Central London

Published on August 26th, 2016 | by Sophia Longhi


Talli Joe, Covent Garden

Talli Joe, Covent Garden Sophia Longhi

Summary: A nod to contemporary India; vibrant, cosmopolitan, and stylish


Modern Indian

This is London and it’s no secret that we love a good curry. The Chicken Tikka is the nation’s favourite dish and there is little more satisfying than going for a curry on a Friday night and really letting loose (belt buckles too). We over-order, we stuff ourselves to bursting point and then we rub our bellies and say we won’t do that again for a while (until next Friday rolls around, anyway). The way we eat Indian food over here has become almost lustful – we gobble it greedily, regret it afterwards and feel guilty about it for a week. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! Indian cuisine has so much to offer; it’s diverse and vibrant; fresh and exciting; and you can eat it, enjoy it and go out for a drink afterwards, instead of groaning pitifully and ordering an Uber home.

Talli Joe has shown us just that. It’s a cool, hip little place on Shaftesbury Avenue (Indian joints can be elegant and sleek, but rarely hip – this one is) that specialities in small plates and big drinks (of the cocktail variety). The Joe in the name represents the ‘Average Joe’ traveller, who visits India expecting to find the India of the Empire – elephants and Maharajas – but instead finds an exhilarating, new India, full of smiles and surprises.

whitebait kempu

This is the India I find when I visit Talli Joe from the moment I walk in, when I am greeted by the beaming smile of someone who can’t wait to show me the cocktail list. The selection looks great and is divided into the north, south, east and west areas of India, dependant on the style and ingredients of the drink. I go for a Paan-Aam, Talli Joe’s answer to the Margarita, made with tequila, betel leaf, raw mango purée and lime. Tart, tangy and strong, it’s the perfect refresher to start the feast.


Our waiter brings over a Truffle Ghee Kulcha to get things going – a naan stuffed with cottage cheese and brushed with truffle ghee. It goes without saying that I’ve never had naan bread like this before. It is sinfully delicious: soft, fluffy and full of the rich flavours I love – truffle, cheese and butter. But wait, isn’t this meant be a lighter style of Indian food?! Regardless, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

seafood curry

Saying that, the dishes that follow are lighter and entirely varied; a colourful palette of styles and flavour explosions. We try almost the entire menu of small plates – probably two thirds, at least – and they are such fantastic value that I would encourage everyone to do this! The fish and seafood is stunning; the Rasam Shrimp Shot (shrimp poached in a South Indian tomato broth) enlivens the tastebuds; the Whitebait Kempu (batter-fried with South Indian spices served with tadka mayo) is a light, crispy nibble; the Talli Macchi (grilled red mullet with orange soaked in Old Monk Rum) is elegant, complex and very, very tasty.


There’s a fabulous selection of interesting meat dishes too, and we particularly like the Junglee-Murgi Poha (tandoori guinea fowl tossed with masala) and the Nihari Nalli (Lucknow style nihari on veal bone marrow) served with a kadak roti – one indulgence not to be missed.

Talli Joe Curry

The cocktails come thick and fast throughout and I am surprised to find that they match superbly well with the food. I’d usually drink beer with Indian food (which, of course, doesn’t help the bloated feeling later on) but the cocktails make the palate even more receptive to the array of flavours and spice in the cuisine. The prettiest cocktail on the menu is the Rosehip (vodka, rose sherbet, lime and egg white), a sweet treat that tingles on the tongue – gorgeous.

We just about fit in a few sweet treats to finish on and luckily they are all small enough that it would have been a shame to say no. I love the Black Gajar Halwa (heritage black carrots and salted peanut brittle) – it’s sticky, sweet and moreish – and the Gulabo (rose ice cream with betel leaf, papaya candy and rose jam), which is the most divine thing to cleanse the palate after a feast like this one.

Visiting Talli Joe is a real eye-opener to not only contemporary Indian cuisine, but to a young, vivacious culture emerging out of India right now – one that owns an exciting cocktail scene, a fun, sociable shared style of eating, and ultimately an enthusiastic, vibrant outlook, where smiles are nothing less than contagious. We leave feeling energised, excitable and full – but not too full as to stop us going for more cocktails.


Talli Joe, 152-156 Shaftesbury Ave, WC2H 8HL

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About the Author

Lioneye Media lionesses, Sophia and Rebecca, can tweet with one hand whist sipping an espresso martini with the other. Dedicated food, wine and cocktail connoisseurs, they love nothing better than scoping out London for its best bars and restaurants. Follow their exploits and breakfast pics on Twitter @LioneyeMedia

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