It’s that time again – when I go to a restaurant and remember to take photos! Because, let’s face it, the opinion is always there! This time we (myself and my fiancé) visited Sayonara Thali, in Leicester. Why this particular restaurant? Because it was on Groupon! A four-course meal for two people was £13.99. Yes please! I was enticed because Sayonara Thali is actually a Vegetarian restaurant. As in, no meat options whatsoever. I was intrigued enough to snap it up, I tell you! Every Indian restaurant I’ve ever been too (including our local favourites) have a primarily meat-centric menu, with vegetarian options much smaller in number. Still far more than your average restaurant (hello salad and pasta…) but still nowhere near the main focus.
So, first things first I guess – first impressions. I have to caveat this with the fact that I did some pretty extensive research first, including a good solid read through their Tripadvisor ratings, so I knew that Sayonara Thali was hardly “haute cuisine”, and more like a cafe even than a restaurant.
And.. that’s spot on. It is not a restaurant in the classic sense of the word. It is more like your local, slightly rundown coffee shop round the corner. You know the one, it’s been there since time began, and so has the furniture and paintwork.
So, as long as you’re expecting a tired cafe you won’t be disappointed. If you’re expecting a restaurant, well, take a deep breath and sit down in the hard-to-move chairs at the paper-covered table and trust a little. If you’ve gone on a date… have a little giggle with the other person and take a seat. It’s not a romantic place but that doesn’t mean it’s set up to be a disastrous date.
But did it have customers?
Well… yes, actually. It wasn’t busy, but where we arrived for our 7.30pm table (on a Saturday night), there were two other tables seated. One of four, and one of two. Maybe slightly below the average of what I’d expect but it is just near the Golden Mile and there’s no shortage of places to eat. Within a stone’s throw there are already two other Vegetarian Indian Restaurants (/Cafes, I couldn’t see inside).
Excellent. I wish I’d thought to ask his name, but there was just one man running the show and he was so friendly and so helpful, nothing was too much trouble. He’s clearly used to Groupon-ers and also people that don’t kno
w what half the words on the menu means! He was very helpful, asking what kind of flavours or spice level we like, what kind of foods we liked and even made up a custom starter for my OH when he couldn’t settle on one!
The food though, seriously, can we get to the point?
So yes, the food at Sayonara. As I said, if you were expecting a restaurant look and feel then you needed to stick it out. Again with the restaurant expectation – it’s served like the cafe it looks like.
Including cold plates and dishes. Eck – that bugged me. Chef Mike (a microwave) can warm plates in 30 seconds and it just so makes a meal better! Alas, he was not employed in this case.
So… cold dishes: this wasn’t a problem for Adam’s starter, because it was cold. Mine was warm, so I tucked in with gusto to finish it before it went cold! Adam had something custom – I’m sure it had a name, but I didn’t note it down. It was a cold starter, but very nice.
I had the Chana Bateta (a hot starter), which was chickpeas & potato in a sort of tamarind sauce (I think), and then topped with all kinds of.. bits. Like I do with oatmeal but someone did it with out starters!
Despite the cold plates (grumble), when my main arrived I let it go. I had the vegetable curry of the day, which I later found out is a Gujurati dish called ‘Undhiyu’ – it is so, so good. I’m going to have to try and recreate a version of it at home! It had like little kofta in
Adam had some kind of dal, I think. I wasn’t really paying attention, apparently. I don’t think it was customised. His was rather sweet, and whilst mine was sweet too there were other flavours with contrasted nicely with the sweetness so it balanced out really well. We also had chappati and puri’s with pilau rice to share alongside these. I’ve never had a puri before, and I probably won’t again – I don’t really like fried things! Puri is a puffy bread that’s been deep fried (so if that’s your thing, great) – the chapatti was good though. Hard to go wrong with chappati though!
For dessert (which we only squeezed in because it came with the Groupon, to be honest! We were stuffed!) we took a traditional Indian dessert each. The other options were explained very honestly – fruit salad (which came from a tin, not fresh, he was careful to state) or vanilla ice-cream. Well, was there any competition? Really? I went for the Shrikhand (sweet yogurt with saffron and spices, above) and Adam took the Gulab Jamuns (milky sponge-like balls in a syrupy sauce, below).
They were both amazing – however both very sweet and so we were kind of glad for the smaller portions. If they’d been of similar size to the starters I think I might have cried! However as it was, it was just right to finish off the meal.
I can’t really comment on the prices, since our meal came from an online voucher purchase, but the drinks were pretty reasonable really – a big bottle of Cobra and two white wines came to about £12. In terms of the menu, you were looking about about £2-£5 per starter/savoury snack, and about £5 for a curry. They specialise in Thali’s, which range from about £7.50 – £12.50, but they weren’t included in the deal we’d purchased.
Overall, I like Sayonara Thali it in a quirky kind of way. I think it would be the perfect spot for a casual lunch with a friend or quick weeknight dinner, rather than traditional weekend meal out.
The cold plates, as I usually state, bugged me. The overall decor and furniture was pretty dated too – but to be fair, that has no impact on food quality!
The food was brilliant – proper, home-cooked style dishes that are completely different to the run-of-the-mill curries you find at most Indian restaurants. They were packed full of flavour and explained by friendly and knowledgeable staff, even when asking a million questions about every other word on the menu!
Would I return? Yes, but as stated, not for a ‘weekend’ meal out. As a stop-in on the way to an afternoon of shopping though, yes!