Kayal and the Hairy Bikers

December 13, 2011

I’ve been a big fan of Kayal since it first opened and have got to know Jaimon Thomas and his team well as they have expanded from their Leicester base to open in Nottingham and Leamington  Spa.  But sometimes you just don’t get round to going back to your old favourites. After a gap of around six months I’ve been twice in the last couple of weeks and am pleased to say it’s in great form.

I tried a few new dishes including a super fish soup that was as smooth and flavoursome as a classic lobster bisque, a fiery starter of adipoli kozhi – tender chicken pieces with chunks with onions, black pepper ginger chillies and shavings of coconut, and main courses  such as pala beef chaps which is beef with mushroom pepper sauce and spicy beans, spicy potatoes and crunchy matchsticks of bread.  Other favourites were consistently good.  Kottayam egg fry doesn’t exactly sound over appealing – “batter fried boiled egg with chutney” – but is a complete delight, with heavenly freshly-spiced sauce. Tilapia pollichattu – the fish being wrapped in banana leaf which seems to seal in in falvours and succulence – features another superb spice mix.  Ammmachi piddiyum kozhiyum was a great chicken dish served up with rice dumplings in coconut sauce – the dumplings were fairly anonymous and  too glutinous to my taste but again the spicing in the dish was top-notch.

The Hairy Bikers with Jaimon Thomas (right) and colleagues outside Kayal

The restaurant seems permanently packed and there’s a great buzz about the place. I’ve heard some complaints of service being slow – though I’d attribute this more to fresh food and busy-ness rather than a staff attitude problem. Prakash heads up front of house in Leicester and I’ve rarely met someone more committed to customer service.

Anyhow I’m pleased to give them a further plug especially as they feature on TV this coming Friday 16 December at 3.45pm in the Hairy Bikers Best of British programme on BBC2. Jaimon Thomas used to zoom around Kerala on a bike and his old Royal Enfield has pride of place in the restaurant.  The Hairy Bikers were there though to learn dosa making skills  – and it’s worth bearing mind by veggies disappointed when Kayal morphed from the vegetarian Halli that its masala dosas are great,  up there with best I’ve ever tasted.

The HB’s visit follows on from Jamie Oliver visiting Paddy’s Marten Inn and Hugh Fernely Whittingstall’s recent visit to Indigo which included a dosa-making stint at a lavish wedding at De Montfort Hall (still available I think somewhere on 4OD).  Great to see our restaurants recognised in this way.

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Mithaas

March 1, 2010

People often cite Leicester as a place that must have great Indian restaurants.  Actually nowhere in the UK is very far from an OK  curry house and many of Leicester’s  curry houses are not that  different to those OK places you can find anywhere. But where Leicester is very strong is in the quick and cheap home style places – the dhabas.  Paddy’s dhaba in the Martin Arms is a pretty rough and ready place but regularly has smart cars lined up outside as successful types come back to their roots in search of simple pleasures. Star Vashnu dhaba on Narborough Road offers tremedously cheap and tasty vegetarian food  with Punjabi twist (see menu here). Rob and I heard the call of Star Vashnu tonight but forgot it’s closed on a Monday. Fortunately you don’t have to travel far to find something comparable. We crossed the road to Mithaas (103 Narborough Road) and had a proper little feast for well under £10 for two. Thali

Rob’s thali had two tasty curries, dhal, slightly greasy but perfectly fresh poppadum, good plain rice, three fine chappatis, bhaji and some chocolate barfi to finish it off.  My special chaat was a tangy and spicy collection of bhaji, samosa and sev doused in yoghurt and tamarind sauce. It’s not exactly the most atmospheric of places, but it’s clean with pleasant staff and offers the kind of tasty, cheap food that is one of  the definite plus points about living in Leicester.

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