Pauwas and Chakhnas at Talli Joe:
Talli Joe is one of the newer establishments on Shaftesbury Avenue – one that you really need to know about.
I was there to sample the ‘Pauwas and Chakhnas’ menu. In case you’re wondering what that means, it roughly translates to “a quarter bottle of a cocktail and a tasty bar snack”.
First, I was struck by the buzz of this place. Tick. Then, the next thing I noticed was the attentiveness of the staff. Second tick.
Our waiter for the evening talked us through the menu in great detail and explained that each Pauwas and Chakhnas pairing (six in total), was from a different part of India. Regional flavours that were not to be separated!
First up was the Cheesy Pakora Chaat and its companion “Old Delhi No.6”. The cocktail hit me with a very strong underlying flavour that completely took me by surprise, but one that I had tasted before – rose syrup – a common find in traditional Indian homes. The cheesy bites were delicious and topped with a fiery green chilli chutney. My tip – don’t eat all of the chutney at once like my dinner date – you’ll regret it!
Then, we were served the Puneri Misal Salad, a contrast of crunchy and soft textures and was served alongside a bottle of the Queen’s Necklace Punch, a speciality from Mumbai. The kick of the salad paired perfectly with the refreshing muddle of gin, cucumber, apple juice and lime.
The next combination was chorizo with Talli @ Tito’s Lane, from Goa and the beetroot chop with a bottle of Salt Lake Puchkas, from Kolkata. This was an interesting round for us, as I don’t like the chorizo and my date is not so keen on beetroot. Thumbs up from both of us! Well done Talli Joe, you got us to genuinely enjoy something we usually don’t! The cocktails were a definite talking point for us. Talli @ Tito’s Lane started sweet but ended with a bitter taste. Could this be down to the curry leaf that was hidden within? The Salt Lake Puchkas was a no from me. It was an overwhelming blend of tequila, tamarind water, berry puree, ginger, lime and tea water. The end result had far too many strong flavours fighting for centre stage.
Number 5 was Nizam’s Punch and Charminar Chana from Hyderabad – from the first bite and sip it was clear that this was the perfect marriage. The drink had an unusual ingredient – biryani oil and needless to say, this cocktail was an unexpected experience. But, it worked. The snack unexpectedly popped in my throat like popping candy and made me go back for more!
The 6th and final pairing was from Jaipur, the snack a very simple but a welcomed grating of fried potato. The drink, Kesar Kasturi, reads like a safe option – gin, saffron, grapefruit, rose water and lime – but don’t be fooled – you will instantly be hit by a very intense flavour, one that I couldn’t decide if I loved or hated. It was hard to tell as it doesn’t linger and leaves you just as quickly as it hits you.
Somewhere in the middle of these 6 crazy courses, we gave our senses a little break and treated our taste buds to some of the best lamb chops I have ever had – marinated for 24 hours and cooked to a perfect level of “fall-off-the-bone-soft”.
If there was one thing that I took away from my evening at Talli Joe’s, is that it does so well what so many other restaurants just don’t do, or worse, try to do and fail – it takes a (very worthwhile) risk and experiments with bold flavours and brave pairings. This awarded Talli Joe the third big tick from me. With so many restaurants out there fiercely competing with one another, Talli Joe understands that it is about more than “just good food”.
If you’re planning a date, bring them here. Trust me, if you’re shy or your date is dull, the food and drinks will spark all the conversation you need.
152-154 Shaftesbury Avenue,
London, WC2H 8H