Thali is a family-run (Vikash Dhawan is the owner) Indian restaurant serving mostly North Indian cuisine; it apparently opened in 2009 (the staff seemed a little unclear on this). The décor is quiet smart and modern, with a ground floor dining room and a further bar area downstairs. The menu featured some uncommon dishes, such as tandoori rabbit, as well as more traditional fare. The wine list was rather peculiar in that it contained some quite prestigious wines, yet makes the basic error of omitting vintages entirely. With wines such as the Penfolds Grange Hermitage (one of the wines on the list) it is crucial to know the vintage, since the wine is unapproachable in its youth. When I asked to see this bottle I was told that it was in fact unavailable, so the mystery remains unsolved. Some wines on the list included Marques de Murrietta Reserva Blanco at £25 for a wine that probably cost around £13 retail, the excellent Condrieu Chapoutier at £80 for a wine that costs in the region of £33, up to Louis Latuor Batard Montrachet at £155, which varies wildly in price by vintage, so who would know what mark-up there was here. It does seem bizarre to go to the trouble of selecting some quite prestigious wines and then omitting a key piece of information about the wine.
Popadoms appeared as we were reading the menu, which were fine, with mango chutney that tasted to me as if it was from a jar. Aloo papri chat (£5) was pleasant, made from the usual chickpeas, tamarind, yoghurt, potato and puris; the tamarind gave a nice sweet note and the chickpeas were tender, though a little more spice would have been beneficial (12/20). Chicken tikka (£6.50) was unfortunately cooked a little too long, so that the meat, despite the marinade, was rather dried out on the inside, served with a decent mint chutney (11/20). A trio of tandoori prawns (£15.50) were nicely presented, with a refreshing lime sauce. What was really bizarre was that two of the prawns were properly cooked and tender, the prawns of reasonable quality cooked in a pleasant spicy marinade, yet the third prawn was of the consistency of cotton wool, a mushy thing that fell apart at the touch of a fork. This makes the dish very difficult to score; based on the two good prawns the dish was pushing 13/20, yet overall only 11/20 given the significant error.
Venison bhuna (£16) had venison that was a little dry, and the dish could have done with a little more masala, but the main problem was that it was absurdly salty, even for a salt-lover like me (10/20). Aloo gobi (£5) was fine, the cauliflower in particular carefully cooked, the potato cooked a little long, but still just about 12/20 level. Similarly kidney beans (£5.50) were tender (12/20) and a naan had pleasant texture (12/20). Service was amiable enough, but lacked direction. When we pointed out the problem with the prawn there was no follow up (such as “shall we do you another, or would you like something else?”) at all, for example. The bill was £41 a head with just a couple of beers between us. This is hardly a bargain given the up and down nature of the food that arrived this evening.