What’s the deal with Tamatanga Leicester?
We were invited to the press launch for the new branch of Tamatanga Leicester in the Highcross shopping centre this evening. A small Midlands chain, this is the third restaurant in the series. They pride themselves on making their food from scratch in the kitchens. It’s a laid back approach to Indian food. Quick, colourful and of course, cocktail ready.
The decor was bright and vibrant. It kind of reminds me of the way I romanticised India might look before I actually went there. Come to think of it, considering other chain restaurants in town, it’s apparently how English people like to think South American and Caribbean countries might look as well. But there’s plenty to look at, well lit by the now mandatory naked giant lightbulbs.
Something to drink?
With plenty of other diners around when we visited, there was a relaxed, fun atmosphere and we started off with a gin at the bar. I opted for a Curio of Cornwall gin with tonic and was delighted that the bartender recommended rosemary and a twist of orange peel as a garnish. An excellent choice and one that complimented the salty fragrance of that particular gin well.
We were all pleased to see a very good drinks menu. There was a nice selection of gins, plenty of cocktails and a good quality beer menu. Lots of favourites in there for beer lovers – all the Magic Rock, Beavertown and B@&!dog you could want. The ‘forbidden’ craft breweries if you will. But great for me, because I think a good hoppy IPA makes a great pairing with lightly spiced Indian food and that is what we got.
The only thing that did surprise me was receiving a plastic straw without being asked in my drink. I assume it was plastic anyway, it could have been a substitute but it was still single use and not required. The sustainability points are also lowered with the single use menu/placemats and the paper cases for the cutlery. I know there are plenty of people who will choose a different restaurant on the strength of details like this now so hopefully they will change it in the future.
Edit 01/07/19: Tamatanga got in touch with me to let me know that the straws are fully biodegradable and compostable, and they dispose of them correctly as such.
Edibles-wise, there is a big menu and it all sounds really great! It’s a non-intimidating approach to an Indian menu – chaat bombs ‘crisp bread puffs’ in place of what I assume should be called puri for example. So if you know your Indian food you’ll find your way round the menu as easily as someone new to the food. There is a selection of clay oven dishes, curries, small plates, biryani and more. Vegans and those on a gluten free diet have a whole menu each to choose from also, with variations on this theme.
Our table selected a range of the small plates to share. There aren’t really ‘starters’ and ‘mains’ as such at Tamatanga Leicester – food is brought out to you as it is cooked. So I guess this could get awkward if one person gets all their food and the other gets nothing. But all of our mains came out pretty much simultaneously, with the small plates dotted around so it was fine.
From the small plates I liked the tempura prawns the best. They were succulent and sweet, with a very crisp tempura coating. The dipping sauce had a pleasing kick to it and matched, but didn’t overpower the prawns’ natural sweetness. I was sad there were only 4 though, although they were big! The Bang Bang Chicken in a sort of panko coating was also very tender. I liked the masala tasting marinade, but it didn’t resemble the Kerelan style curry leaf, garlic and ginger that the menu promised. Perhaps that’s just me. The Gunpowder Paneer was less interesting. The marinade had less flavour, and the paneer was a bit soft and inspid for my tastes, although it was not unpleasant. Simply the small plate I’d be least likely to order again.
On to the main event
The Railway Cabin lamb curry certainly has an interesting name, but it was a tasty dish. One of only two marked ‘Hot!’ on the menu, The Boy expressed that it was medium at best. In fact, everything was on the milder side. I guess it makes Tamatanga a bit more likely to appeal to a wider range of diners, including fussier eaters. The peshwari naan it was served with was absolutely full to the brim with coconut.
Like all the main dishes, my Tamatanga Salmon was an impressively sized portion. Certainly much more salmon than I had expected. I like that the clay oven dishes are served with salad, tarka dal and your choice of rice or naan. However, all of the salad garnishes had suffered under the heat lamp and were a bit wilted. My salmon was delicately flavoured and succulent, which I really enjoyed. I didn’t get the smokey, charred flavour you would expect from a tandoori over which was a bit disappointing. But I did really enjoy the dish.
Finally, the Goan Fish Curry was also a good sized portion. Not overpoweringly full of coconut in the sauce. This was a surprise for me, but suited the tastes of my guest. Again, this was served with a little salad and a choice of rice or naan. This makes it very easy to get a filling sub-£15 meal at Tamatanga.
I was pretty impressed with Tamatanga. Perhaps a little more than I expected if I’m honest. The drinks menu has a solid selection, although as ever the wine choice is a little rudimentary. I look forward to returning to try their 241 cocktails. This kind of offer usually raises alarm bells for me, but they put on their literature that there are no half measures, so we’ll see.
The food was overall very good. If you’re expecting authenticity and intense flavours you are likely to be disappointed. However, if you want a slightly calmer approach to Indian casual dining, that is likely to suit a wide range of tastes, then this place will probably fit the bill. It’s got some nice touches of authenticity, while other elements are adapted for the popular crowd. Service is quick and friendly and your friend who always orders the korma will be well catered for.
Thanks to Tamatanga for inviting us to their launch event as their guests for the purposes of review.
I did not have any instruction from the venue about what to order or write and all of my opinions are an honest reflection of my experience.