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Talli Joe (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Indian Shaftesbury Avenue

Time Out says

Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that venues remain open.

Please note, Talli Joe has now closed. Time Out Food editors, July, 2019.

Books. Covers.You know what to do. Or, rather what not to. Yet it’s hard not to get a bit judge-y over somewhere that has both a silly name and (ugh) a ‘concept’. The one at Talli Joe, splashed across signage, website and menus,  is to offer ‘Indian half plates + full drinks’ (don’t you just mean ‘small plates’ and, er, ‘drinks’?). What’s more, when I walk in, I can’t help but clock the lights are too bright, the air con too cold. Not a great start.

But guess what? This new regional Indian ‘small plates and cocktails’ joint (because that’s what Talli Joe actually is) gets two crucial things right: the food and service. 

This is bright, bold cooking designed to enchant both tastebuds and soul. One of my favourite dishes was the Goan pork and ‘offal’ curry, made mostly with shoulder and belly meat, but also enough heart and liver to give it an exceptional depth of flavour and texture. Also excellent was a crab ‘scotch egg’, the warmly spiced crustacean’s meat wrapped around a soft, almost-runny quail’s egg, its yolk the colour of marigolds. 

For something more prosaic, try the seafood curry. I loved it that, simmering in the mild, fragrant sauce, were not just prawns, koli and squid, but a handful of drumsticks – no, not the cluck-cluck kind, but the green veg variety traditional in south Indian cooking (picture hard-skinned celery sticks: you scrape out the soft, mild flesh and put the rest aside). It’s this commitment to spot-on sourcing that gives Talli Joe its edge. 

Case in point: the gajar halwa – a sweet, milky carrot pudding – is made not with bog-standard orange carrots, oh no, but with heritage purple carrots, giving this dessert a thrilling, almost ebony hue. It is, by the way, absolutely moreish and delicious. Prepare to guard it with your fork (stabbing optional).  

As for the cocktails – they’re fine. But in spite of its special ‘cocktail pairing’ menu and bright, contemporary decor (comparisons with Dishoom are inevitable: the setting here is less glamorous but the food is better), this is not a bar. Not really. But the fact it takes bookings and has nothing-too-much-trouble service adds to its appeal.

All Talli Joe needs now is a decent set menu (currently it’s à la carte only: excellent value at dinner but too dear for lunch) and it might just win me over completely. 

Details

Address: 152-156 Shaftesbury Avenue
London
WC2H 8HL
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square
Contact:
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