Jonathan R Jones check out an upmarket local London curry house with a new vegan focus.
TPH (formerly The Painted Heron) is something of an institution in Chelsea. Nigella mentioned it in ‘How to Eat’ and this London local on Cheyne Walk has been a favourite of foodies for over fifteen years. But chef Yogesh Datta is taking it in a new direction, in line with the current explosion of vegan cuisine. It’s not a vegan menu – there is ethically sauced beef, succulent lamb and sustainable seafood to be had – but this is a menu where plant-based dished take centre stage.
The kitchen now uses no ghee, butter, cream, milk or any other dairy products in cooking. According to the Vegan Society, 91% of diners said that they regularly struggled to find suitable food when dining out. So it is no wonder that savvy chefs are rushing to fill that vegetable-shaped gap in the market.
Food and drink
The poppadums and home-made chutneys were a real delight and a good indicator of what was to come. Garlic, mango, and plumb pickles were light and more-ish; a far cry from the oiling offerings of your usual local curry house.
The wagu beef starter (served mixed in a sauce not quite as a chapli kebab as described on the menu) was richly spiced and the pungent, smoky sauce packed a real punch. The Josper chargrilled pawn starter came in a sweet yet sour pomegranate sauce and the accompanying salad was a real revelation; a refreshing combination of sprouting beans, pomegranate and lemon.
For mains, we tried the vegan Ayurvedic thali. It was a generous selection including black beans, bhaji, dahl, mini samosa, salad, lotus roots, naan and poppadum. And watch out for the seriously fiery cauliflower! The roast lamb leg main course was delicious if on the greasier side. It is an impressive dish, served melting with unctuous joy away from the bone.
The dessert selection plate included a surprising apple and cinnamon vegan samosa and a strongly flavoured pistachio ice cream. The real star was the galub jamum (a traditional Indian sweet) which was a super-rich, spongy, milky ball of deliciousness.
To drink, there is a good selection of beers and ciders. We went for the hoppy Meantime Pale Pale over usual suspects Cobra and Kingfisher. There’s also a range of reasonably-priced cocktails and a fair few whiskeys and bourbons to chose from should the evening lead you in that direction!
Look and vibe
Curry houses are not generally known for their interior design and I am afraid that TPH is no exception. It feels a little like a hotel lobby; although perhaps the large corporate party dining alongside us on a Wednesday night contributed to that impression. The roses in white ceramic vases on tables live up to the stereotype. But it sidesteps the flock wallpaper in favour of Rasa-style pink walls and some seriously surreal artworks (don’t miss the spooky child downstairs on the way to the loos!). But with food this good, who cares about the interior design?
Expect to pay around £43 per person for a three-course blow-out (we were seriously stuffed!) with drinks. If you don’t want to break the bank, vegan main courses are available form £9 to £15.50 and meat main courses are around £17 to £19.50.
The bottom line
This upmarket local curry house is still living up to its near-legendary status, and moving with the times with a fabulous vegan-heavy menu.
TPH is located at 112 Cheyne Walk, London SW10 0DJ.
For more information or bookings call +44 (0)20 7351 5232, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.tphofchelsea.com