Kayal

January 3, 2010

I must declare an interest with Kayal. It’s a business I’ve admired and supported since first reviewing it for Metro when it opened on Granby Street in Leicester as Halli, a vegetarian restaurant featuring distinctive Karnatakan cuisine. Since then, and following its reincarnation in Nottingham and Leicester as the Keralan restaurant Kayal, I’ve become good friends with boss Jaimon Thomas.  But everyone gets a warm greeting at Kayal – one reason why the restaurant was packed out on 2 January,  not generally the industry’s favourite night of the year.

The menu here features traditional, hearty  Keralan dishes. There’s nothing fancy or faddish, no fusion-led world tapas but time-honoured recipes gathered from family members and finessed through a thorough grounding in the hotel and restaurant  industry of South India.  So yes it is spicy Indian food  but is  is refreshingly different to the staple fare of the British tandoori.  We were a group of 15 celebrating a birthday – and started by sharing a couple of large seafood platters involving crisp squid rings in a spicy batter, juicy prawns given a smilar treatment, fish cutlets and crab legs in a sauce so incredibly moreish it was almost frightening.  

Kerala is a state with not just a long coastline  but a huge network of backwaters which explain the wonderful seafood dishes. Kayal’s range of fish curries are well worth exploring, but this time my main was  cheera erachi, a festive lamb dish derived from the region’s sizeable Christian community, which slow cooks the lamb with spinach, turmeric, onions red chillies and a host of other spices.  As with all Kayal dishes, it had a rewarding complexity from extensive use of fresh spices. I had it with bathura, a  delightfully light and fluffy bread.

We finished by picking at an extremely rich and sweet birthday South Indian cake, presented with  a serenade of Happy Birthday from staff, and a little bowl of payasam, a light ,fragrant milk pudding with nuts, raisins and tiny vermicelli noodles. 

Relaxed, informal and welcoming, Kayal combines palate-pleasing food with a service ethos that warms the heart. It’s heartily recommended.

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5 Responses to “Kayal”

  1. Chris Faulkner said

    Seconded ! I went there with my wife between Christmas and New Year. The food was fantastic – and it made a great change for me not to be choosing my usual Chicken Jalfrezi or Lamb Rogan Josh !

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  2. Jessica said

    3rd time unlucky 😦 I’ve eaten there once before as Hali, and once as Kayal and loved both, but my 3rd visit last Saturday night was not up to the usual standard. It was incredibly busy, but staff seemed not enough, and we waited 45 minutes for our meals after ordering. I’d chosen the Thali, which I was told was not available, so I chose something else quickly while the waiter waited for my order (always a bad move!). When we were leaving, and the restaurant was quieter, I saw two Thali dishes being brought out for other customers, adding to my overall disappointment with the night. Shame.

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    • riponia said

      That’s a shame – I know they’ve been a bit taken aback at how busy they’ve been during the comedy festival (they’ve had a lot of events upstairs). I’m seeing Jaimon next week and will discretely give some anonymous feedback.

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  3. Mike & Jessica said

    We think Shivalli, on Welford Road, is a sister restaurant to Kayal? Just wanted to say that we had a wonderful meal there this evening: we shared the two thali options (one is Shivalli, the other’s name we can’t remember)and they were fantastic, although possibly the Shivalli is better. Go hungry as they’re generous portions!

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    • riponia said

      A couple of the staff used to work at Halli – it’s bit of long story how they happened to open a restaurant so similar but let’s just say there’s no formal links between the restaurants now. The food is great and I’m hearing consistently good reports.

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