Restaurant review: Thela

Image credit: Emer O'Hanlon

Thela is a brand new opening on Regent Street, which promises to bring a diverse range of Indian street food to Cambridge. I visited two weeks ago with my sister, as both of us are big street food fans. We avoided food for several hours before hand (only sharing a falafel wrap for lunch – and both of us have big appetites) and had very high expectations of the food, based mostly on the luscious pictures on their website. After much agonising over the menu, we eventually decided to go for a mixture of different ‘starters’, as they were put on the menu. What we really wanted to try out were as many of the snacks as possible, as for both of us, that is our favourite aspect of Indian food. We asked to have as many of the dishes at the same time as was possible

First up were the samosas. Now, both of us have very high standards, and we were delighted that these standards were met. The pastry was perfectly flaky and crisp, and the filling was a delicious, rather spicy pea and potato mixture. There was a drizzle of tamarind chutney on them, though we could have done with more, and a side salad of raw carrot and red onion.

Paneer pakoras were a new discovery for both of us, having only ever had vegetable ones before. You might question the notion of deep frying already high fat cheese in batter, but they were very tasty. The batter was delicately spiced, enough to make it interesting, yet not so much that it was a distraction. This too was served with the same side salad and chutney. Although I enjoyed these, they were definitely plainer than the other offerings, which were so bursting with flavour that I felt the paneer pakoras didn’t quite stand up enough against them. However, they were my sister’s favourite, so it depends what you like.

We went for the dahi puris, as my sister had never had one before. These are small shells (which taste sort of like a poppadum) filled with potato and chickpea,  drizzled with yoghurt and tamarind with sev puri (vermicelli pastry) sprinkled on top. The fun part is trying to fit a whole one in your mouth at once. These were delicious, but rather rich with all the yoghurt. We had a hard time eating three each: so I’d advise either ordering the plain (ie. not yoghurt) puris if sharing between two, or ordering the dahi puris in a larger group.

Finally came the stuffed aloo tikki, a potato cake with a spiced lentil filling in the middle of a yoghurt bath. We’d never had a stuffed aloo tikki before, so this was new. Very spicy, it had a firmer texture than the potato cakes I’m used to, and was bursting with flavours from the filling. Although I’m a sucker for samosas, this was probably my favourite of the dishes we tried because it was so unexpected.

No doubt about it – the food was delicious. If we had one small niggle, it would have been that we wanted more variety of side salad, and perhaps a greater quantity of chutneys (as some of the food felt a little dry). However, the flvaours were very satisfying and the price very reasonable – it was about £10 each, and we left feeling aboslutley stuffed. There are still so many dishes on the menu that we didn’t get to try, not to mention their thali which seems to have a sample of everything on it. I want to return to Thela again and again and again to try everything they have on offer!

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