I had had Kerala on my ‘to do’ list for some time but life, and a pandemic, kept getting in the way. I also had a long-pending lunch date to arrange with a pescatarian friend and, as there were a large number of suitable options on the menu, I thought it would fit the bill admirably. As it turned out the bill was not my problem.

On arrival we were greeted by one of the most pleasant waiters I have ever had the pleasure to have met. We had a lot of catching up to do and so ordering was not a top priority so we just asked for drinks and proceeded to have a good chelp. The order was a large bottle of Cobra Beer and a Coke. Guess which one of us had what. We were put under no pressure whatsoever to get on with it, although I accept that the place was all but empty.

Speaking of the place, it had a traditional Indian feel, the region of Kerala is in the south of the country, and exuded a homely feel, especially after an Asian family arrived with their little girl who took a shine to my female companion.

Eventually we got round to looking at the menu, which came as a bit of a surprise to me as I had perused it on-line and the section relating to Lunch Specials had disappeared. I double checked with the waiter who confirmed that, like other restaurants post-Covid, the menu had been somewhat condensed. No matter, the prices were very reasonable and it was the company which counted.


We decided to get some Poppadoms and a Pickle Tray to help the drinks go down. An entry next to those nibbles intrigued us so we had to order a portion of Pipes. These turned out to be tubes of the same texture as Prawn Crackers but without the fishy aftertaste and in an array of colours. They turned out to be fairly subtly flavoured but very moreish, especially when dipped in the sauces of the pickle tray.

Paneer Masala

My friend ordered Paneer Masala which was cubes of Indian cheese in a thick curry sauce. She said that it was a touch sweeter than she imagined but delicious anyway, especially as she had opted for the accompaniment of Lemon Rice to give a little sharpness and providing a portion large enough to demand the services of a doggy bag at the end.

I ordered a Lamb Thali, and this is where my education on the consumption of Indian food was enhanced. There was no further description of the dish on the menu but I have had Thali before, although, it must be said, mainly in a street food setting rather than a ‘proper’ restaurant, where it has been served on a tray with compartments containing rice, bread, and a selection of curries. Here, I got the whole shebang of three courses plus nibbles. It also came on a large circular tray containing separate stainless steel dishes in which was the food.

Lamb Thali

Atop the selection was a huge Dosa, which is a pancake made from lentils and rice, and rolled up like a carpet, had it been unfurled it would have covered half the table! Beneath this behemoth were another Poppadom with a couple of dips and pickles, a Samosa, Raita, two curries and a dessert of Gulab Jamun.

I set about tackling this in the same way that I would have done with the street food variety, i.e. by transferring some of the curry into the rice but, in this instance trying not to let any of it fall into the sweet. Noticing my somewhat unorthodox technique the waiter approached and suggested I try eating it in the way that a southern Indian would, that is by removing all of the dishes from the tray and then utilising it in the same way as one would a plate, tipping out the rice and curry etc. Suddenly everything made sense, or at least as much sense as anything can make with a pint of Cobra inside me.

Thali sans Dosa

I have to salute the waiter once again for the way in which he imparted this information to me, I know places where they would have gone into the kitchen to tell the staff that they had a novice in and to have a good laugh before putting me right. Well, that’s what I would have done when I used to work in a restaurant.

I must say that the food was excellent on all counts and tasted even better knowing that I would not be contaminating one course with another. It is a tragedy that there were so few people there on a Friday lunchtime, the place deserved to be bursting at the seems.

You will have noticed that I have not put any prices against the dishes but this was because the lunch was generously paid for by my friend and I am too much of a gentleman to argue with a lady. This means that I did not get the bill to refer to and, as the menu has changed from the on-line version, I don’t want to give you any duff gen. As a guide, the virtual menu shows the Paneer Masala as £8.99 with Lemon Rice an extra £3.99. The Lamb Thali is shown as being £15.99 which would suffice as a lunch even with no extra trimmings.

Whether or not you decide to visit Kerala at least you now know how properly to tackle a Thali, although I suspect that most of you already did and were rolling your eyes when reading that paragraph.

All photographs by Stan Graham


Indian Tiffin Room

It turns out that this is National Curry Week so the decision as to what to eat was made for me. All I needed to do was work out which of the sub-continent’s restaurants I would choose.

To people of a certain age, the word Tiffin summons up memories of a chocolate bar made by Cadbury’s which contained raisins and biscuit but it seems to have gone the way of many a confection such as Five Boys and Spangles. There are recipes on-line for the choccy version but Tiffin really means a snack although in some parts of India it refers to lunch, so there was really only one place I could choose.

Indian Tiffin Room has been on my radar for some time but I have not called before. I seem to remember that I was late in dining one day and the lunch offer ends at 2.30 and on another occasion I was due to meet someone in the afternoon so didn’t want to risk curry breath. Today it was not yet one o’clock and my appointments calendar is empty until the Christmas after next so it was a perfect time to see what they had on offer.

What they had on offer was everything. By that I mean that they have Thali on the lunchtime special menu which comes in a choice of vegetarian at £8.75 and non-vegetarian £9.75. I love it when this happens as it means that I get to try a selection of the kitchen’s output without putting on a couple of stones in weight.

When I had taken a seat my order was taken by a very pleasant waitress who brought me a jug of water from which she filled the metal beaker on the table. The jug was taken away but I was told to ask if I wanted a refill. The order I gave her was for the non-vegetarian Thali, and a Lassi for £2.50. At the risk of sounding like a fifties film, I love lassi.

When the lassi arrived, in another metal beaker, I took a taste and found that it was the real deal plain version not a fruit one. I have nothing against the mango flavour but it is a little sweet for my taste, a bit like a healthy milkshake.

Within a couple of minutes I was presented with a huge platter upon which was a selection of dishes which had a starter, several main dishes and a dessert. See what I mean about it having everything.

The starter was a pakora which contained potato, hidden in the photograph by the large puri, on a bed of salad. Anticlockwise from the puri are rice, chicken curry, cauliflower and potato, lentil, raita and finally phirni, which is a rice pudding.

Everything was wonderful and the small dishes were bigger than they looked being deceptively deep. The chicken curry especially had a distinctive taste which I could not place so I asked a waiter what it was and he said it was chicken coriander curry, they are obviously, and quite rightly, protecting a secret ingredient here. The vegetable dishes also contained my favourite ingredients in cauliflower, potatoes and lentils. Had there been chickpeas it would have been a full house.

Although the three curries had lots of flavour none of them was very hot, so you won’t be challenged in that respect. If you enjoy the challenge of a vindaloo or even a Madras you might be a little disappointed but this is lunch not Man v Food. The website does point out that ‘our menu is healthy, less influenced by heavily flavoured spices but is filled with the authentic flavours of India’. I was relieved to read that it was not just me then.

I ended the meal with my usual black coffee which came in at £3.00 but if you are content to stick with tap water this is a great value meal with effectively three courses for under a tenner.

Thank you to whomever dreamt up National Curry Week which has given me the nudge I needed to visit Indian Tiffin Room, roll on National Pie and Pea Week.


At last I’ve got round to reviewing a place I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time. I have heard good things about it and even Chris, one of my very best friends who never recommends anywhere, asked me if I had reviewed it. Good mate he may be but I was tempted to point out that if he had bothered to read the stuff I write then he would know that I hadn’t, but as he once put me up for six months when I went to stay for a week I couldn’t put him through that torture.

Every time I resolve to visit I become sidetracked and end up somewhere else but as the weather was bordering on the tropical I decided that nothing was going to stop me, so I put my head down and ignored all other diversions. What a great decision.

Tharavadu comes from the word for ancestral home and refers to a system of joint family as once practised in Kerala, but has come to mean the family which keeps the values of tradition. By the time I left I felt that I had been accepted into the family myself as the service was so friendly.

There are three versions of the Express Lunch; a vegetable one at £6.95, a chicken at £7.95 and a lamb option £8.45. I have had some pretty duff lamb dishes lately so I decided to put them to the test and that is the one I went for. I love lamb as it’s the meat which seems to absorb the flavour of the sauces in which it is cooked, rather than just end up coated in them. I need not have worried because the meat was done perfectly, being very tender but not so much as to be stringy and fall apart.

The menu describes the Express Lunch as being a small feast with three curries, a side dish, rice of the day, dosa and chutneys. A feast indeed. I decided to abstain from alcohol so had a glass of tap water and a Mango Lassi at £3.25. I love lassi.  No, that is not a film about a dog,  it is a healthier version of a milkshake with enough background tang to cleanse the palate when eating spicy food. In addition to the lamb curry there was a vegetable korma and the others contained lentil, carrot and plantain. All were delicious, as were the chutneys. The dosa was crisp and light, which was great at lunchtime as chapattis or naan can be a bit heavy to get through the rest of the day.

Although feeling well fed and happily content I couldn’t leave without sampling a dessert. I had noticed Semiya Paysam on the menu, which is a vermicelli based creation flavoured with cardamom and saffron, £3.29. It is like the best rice pudding you have ever tasted, except that it doesn’t have skin, and the cashews lurking beneath the surface added even more flavour. I must warn anyone with a nut allergy that the cashews are not mentioned on the menu, but there is a note advising customers to ask about ingredients before ordering. A black coffee at £1.50 completed the lunch.

Tharavadu has won many awards and it is not difficult to see why. It is not your average Indian restaurant, being one of the more recent breed of regional sub-continental establishments which are such a welcome change from the mainstream.

I enjoyed my lunch so much that I may just treat my mate Chris to a visit the next time we meet up in Leeds.  After all, sixteen and a half quid for six months’ rent is pretty reasonable.

Article first published in Leeds Living on 29th May, 2016

Rola Wola

I was saddened to read of the closure of the Carnegie Deli in New York on 30th December. Not only did they do great kosher food but also it was a Big Apple institution. It opened in 1937 so just failed to do 80 years.

On the occasions I have been lucky enough to visit Manhattan I have always put aside one morning to call there for breakfast. I would have the corned beef, eggs over easy and home fries with toast and jelly and an endlessly refilled cup of that weak as water coffee that the Americans love so much. The room was like a museum with walls covered in autographed photographs of the celebrities who have eaten there over the years. There were politicians, film stars, sportspeople and celebrities from other walks of life. The counter was decorated with hanging meats of various types, all cured, smoked or salted on the premises. The main attraction though was a waitress who was probably due for retirement when the place first opened and who insisted that all the male customers take a photograph of her giving them a hug.

‘What has all this to do with this week’s review?’ I hear you ask, and quite right too. The answer is that ordering lunch at Rola Wala put me in mind of ordering a New York deli breakfast, with so many questions that your head is in a spin, hence the same order at the Carnegie each time. The food at Rola Wala is Indian influenced and is custom made using a base which is then augmented by various toppings. This seems to be a growing trend in Leeds as there is a Mexican version in an adjacent unit within Trinity Kitchen, and an Italian version at Wolf on St Paul’s Street. From the base menu of naan roll, rice bowl or cauli bowl I chose the latter at £6.45. For the flavour I opted for Nagaland Lamb which attracted a 50p supplement and from the extras menu I added more paneer for 70p. The young lady who was assembling the contents of the bowl then guided me through the inclusive options of yogurt, chilli sauce (mild, medium or hot) carrot salad, coriander and a wedge of lemon. I completed the lunch with a pint of Camden Pale Ale, a craft beer on tap at £4.75. As the unit is situated in Trinity Kitchen you can take your tray to wherever you like so there was no shortage of tables and chairs.


I tried to deconstruct the elements of the dish as best I could but as it is meant to be eaten as an ensemble there was no real point. The paneer was firm and chewy, as it should be, in contrast to the lamb which was beautifully tender and flavoursome. I had decided on the medium chilli sauce as I didn’t want to overpower the flavours of the other ingredients and I am glad I did because even this had a fair kick and my lips were tingling for most of the afternoon. I must remember that line for when I write my Mills and Boon book. The whole experience was absolutely brilliant, from the very helpful staff to the food itself and I would highly recommend a visit. I would normally have a sweet and a coffee but by the time I had finished I didn’t have much room left and a queue had built up so I didn’t fancy leaving my stuff unattended at the table for any length of time. I did, however, notice that the ice cream was from Northern Bloc so the quality of food continues through to dessert. As is my luck, none of the waitresses here decided that they wanted to have their photographs taken giving me a hug. They probably thought that I was of similar vintage to their colleague at the Carnegie Deli – and they wouldn’t be far out!

Article first published by Leeds Living on 6th January, 2017


What a difference a day makes. I have been meaning to eat here for some time as I have heard lots of good things about it. Normally I dine out on Fridays and every time I have tried to call the place has looked rammed so I have found somewhere else to sample.

I always feel guilty about eating lunch in establishments which are full to bursting as I think that I am depriving some hardworking Leodian of their midday feed. This week I was in Leeds on Thursday so I decided to take advantage of the change and try my luck again. Bingo! I arrived shortly after noon and found plenty of spare seats. To be fair, the layout of the room is such that there may have been vacant tables on my previous calls and it just might have looked as though it was full. There are a few tables in the entrance area and then a couple of steps at the top of which is a long room with ample tables and chairs. When I arrived there was a party of about a dozen chaps enjoying a very congenial lunch break. As well as being purveyors of Indian street food, Bundobust also sells a large selection of beers. There was one hand pump on the bar and several keg dispensers. Under normal circumstances I would have been beside myself with grief at this discovery as I had just picked up a prescription for some pills to combat an ear infection and the directions for use warned that when it came to alcohol I would suffer almost certain death should I get so much as even a whiff of the bar maid’s pinnie. As this is an Indian eatery I was happy to partake of the mango lassi at £2.70 instead. The drink itself was wonderful but there was a twist in that, sprinkled on top, was a mixture of seeds and those tiny candy coated liquorice sweets which you normally pig out on from a dish at the till when you are waiting for your credit card to be declined in the posh Asian restaurants. As you can see from the photograph I had taken a sly slurp before the glass and I had arrived at the table. Luckily the straw provided is of wide enough a bore to handle the flotsam which enhances the flavour to an amazing degree.


The idea here is that you order your food and drink at the bar and you are served the latter immediately along with a numbered card and the former is delivered to your table when ready. Pretty sophisticated for street food. I was once again faced with a delicious looking menu but, as there was a special lunch section, I felt beholden to order from that. It is a bargain at £7.00 for two dishes. There is a limited choice in that you can have one item from a selection of three and a further dish from a second list of three. When I review places which are a bit out of the ordinary I am faced with a decision as to whether I go for something I know so that I can draw a comparison or something I have never had before to see what it is like. Today I took a leap in the dark and ordered Bhel Puri and Egg Bhurji. There is no description of the dishes on the lunch section of the menu but they are on the main menu where there is. The Bhel Puri is ‘Samosa pastry, puffed rice, turmeric noodles, red onion, tomato and tamarind chutney, served cold’. The whole melange arrived in a tub with the majority of the ingredients being crispy which made it into a kind of up-market Bombay mix. It was very pleasant but did get a bit boring towards the end.

I am assuming that the chutney was either incorporated into the tub or not part of the lunch deal. The Egg Bhurji is ‘Indian scrambled eggs cooked with peppers, chilli, cumin and ground coriander. Served with a soft Indian flatbread’. I must say that I really enjoyed this tub. The eggs were scrambled to the ‘well done’ stage rather than a soft scramble and the added spices gave the dish a pleasant kick. The flatbread was wonderful and soft being perfectly cooked and of a melt in the mouth consistency.

I would be happy to recommend Bundobust to anyone wanting a reasonably priced meal at lunchtime. Two courses and a drink for under a tenner is pretty good for Leeds, but the lunch deal option is so limited that I would suggest they push the boat out and order from the main body. Hopefully they would not be on medication so could have a couple of beers before they chose, after which who cares as to how much you are spending anyway.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 25th August, 2016

Manjit’s Kitchen

Leeds never ceases to amaze me. It is the City where I was born and for the past 66 years it has been springing surprises. The latest one came right out of left field – if anything can be right and left at the same time, but you know what I mean.

A week or so before my review I was making my way to the bus station when the heavens opened and down came a deluge. If you are going to get caught in the rain then Leeds is the place for it. What with the various shopping centres and arcades you can just about get all the way from City Square to the bus station undercover. The last leg of this journey involves a stroll through the market. It is a route I have taken many times over the years, usually to visit Butchers Row for a decent steak or the Fish Market to get the mussels for a starter. Both of these institutions are sadly a shadow of their former selves but still well worth a visit. Another part of the market which is not what it used to be is the bottom end which was rebuilt and extended after the market almost all burned down in 1975. Fortunately the top end and the beautiful facade on Vicar Lane were spared but the lower part was gutted. In the past year or two this has been left fallow, being just an empty space, but during my storm dodge I saw that it has been turned into a food court with central tables and chairs and exotic kitchens surrounding them. What a cool space in probably the most uncool place imaginable. There is a tea and coffee shop but the other outlets are stalls providing fare from Vietnam, the Middle East, the West Indies, Thailand and last but not least, India. I was wondering which one to choose when I realised that in the year and a bit I have been writing these reviews I have not had an Indian meal, so my mind was made up for me.

Manjit’s Kitchen offers the perfect menu for lunch. There is a chilli and paneer wrap, grilled cauliflower and red lentil hummus wrap, both in thin naan or a thali comprising two to three curries. I went for the fully loaded version of the latter at £5.95 and a can of orange at £1. The first thing which struck me was that everyone on the stand was smiling; it made me want to enjoy my lunch before I had even ordered. There was a list of five curries, three of which were available for the thali so the choice was made for me. Everything on the menu is vegetarian but I don’t mind a meat free nosh now and again. For anyone who is not familiar with thali it is a dish, literally, like an hors d’oeuvres plate divided into sections. The idea is that you are given a small sample of the kitchen’s produce in each part, a bit like an all-in-one tasting menu. My thali comprised cumin rice, carrot and coriander salad, raita, roti and the three aforementioned curries; temple dhal, mattar paneer and a mixed vegetable curry. A veritable feast.


I worked in Bradford for thirty years so I have sampled a fair amount of Indian sub-continental dishes but this selection was right up there with the best I have ever had. The salad was fresh, the raita creamy, the roti was thinner than I am used to and was like a small thick chapatti but just right in proportion to the rest of the meal. As for the curries, wow! Just like Leeds, paneer never ceases to amaze me. How can you cook cubes of cheese in a curry without them melting and amalgamating into the rest of the dish? Possibly because it is unaged, unsalted and made with an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or vinegar, but whatever the reason I don’t care – it is delicious. The sauce it was in was just the right degree of spicy so as not to overpower the delicate taste of the cheese. The mixed vegetables in the eponymous curry were cooked to perfection, retaining an element of bite rather than being cooked to death like your granny’s Christmas sprouts. Undoubtedly the star of the show though was the temple dhal which was made with green mung lentils and the flavour of the sauce has to be tasted to be believed. I am not sure of what was in it but it had a fruity background taste which may have been tamarind. The queue was too long for me to waste the owner’s time by asking him so I just ate it and enjoyed. The only dhal (?) I can think of which I would have rather spent my lunchtime with would be Sophie of that ilk, but Jamie Cullum got there first.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough and I have made a mental note that when the weather takes a turn for the worse and a walk around the City Centre looking for somewhere to eat is not an enticing prospect, I will stay near the bus station and work my way through the other alternatives here. Roll on winter!

Article first published by Leeds Living on 15th July, 2016