If you long for the glamour and kitch that is Bollywood and a taste of India at a knock-down price, then the One Stop Thali café in Bristol is for you. We visited the café this week with some guests we had staying from Hospitality Club and I took the opportunity to try out a place I’d heard much about but not quite got round to visiting. One of the benefits of being a Hospitality Club guest is to be taken to the places that locals go, that you probably wouldn’t find as a visitor, and the One Stop Thali café was a good example of this.
Our guests, Sedef and Valentin had come from London, and were going on to see something of Bath and Cardiff too. Sedef is Turkish and left her home on the Black Sea a few years ago to teach English in France, and then moved to London for her Masters in English Language teaching. When I told Sedef that it often rained in Bristol, being on the west coast, she told me that it also rains a lot in her home town of Trabzon, and the area is so green that she grew up believing that the earth must be green rather than brown. Valentin was born in Russia, but moved to France as a child and was brought up near the border with Luxembourg. Coming from the multi-lingual, multi-cultural melting pot that is London, they were amazed to find themselves on a local bus where they heard only English being spoken.
The One Stop Thali café is very popular locally and on a cold Tuesday in January it was packed, but luckily I’d reserved a table. The cafe describes its decor as kitch yet classy, with ruby red walls, fairy lights and Bollywood memorabilia everywhere. It also does a take-away with a difference for locals who are a member of the Tiffin Club. Equiped with their stack of stainless steel tins, we noticed a steady stream of customers coming to get their Thali to take away – it’s an eco-friendly idea that cuts down on the take-away packaging.
It’s not the sort of place you have to spend hours deliberating over the menu either, as apart from a few starters and puddings, there are only two choices – a North Indian Thali or a Southern Indian Thali. In case you weren’t aware, a Thali is just a selection of different curries, daal, and vegetable dishes served with rice and chutneys, on a stainless steel plate. I love to try a selection of tastes in a meal as it avoids me eyeing up my neighbour’s choice and wishing that I’d had that instead. They were all delicious, with that home-cooked taste and none of those tasteless chicken cubes in a gloopy sauce that you sometimes find in Indian take-aways. To finish I had a Kulfi – an Indian ice cream served on a stick like a lollipop, in pistachio flavour. The Chai was good too, boiled up into a milky brew with warming ginger and cloves.
Best of all, the prices are a bargain – a plate of Thali was only £6.95, and even with beers and puddings, we paid around £12.50 a head. Just the thing to meet the January challenge of frugality and healthy, warming food.
One stop Thali Café, 12 York Rd, Montpelier, Bristol, BS9 5QE Tel 0117 942 6687