with the food.
The name of the cafe is apt too with “thali” referring to an Indian-style meal, made up of a selection of dishes, served on a platter. And you guessed it, that’s what they serve. They even have an eco friendly take-away system using tiffins. You can buy a Thali Tiffin from one of their five restaurants at a cost of £27.50. It’ll come filled with your favourite Thali and the next time you want a take away you can then have it refilled from £9.50 with a meal that serves two. It’s a waste free system that’s popular in India and it’s great to see that the Thali Cafe has adopted it too.
You’ll find the Clifton branch of the Thali Cafe on the corner of a terrace with a big curved window. The interior is alternative with colourful lamps hanging from the ceiling and vibrantly painted walls. You’ll also see black and white portraits of Indian Princes from back in the day, family portraits and Bollywood stars.
What I ate at the Thali Cafe
For food I had the Dairy Free Thali with an Uttapam, which they made vegan for me. The food was beautifully presented with the currys and sauces in little pots on top of a banana leaf. It was so colourful and fragrant that I only snapped a couple of pictures before digging in. The Uttapam was not something that I had tried before. It was a thick pancake made from rice flour with onions, tomatoes, chillies, and other vegetables added to it. It’s definitely something that I’ll be re-creating myself next pancake day as a good savoury alternative.
South Indian stir-fry of squash, beetroot, curry leaves and freshly grated coconut, served with subji (vegetable dish), dahl, basmati rice , chutney and mooli salad.
Savoury rice pancake served with tangy sambar lentils and coconut chutney
The ambiance in the Thali Cafe was very pleasant. It was bright and light and as we sat next to the kitchen you could smell the spices in the air. Food wise I really enjoyed the uttapam and will order it the next time I see it on a restaurant’s menu. The Thali was also nice apart from the squash and beetroot stir-fried curry with coconut which I found very dry and not to my taste. If you’re a meat eater then the boyfriend enjoyed his chicken and there were plenty of other options, but for vegans there was just one Thali to choose.
I’d return to the Thali Cafe again as it was reasonably priced for Clifton and the uttapam made my day. I’d just like to see them offer more than one vegan Thali option.
Have you got any vegan-friendly restaurant recommendations for Bristol?