Bristol restaurant chain looks to take its “Taste of India” to cities throughout the UK
There may already be over 9,000 Indian restaurants in the UK, but a highly successful Bristol company thinks that there is room for at least 10 more as it expands its unique “Taste of India” offer to cities throughout the UK over the next five years.
The multi-award winning Thali Cafe, which has well-known chef and food writer Meera Sodha as its guest chef, believes there is a massive untapped potential for the very best of food from India… what it describes as “Cool Indian cuisine served in an authentic setting – an array of colourful and distinctive dishes taken from around the sub-Continent”.
“We aim to be a disruptive force in the casual dining marketplace,” says the company founder Jim Pizer, who started the business in 2001 serving his favourite Indian dishes from a stall at Glastonbury Festival. “We believe we are breaking the mould of outdated
perceptions of Indian food in the UK and creating an entirely new space in the ethnic casual marketplace.
“Because Indian food has been with us for so long now, it has become rather predictable. Many of the familiar favourites like Tikka Massala were actually created in this country to appeal to British tastes. Our customers are looking to experiment and try out authentic dishes.
“We’ve spent a long time going around India and searching out the very best recipes and brought them back to the UK. So, for instance, we have fish dishes from Goa, meat dishes from Rajasthan and street food from Mumbai. We encourage our customers to eat many of the dishes with their hands, allowing a deeper connection with the food that they eat.”
To enhance the dining experience, Thali Cafes are exquisitely decorated with a blend of Indian truck art, Vintage Bollywood glamour and handpainted Indian typography. “There’s no flock wallpaper to be seen,” promises Jim Pizer.
Since 2001, Thali Cafe has steadily expanded to a chain of five outlets across Bristol: the latest is a 120-seater restaurant in the historic Tobacco Factory, Southville. With an injection of venture capital behind them, they now have ten more outlets in their sights over the next five years, with top targets including Bath, Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Reading.
Bristol-based property consultants Williams Gunter Hardwick have been appointed to lead the search for locations with a lively bar and casual dining scene. “We know there’s a real appetite for authentic international cuisines,” says Director Stuart Williams, “and the Thali Cafes in Bristol have a typical customer profile of young urban professionals, who are probably well travelled and wanting to try something new.
“A surprisingly high percentage of Thali customers are female – 70% – which might be explained by the wide range of vegetarian dishes on offer and the accent on healthy, lean cuisine some of which is also gluten free. That said, many of Thali’s current customers have Indian roots and appreciate the authenticity of the dishes… which has to be the ultimate compliment.”
Williams Gunter Hardwick are looking for the cuisine hot spots in the towns and cities on their target list – with neighbours such as Wahaca, Pieminister, Comptoir and The Stable. Total space requirements will around 230-370 sq m (2,500 – 4,000 sq ft) with a minimum of 150 sq m (1,600 sq ft) on the ground floor.
More about Thali Cafes and Meera Sodha
Among its many accolades, Thali Cafe was an Observer Food Awards winner in 2010, winner of Bristol’s Best Chain in 2014 and a Radio 4 Food & Farming Award winner in 2010.
Guest chef Meera Sodha joined the group in 2015. Meera is author of “Made in India”, the top ten bestselling Indian cookbook, and a regular correspondent in the Guardian, Telegraph and Times. Nigella Lawson has described her recipes as: “wonderful, vibrant… deeply personal food… alive and authentic.”
Meera has eaten her way around the subcontinent (all in the name of research!) and her discoveries constitute specials on the Thali’s menu, representing the very best that India has to offer.