★★★★★ TPH of Chelsea – New Vegan Menu
A new vegan menu is the star attraction at the rebranded TPH of Chelsea – and chef Yogesh Datta has struck veggie gold!
A rare trip out west for To Do List took us to the recently relaunched TPH of Chelsea, previously (and still, essentially) The Painted Herron.
Focusing as we now are on veggie & vegan cuisine, Chef Yogesh Datta’s new approach – lightening dishes by ditching ghee, cream, butter, yoghurt and other dairy products, and placing renewed focus on traditional vegetarian dishes – drew us out beyond the Albert Bridge on the promise of responsibly sourced Modern Indian Cuisine.
We took advice from our waiter Sadiq, and followed the obligatory poppadoms – a class above the usual fare, coming as they did in three varieties – and chutneys with three starters to share between two: Onion & Kale Pakora’s, light and delicately spiced with a tangy Tamarind Chutney; Chilli Tofu, not a spongy cube in sight, zingy and served with a crisp Kerala Paratha; and Steamed Momo Dumplings which tasted as good as they looked.
It’s a pity that many people skip the starters in Indian restaurants – here were three incredibly tasty dishes, each distinctively flavoured and generously portioned. Of the three, the Tofu probably stands out: the much-maligned bean curd finely shredded and spiced with chillies which are there as much for the flavour as the heat.
Faced with a menu of vegan main courses which all looked good (and, it has to be said, are attractively priced), we opted for Thali’s to sample the full range. Which is how we came to be sat a table absolutely full of the tastiest Indian food we’ve had in a very long time! The stars? A Jackfruit Biryani may just be the perfect vehicle for the so-called “vegetarian pulled pork”, while a Broccoli, Cauliflower & Sugar Snaps stew was the very definition of delicate, mild and moreish. Crispy Okra & Asparagus Fritters were lightly battered and perfect for dipping between mouthfuls of spicy Sri Lankan Lotus Root Curry, or a dainty Bottle Gourd Kofta.
Perhaps the biggest (and nicest) surprises were those dishes that seemed, on the menu, to be the least enticing – the Aloo Methi of baby potatoes with fenugreek leaves was a taste explosion, and the Pureed Spinach with Black Chickpeas a deep, earthy, wholesome delight. To mop up the various sauces, a selection of soft and chewy stuffed breads was more than up to the task.
For the purposes of comparison, the seafood-murdering Joint Editor also tried what turned out to be a huge and seemingly bottomless bowl of Lauki Prawns – a King Prawns Curry with split yellow peas, more of those bottle gourd (clearly a TPH favourite) and pearl onions. The prawns were plentiful and juicy, in a flavour-packed sauce – but it says everything for the vegan dishes that they outshone this perfectly good prawn dish. Make no mistake – the vegan dishes at TPH are the star attraction!
Understandably full, we shared a desert (come on, we’re doing it for you!) – a light and sweet Passionfruit Cake with Rose Petal Ice Cream and Gulab Jamun, washed down with a pot of Darjeeling Tea. Quite the perfect finish to an excellent meal.
At a nearby table, a couple skipped straight past the vegan menu and exclusively ordered fish and meat dishes. It’s their choice of course, but one wonders how many others will make the mistake of doing the same without considering the fine veggie offerings – carnivores might just find that they don’t need chicken in everything!
Situated as it is on Cheyne Walk, a well-thrown samosa from the Thames yet tucked away on a narrow street corner as if hiding, TPH isn’t your average bustling curry house – think date night or special occasion rather than a midnight curry with the lads (or gals). But cast away thoughts of wallet-busting prices for Chelsea denizens only – TPH may not be cheap, but it is great value. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better cooking for less than this, and the warmth of the setting and the service really makes TPH a very special place indeed.