Thali Evening, Beggar’s Banquet, Shaftesbury

I FIRST discovered Thalis 25 years ago at the Mandeer, a delightful vegetarian Indian restaurant hidden downstairs in a tiny alley behind the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. Their menu included up to seven different Thalis, each made up of a tray of six or seven katoris, small stainless steel bowls, with magical vegetarian (and some vegan) food in each one.

The Mandeer closed in the late 90s, after almost 40 years of serving authentic Gujarati and Punjabi dishes, and even the alleys above have now been subsumed beneath a glass and steel development, so I was delighted when I heard that Beggar’s Banquet, the vegetarian restaurant in a medieval stable block just off Shaftesbury High Street, was having a Thali evening.

For ten pounds we were given a Thali tray (now developed to be one multi-portion tray rather than large tray with small bowls) containing three main dishes of Chana (chick pea) Masala, Mata Paneer (peas with Paneer, a home-made young hard cheese) and Vegetable Korma, with accompaniments of brown rice, wholemeal roti (chapati), fresh raita, fresh beetroot-based slaw, lime pickle and mango chutney.

Each of the three mains had their own individual flavour, lightly spiced and with fresh herbs, and there was plenty of rice, bread and salad to go with them. The raita was delicious, but hardly needed for its traditional use of cooling, as none of the dishes were too ferocious. The subtlety of the flavouring and spices made for almost as many delicious flavour combinations as forkfuls of food.

Desserts on offer included gluten free warm chocolate torte or brownie and apple crumble, and my torte was dark and delicious, combining well with pouring cream or ice cream. Drinks on offer included beers from around the world, including Cobra, Asahi and Peroni, a good selection of wines, and the soft and the cold drinks which Beggar’s Banquet specialises in during the day, including fresh lassis and smoothies.

Beggar’s Banquet is well worth a visit during their normal hours of 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday, for the great food and drink and to check out the vintage LP records adorning the walls, all of which are for sale too, but look out for these special evenings for a particularly magical treat. Their next welcomes local singer-songwriter Hannah Robinson on Friday 25 October, and they are catering for a New York Soul night at Semley Village Hall on Friday 18 October. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, or in Mustons Lane, Shaftesbury.


Friday 4 October 2013