Venues

Thali (Gardens)

Thali (Gardens)
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  • Phone Number 021 286 2110
  • Location 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town
  • email info@thalitapas.co.za
  • Opening Hours

    Lunch: Tuesday to Saturday 12noon - 2.30pm

    Dinner: Monday to Saturday 5pm - 9.30pm

Cost
R650 set menu for tapas for 2
Food
Indian, Modern
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
NO BYO

Critic's review

Seth Shezi

Food

This is a stellar culinary experience inspired by the tastes, sights and scents of India. Opened by Liam Tomlin (of Chefs Warehouse fame) and with head chef John van Zyl in the kitchen, Thali presents diners with an eastern voyage through a set tapas menu ranging from sambals, poppadoms and tandoor, and leading through to the curries, which are the jewel in the culinary crown of the experience.

The meal is presented in stages, each course perfectly designed to lead to the next and whet the palate in anticipation of what’s to come. The cauliflower done three ways – puréed, grilled and raw – is an elegant twist on this humble vegetable and is a firm favourite on the menu. The tandoor oven churns out the most succulent and deeply smoky meats, including chicken and lamb cooked to tender, aromatic perfection.

The fish course, which changes according to seasonal availability, continues to shine new light on combining strong spice combinations with seafood. Sometimes subtle, often robust, the spice profile changes depending on the type of fish. Most of the dishes err on the side of subtlety to maintain a lighter and more modern style of cooking, but the parting shot of the meal, the traditional curry presentation, is a veritable smorgasbord of authentic-tasting curries, all of which pack a resounding punch. The unctuous lamb curry, with hints of turmeric and saffron, and the chicken curry served in a fragrant green coriander sauce, are both elevated classics typical of chef John's inimitable style.

Much like Chefs Warehouse, the tapas for two takes one on a beautifully curated eating journey but, in place of fusion cooking tactics, a light is shone on the depth of Indian flavours.

Drinks

Expect a fine selection of wines, all of which have been chosen to complement the aromatic profile of the dishes on offer. Chenin, pinot noir and shiraz complement the menu rather well. You will also find lassis and an array of cocktails, some of which include one of the Indian mother spices shaken or stirred into the mix, for something truly different.

Service

The staff are impeccably trained and have a comprehensive knowledge of myriad dishes and techniques employed throughout the service – a commendable feat, given the complexity of the preparation process. Remaining true to a high-end dining experience, the wait staff all juggle levity with professionalism and provide an effortless background to the pure enjoyment of dining at Thali.

Ambience

Thali is broken up into three distinct sections – the main front-of-house dining area, the middle section overlooking the drama of the kitchen, and the outside courtyard. The three spaces are all designed with a unique décor emphasis, but all offer the diner a dimly lit and deeply romantic inner city escape wherein the food, as always, takes pride of place. With coppers, ambers, reds, lacquered blacks and browns – the setting is moody yet warm and inviting. The tables are small and close to one another, lending an air of intimacy to the collective experience. As ever, being close to the action and grabbing a seat in the kitchen display area is always entertaining. The outside area, festooned with twinkling lights, lanterns and blossoming bougainvillea, is the prized location.

And…

Chilli phobes, fear not: Thali draws the very fine distinction of aromatic versus spicy and all the chilli comes on the side. The whole experience can be made purely vegetarian, which is a fabulous alternative. Also be warned, Thali does not take bookings, so be sure to arrive in time and get your name on the list. It is indeed well worth the wait!

(October 2017)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here

  • Ambience
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  • Katharine Jacobs

    Food
    At Thali, Maestro Liam Tomlin of Chefs Warehouse & Canteen recreates the tapas experience with an Indian lilt. The menu is brief; there’s no à la carte option, only tapas for two (R620). We consent, and the show begins.
    It kicks off beautifully with chaat, which is designed to replicate the kind of street-food snack served in India. We tuck into a pile of crisp, perfect poppadoms, dipping them into the little cup of spiced potato and chickpeas. My partner – an architect – has complaints about the structural integrity of the poppadoms, but when we do manage to scoop some up, the curry is sweet and delicate.

    Next up, a little smoking golden chimney arrives on our table. Inside is tender, succulent tandoori chicken and a skewer wrapped in minced lamb. Right after that arrives a golden platter with little rashers of tempura pork belly, spiced with a dry rub and served on a sweet-and-sour ginger-tamarind sauce, as well as a fish dish with a tangy pickled flavour. There are little bowls of sauces, too: a really great raita, and something else whose details I forget. It’s all a lot to take in – in my excitement, I manage to lose half the tandoori meat off its skewer. It goes tumbling into the mini oven, and I carefully extricate it and dust off some coals. Fortunately the slightly smoky flavour enhances the dish.

    The flavours thus far have all been on the mild side of mild. Two little bowls, one of a delicious spice salt and one of a hotter spice paste, remain on our table the whole time, with the idea that you spice to your own taste.

    From here, we progress to the vegetarian course, a beautiful black dhal with tender, perfectly cooked lentils, and a glorious tandoori cauliflower dish with smoky seared cauli steaks, sweet cauliflower purée, and a dusting of coconut and cashews for texture and nuance. Very clever.

    The last course of the tapas for two is two beautiful curries: a golden lamb curry spiked with turmeric, ginger and strings of saffron, and a chicken version in a beautiful thick, pesto-like coriander-mint sauce. This last is the highlight for me: it’s the only dish to carry any real heat without our intervention, and the richness of the flavour in the sauce is all I’d hoped for.

    Before dessert comes another highlight: two little syrup-soaked cardamom doughnut balls, (gulab jamun), which we sprinkle with coconut and those bright, sweet spice balls. They are magnificently sweet and beautifully spiced.

    We also try the ginger-roasted pineapple pud, with a tasty spiced piece of the fruit, a powerfully chai-flavoured chocolate mousse, and some coconut ice cream (which is slightly lacking in coconutty flavour.) The winner, however, is the posset – Liam Tomlin’s lemon posset at Chefs Warehouse is a personal favourite – and this version, made with lime and cardamom is silkily irresistible.

    All in all, it’s quite a whirlwind meal. I do feel at the end that I’ve somehow missed out on the spice. I find myself forgetting to add the heat from the bowl on the table, and then missing it. (It can be hard to hold up your end of the conversation while spicing four dishes simultaneously, photographing, and taking surreptitious notes – so perhaps that’s my fault!) I do see the value in making the dishes accessible, but can’t help but think the baseline of heat could increase a smidge. Then again, the chilli-fearing architect is perfectly happy. So perhaps there’s something to be said for a choose-your-own-adventure style.

    Drinks
    The wine list is quite extensive, with a great range of options by the glass. It’s also helpfully categorised for heat level, so you can pair your own wine for your desired chilli strength – from Alphabetical Red or medium-bodied chenins for milder dishes to Paul Kluver gewürztraminer and Hartenberg Riesling for hotter dishes. There’s also a great mango lassi on offer.

    Service
    Considering that we’re here on day two, the service is very good. The food comes out swiftly and, for the most part, staff are well informed.

    Ambience
    The old Takumi space has been beautifully remodelled. Exposed brickwork and wooden floors, and tables built from parquet keep things tasteful, while pops of jewel-coloured blue and green, small details like beautiful lanterns and inlaid tables outside, and stunning menus etched with patterning add some Indian flavour in a tasteful way.

    Crockery, from beautiful porcelain bowls to the array of gold trays (there’s even a little golden teapot for tap water), is a feature all of its own, really adding to the experience – and your Instagram photos.

    And…
    The outdoor area has been opened up a little, and will be beautiful on hot summer evenings.

    (December 2016)

    Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

User reviews

  • Love at first sight ❤︎ Huge fan of Indian delicacy and this place hit the spot. The ambience, feel and look feels like you're in a little restaurant in India. We had the Tappas which were all absolutely tasty with the presentation on point. The wine selection was great and with the chef's recommendation you really can't go wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes and would definitely return. Only reason why I'm not giving it a 5 is because you have to wait quite long for the last dish... But that said, it truly is worth the wait! Friendly attentive staff, spectacular atmosphere and delicious food makes this place a winner in my books!!!
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  • In the heart of Cape Town’s Gardens lies a beautiful blue house, home to the contemporary Indian tapas restaurant, Thali. It is one of three restaurants owned by the talented Irish chef, author and restauranteur, Liam Tomlin. Confession time, I am not the biggest fan of spicy food and Indian cuisine would not be my first dining choice, but after two excellent dining experiences at Chefs Liam’s Chefs Warehouse restaurant I wanted to try out Thali as well, and boy they did not disappoint. They do not take any bookings, so I would advise being there as soon as service start, as they do tend to fill up pretty quickly. As you walked through their doors, the aromas welcome you, along with their host, ready to show you to an available table. Chef Liam and his team have done a fantastic job with the fit out of the restaurant as it creates the perfect setting for the wonderful contemporary Indian cuisine that was to follow. I loved it, my favourite decor piece, was a large colourful collaged map of India with a vintage post cards background. All over the restaurant, they had interesting features from the décor tiles and wooden flooring used as table tops, different pendant lights to the different wallpapers. Thali offers a set tapas menu for two, that will allow you to treat your taste buds over four courses with eight dishes. If you are dining alone or in an odd number, do not fear, you would be able to select 4 of the dishes from their menu, or if you came with an enormous appetite, eating them all on your own is also an option. For all the non-meat lovers they have a vegetarian option as well. The set menu does not include dessert, but make sure to leave space for some, as their bon bon’s are BONdelicious. The first course arrived, and the first dish was a crispy papadum, steam potato with pomegranate seeds, onion, garlic and a yoghurt dressing topped with chick peas, served with curry and chilli condiments. The potato was cooked perfectly, the pomegranate seeds added a burst of freshness and together with the crunchiness of the pappadum made for a great dish. I tried both the condiments that added a little kick to the dish. The chilli pesto was not for the faint hearted, and it added a kick to the dish. If you’re a spicy food lover, you are going to love these condiments. If not, do give it a try and start off with just a small amount at a time. They do have “dirty” (alcoholic) and non-alcoholic lassi’s, that works great to neutralise the palate. The second course arrived. The second dish was a chicken and lamb kebabs accompanied with a tomato chilli jam and pomegranate raita. The kebabs served in a small tandoori oven that had a bit of smoke, adding a bit of theatre at our table. The tomato chilli jam and pomegranate raita complimented the kebabs beautifully enhancing the smokiness of the meat. The third dish was a tandoori cauliflower, coconut and cashew. Although it looked like cauliflower, it sure did not taste like any cauliflower, I have had before. I loved it and was amazed at the different levels of intensity the dish had. The combination of the cauliflower with the crunchiness of the cashews and the sweetness of the coconut was remarkable. The chef knew how to take everyday vegetables and turn it into a dish that I will remember and come back for any day. The fourth dish was a black dal cooked in a creamy sauce and served with a naan bread. This dish was packed full of flavour and was such an easy dish to eat together with the chapatti. The third course arrived. The fifth dish was a deep fried Kingklip papadum taco with a dijon sauce, sundried tomato, red onion and tomato served in a taco, made from a papadum. The fish was cooked perfectly with the outside crisp and the centre soft, along with the freshness of the vegetables made for a tasty dish. The sixth dish was a seared tuna, spiced butternut puree and coconut. The tuna was Fresh, zingy and exciting and together with the spiciness of the butternut puree and crunch of the crispy butternut made for a delightful dish. The fourth course arrived. The seventh dish was their butter chicken, with a tomato based sauce, served with raw red onion and coriander for garnish as well as a basmati rice with a curry oil and topped with crispy shallots. The chicken was so soft and jam packed with flavours, leaving you just wanting more. The eighth and final dish on their tapas menu was a golden lamb curry served with parathas. The lamb shoulder was cooked in saffron, yoghurt, cream, cashews and served with crispy potatoes. If I had to title this dish, it would be OMG, as this dish was just darn delicious. The lamb was so soft melting in your mouth. Hand down the favourite dish of the evening, nom nom nom. As we came to the end of a great tasting menu, we peeped at the dessert menu, and there were a few interesting items on the list. One that just jumped out was their chai milk tart. Milk tart is such a traditional Afrikaans dessert, and one that I am fond of and I wanted to taste the Indian fusion they added to the dish. Their Indian bon bon’s also looked great with a few interesting flavour combination. I just could not decide between the two, so we ordered both. The milk tart was a deconstructed chai milk tart with a chai milk foam, cumin shortbread and roasted banana coconut ice. Each element tasted great, and together the dish was just a winning combination. Definitely a good twist to this traditional dessert. The Indian bon bons was beautiful and looked like pieces of art and was, therefore, a bit hesitant to eat them at first. My favourite was the cashew and coconut rocher. If you only order one dessert from their menu, I would recommend these bon bon’s. To finish off the dessert we received a complimentary cardamom and cashew nut toffee covered in a toasted coconut served with mukhwas. A great finale to an excellent meal. The service throughout the entire evening was great. Thali’s head chef, John van Zyl, along with his team did a fantastic job, in providing us with some of the best Indian food that I have had. Each dish was plated beautifully and just add to the dining experience. I would highly recommend this flavourful spot. Thali, you get the DBM splash of approval.
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  • Chose Thalis for my birthday supper. The venue is stunning , wish I'd explored a bit more. I didn't see the garden...( next time) I'm a vegan & was impressed with the food. I could barely move after dish 4.... I still can't move- The service was great. Friendly & efficient. Nag champa added to the atmosphere. I was impressed with the amount of room we had , nothing worse than sitting too close to other diners. I will return! A wonderful experience
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  • We really loved how they've managed to change the place around and to get us to totally forget that is used to be our favorite Japanese restaurant... The service was great and the food was nice except the black daal that had nothing special about it... All in all we enjoyed the new experience but we left thinking the original chef's warehouse's food is better and has our preference. It might have to do with the fact that after all we thought it's very expensive for Indian food and that we weren't blown away by every single dish as we usually are at the original...
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Menu

Set menu - Thali Menu - updated November 2017

Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Dinner
  • Food

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