Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum had: Starters: Papidura mix seafood, Masala dosa; Main course: Wayanadan kozhi curry, Kuttanadan tharavu mappas, Lemon rice, Paratha
Tharavadu comes accompanied by high expectations. It is frequently rated at number one of over 1,400 restaurants and eateries in Leeds (it’s currently fifth at the time of writing, but these things change rapidly), during National Curry Week last May it was rated by that same site as one of Britain’s top ten Indian restaurants, while its own website boasts of its recommendation in the Michelin Restaurant Guide. That’s a lot to live up to and at times it feels like merely serving up a meal notably better than your average curry house is not enough. Perhaps its reputation counts against it here as something it could never live up to.
You may remember that this was the restaurant that we had intended to enjoy on our first night of moving to Leeds, but its high reputation made it impossible to get a table (even on this occasion, a weekday and early in the evening – we were off to the theatre afterwards, this was the only time at which we could get one without booking), leaving us to go to the city’s other Kerala Restaurant and receive some of the worst service I have ever had. There were no such problems here, the service was efficient and attentive. And yet the food, although enjoyable, in places lacked such elements that made the other restaurant’s Kerala quality distinct from other Indian regional foods, things like the little flakes of toasted coconut.
It would be churlish to dwell overly much on this comparison, however, as the food at Tharavadu is almost universally pleasing, even if none of it excels spectacularly. The friend that we went with had been before and recommended the dosa, referred to on the menu as a pancake but essentially a giant samosa, which made a thoroughly satisfying starter for the three of us, especially with the addition of an enormously generous mixed seafood selection (if we are going to compare this with the other Kerala Restaurant, then Tharavadu certainly wins on this count against the handful of battered prawns that we had to wait almost an hour for there).
My main was a chicken curry in a peppery sauce that was surprisingly reminiscent of the historic curry that I had once prepared from an eighteenth-century recipe. The dish itself was pleasant but unremarkable, perhaps lacking in the range of spicy flavours that I was hoping for, but the accompanying flatbread – the paratha – made of delicate buttery layers like a mid-point between a naan and a puff pastry made an enjoyable change from the usual.
In all, Tharavadu is a good quality curry restaurant whose Kerala food offers something slightly out of the ordinary, but is perhaps neither spectacular nor novel enough entirely to earn its reputation among the very best.
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