Authenticity at every turn
Visiting Tharavadu transports you to the heart of Kerala, a region in southern India, from the waiting staff in traditional dress through to the ornate Indian artwork and dark wood furniture.
The greeting is warm and welcoming. In Keralan, Tharavadu means ‘family who keep to tradition’, and at the restaurant of the same name there is authenticity at every turn. You won’t find the usual curries on the menu, instead expect to be educated in Keralan cuisine, inspired by Mother Nature and generations of home cooks.
Grasping the opportunity to expand my horizons, I chose the vegetarian sadya (£13.79). Translated into English as banquet, in Kerala the sadya is a variety of dishes, served on a banana leaf and usually prepared by the men of the village.
At Tharavadu, the sadya is served as a three course feast and, much to my disappointment, came on dishes, rather than on a leaf. A soup comes as the starter, which was full of classic Indian flavours, but with such a vast, unusual menu I also decided to order the mutta roast (£5.49).
One of the most popular breakfast dishes in Kerala, the dish was one of hard boiled eggs in a beautifully sweet sauce, served on a steamed appam, a pancake made with coconut milk. It was easy to understand why so many Keralans choose to start their day with the mutta roast.
The sadya impressed most during the main course, when seven chef’s special dishes were brought to the table on a platter, all with their own distinct aroma and flavour. One highlight was the beetroot and chickpea curry, a dish with a blend of flavours. First came the soft, sweet beetroot followed swiftly by a kick of heat, a simple but beautiful curry.
Other stand out dishes were the two kormas, which, like the starter, were more sweet than spicy but deliciously creamy and fragrant, and a soothing antidote to the heat of the beetroot and chickpea.
Following my lead my companion also shunned her usual orders in favour of something new. To start came the kidilan kozhi (£5.69), a chicken dish that was unexpectedly very hot but cooked and spiced to perfection. For main she chose lamb, ordering the adu cheera mappas (£10.69), a dish traditionally eaten during Keralan Easter celebrations.
Cooked with spinach in a Tharavadu special sauce, the tender lamb fell apart and melted in the mouth whilst the koon mezhukku varatty, a sautéed mushroom side, was simply divine.
My sadya banquet continued into dessert with a bowl of semiya payasam, a warm, milky pudding easily comparable to rice pudding. Flavoured with cardamom and saffron it tasted almost Christmassy, fitting considering the dish is often eaten during Kerala’s own festive season and is made for the onam festivals.
Tharavadu has only been open since 2014, but has already won a plethora of awards, including the Oliver award for Best Indian Restaurant and a recommendation in the Michelin guide. For owner Siby Rose and his staff a commitment to genuine Keralan food by chefs born and raised in the region has paved the way to a quick route to success.
Tharavadu, 7-8 Mill Hill, Leeds, LS1 5DQ
Tel: 0113 244 0500