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Venues

Thali (Gardens)

Thali (Gardens)
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Cost
R750 set menu for tapas for 2
Ambience
Bar scene, Business meetings, Quick meals, Special occasions
Food
Indian, Modern
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
NO BYO

Critic's review

Jeanne Calitz

Thali, the Indian establishment in award-winning chef Liam Tomlin’s restaurant stable, offers diners a veritable feast of spectacular, modern Indian cuisine.

Food
The food served at Thali is, quite simply, breathtaking.

Like all of Liam Tomlin (of Chefs Warehouse fame) restaurants, the tapas plate for two is the star of the show. Here it is, apart from some oysters to start, the only item on the menu. You might wonder at such a ‘limited’ offering. And yet as plate after plate, platter after platter, arrives at the table, bearing 8 dishes in total, you’ll be amazed at the generosity of the whole. It is a glorious feast of tastes and textures, and evidence of a chef supremely confident in the unique building blocks, the careful layering of flavours, that comprise Indian cuisine. At work in the kitchen is head chef (? ), and clearly, he knows his way around the spice rack.

The humble mung bean is lifted to dal greatness thanks to the presence of a beautifully tangy braised tomato sauce. Crispy, deep-fried spinach bhaji are adorned with a fresh mint and coriander dressing and then, to add some earthy balance, a deeply smoky, sweet date and tamarind sauce. A dish showcasing three ways with cauliflower is a marvel of spicy and piquant tastes and cleverly contrasting textures. Tandoori chicken skewers arrive in a small, gleaming tandoor oven at the table, leaving a mouth-watering, smoky trail in its wake. Served with a cooling cucumber raita and a robust tomato chilli jam, the flavours explode in the mouth.

Then come the fish courses, of which the fish tacos are the crowning glory. The light gold casing holds marinated and deep-fried kingklip, sprinkled with finely sliced green and red onions, and a curried aioli. The only complaint would be that the serving seduces the palate and then leaves you yearning for more – I would happily dine on a plate of these. But then there is still a wonderful seafood curry to enjoy, with sea bass, confit prawn and mussels, not to mention tender duck served in flavourful sauce of coconut milk, cardemom and cloves. Savoury rice on the side, and the fluffiest, most fragrant garlic naan in local history, completes the offering.

There is dessert as well, to be ordered separate from the tapas for two. I’ve heard good things about the kulfi ice cream (in flavours like rose & pistachio) and confess to be very enamoured of the idea of the chai custard with almond praline and spiced banana bread. But that will have to wait for a next visit – to which I look forward with great anticipation.

Drinks
A sizable drinks list with a wide range of spirits and a very tempting selection of cocktails redolent with exotic Asian flavours. Wines are arranged in categories mild, medium and hot – as in the types of wines that would work well with these categories of spice. There’s more than enough variety, and plenty of by-the-glass options.

Ambience
You would be forgiven for forgetting, perhaps one starry summer’s night, seated at one of the courtyard tables under the twinkling lights, that you are in fact in Cape Town, and not India. The décor here is just exactly right. The feeling is exotic without veering into kitsch, with a colour scheme of browns, moody blues and bright copper accents. The music – relaxed electro-pop with a modern Indian slant – also helps to set the vibe. We visited on a quiet Friday afternoon but come sundown I’d imagine this spot would be hopping.

Service
Perfectly on point – staff are well-versed in the intricacies of the various dishes. They seem keen to be there, and genuinely delighted at the dazzled expressions on diners’ faces.

Best for...
A spur of the moment TGIF or payday type celebratory dinner – but you’d need to be canny to get a table, as the restaurant does not accept bookings. That said, it’s a sizable space with lots of seating, and the set menu should mean a quick turnover, so even if you get there and don’t immediately find a table, you could always wait in style at the bar, drink in hand, no?

(2018)

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

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  • Food
  • 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

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User reviews

  • Best indian food in Cape Town. Good service.
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  • Thali brings Indian fine-dining to life. Don't expect the ambience of 5-star restaurant, but know that the food, presentation and flavours are what you're there for. Naan, paratha, oxtail, butter chicken, vegetarian dahl - even non-Indian food lovers will be able to appreciate this carefully curated meal. Not too spicy, but full of flavour, texture & additional condiments. When in doubt, just add a squeeze of lime. Do yourself a favour.
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  • We indulge every taste to a wonderful experience!The food was sensational!♡☆☆☆
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  • Arriving to have lunch at Chef’s Warehouse on Heritage Square, I was told that they are full, but that there would be a spot open at Thali. I arrived and was warmly welcomed by the front-of-house barman staff, who immediately showed me to a spot in full view of the kitchen. Its a Saturday afternoon so the kitchen staff is busy prepping. I ordered a vanilla whiskey sour and my four courses of the “Thali for One” - the first course being chicken skewers with naan and sambals. OMG. Dis not see that coming! Exquisite! Another whiskey sour (they are that good!) and the fish tacos arrived! Boom! The pompodon taco is genius and the fusion of cultures is complete... this is what humanity should be about. A conglomeration of ideas and tastes and minds! Incredible! (Going well with this is a glass of SpiderPig Rose... cause you know... humanity also needs Rose!) The seafood curry arrive and I am nlown away. Colorful, aromatic and beautifully presented... the swirdfish was exceptional and the prawns and mussels well-cooked. The sauce for the curry was probably the best curry sauce I have ever tasted. Served with beautifully spiced basmati and a roti from heaven this dish was superb. An amazing experience that can be recommended again and again!
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  • Easily my favourite restaurant in Cape Town. Outstanding!
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  • The food is next level, you will battle to find better in cape town. Service is great and awesome vibe. Easy parking available in the lifestyle centre if kloof is busy.
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  • Glorious flavours. Beautiful food. Great service.
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  • What an amazing experience!!! Our first time at Thali and we already can't wait to be back. Both me and my partner do not eat onion or coriander and they were great to accommodate that and make the dishes taste amazing without the two components. We were so pleased. The place gets full so make sure you get there before 6:30pm or you will wait until after 8:30pm for a seat. Cocktails, service and food 5/5 !!!!
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  • 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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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • WiFi

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