Run out of a small ex-pub in that strip of Islington squashed between posh Barnsbury and less-posh Cally Road, the Tamil Prince is an Indian restaurant from two guys who worked together at cult Malay-Singaporean canai-and-curry basement joint Roti King. Unlike everyone else who went to university in London, I missed out on Roti King at the time, which in retrospect feels a bit like living in Paris in the 1920s and not bothering with Café de Flore. But that’s on me. That’s my L to carry.
Tamil Prince head chef Prince Durairaj has taken inspiration from what makes Roti King popular (bombastic, flavoursome cooking, centring spiritually on billowing, pliable roti) and ratcheted up the dining dimension. Whoever did the interior has done a cracking job and deserves a medal for their services to Tasteful And Consistent Aesthetics. The shade of green on the walls is the best shade of green I’ve seen for ages.
The menu, comprising of small plates and mains, is compact but satisfying, like Xherdan Shaqiri. If you and three friends were starving you could probably eat it all. The crinkly crunchy okra fries were great, neither oily nor stodgy. I’d recommend the cheeky, chunky chicken lollipops too, served with chilli chutney. It’s the mains, however, that will make this place famous (if indeed it isn’t already by the time you read this). Most eye-catching is the channa bhatura, a chickpea curry accompanied by an inflated pufferfish-sized bread balloon. Honestly, you could whack a lightbulb in there and sell them in the Conran Shop. My favourite, though, was the tiger prawns. Massive things, as big as my dog Kronus. It tells you something about how well-seasoned and beautifully grilled they were that I didn’t really care that, in my mind, I was eating garlic masala Kronus.
It all tasted amazing. This is high-quality, smart stuff, but done to impress and delight ordinary idiots like me. Which makes it the food equivalent of the band Rush. Hard to think of higher praise.
The vibe Chilled but smart. Nicer than anywhere on neighbouring Upper Street.
The food South Asian mains and small plates, specialising in the food of the chef’s home state of Tamil Nadu.
The drink Lots on offer. I had beer. It was nice.
Time Out tip Order an extra roti. One more than you think you need. You will eat it.