Andy Mossack travels to England’s home of rugby to sample Indian fine dining at Tsaretta Spice .
Leafy Twickenham may not have much in the way of après ski, but it sure knows a thing or two about rugby. The Tsaretta brand is something of a go to staple in the rarefied winter air of legendary ski resort, Méribel, where its two restaurants have provided a warm welcome to skiers for over six years.
The two British owners, Simon Gander and Mark Pilcher, together with Head Chef Yousuf Mohammed, whose impressive credentials include Tamarind and Dishoom, are weaving more magic with their third restaurant, Tsaretta Spice. Leaving the French slopes behind for the leafy lanes of Twickenham, it’s within touching distance of the river Thames and a stone’s throw from Eel Pie Island, a name I remember very fondly from my youth.
It was a legendary music venue back then, and for the price of a bottle of beer you could watch the Rolling Stones or The Who and even a certain Rod Stewart who was just starting out singing with Long John Baldrey’s band.
These days, it’s a much fancier area, and Tsaretta Spice occupies a prime spot on the corner of pedestrianised Church Street, bedecked with Jubilee flags on the balmy Saturday evening I was there. The main restaurant area is an airy contemporary space, with a wood floor, and floor to ceiling window space allowing in plenty of natural light.
An impressive cocktail bar at the entrance welcomed me with open arms, while outside, a heated terrace area awaited those who prefer al fresco dining. I could see this was already flying in the face of your traditional local curry, not a hint of flocked wallpaper to be seen anywhere.
If I needed validation, one look at the menu confirmed it. Indian tapas sharing plates. Very on trend and spot on for the Twicker’s crowd.
I was gently persuaded to try a cocktail first and after perusing a generous and aptly named ‘tipsy list’, was guided towards a Pornstar Martini (£10.75), an absolute belter of a cocktail. Vodka, passionfruit puree, passionfruit liqueur, lime juice, a shot of prosecco and topped with half a passionfruit for good measure. Plenty of passion then, and a perfect loosener for tasting Yousuf’s imaginative dishes.
Here’s the thing about sharing plates though. They’re always guaranteed to promote a debate, and this one was no exception. Plenty of great sounding choices promoted a healthy discussion which took so long I almost had to get another Pornstar Martini. I was saved by our waiter, who, with the wisdom of Solomon, announced he was going to order for us, with an assurance we wouldn’t be disappointed.
And you know what? We weren’t.
A bowl of Punjabi fish fingers (£7.25) was first up. Tender Tilapia fillets marinated in lemon and carom seeds embraced a pot of tadka dipping mayo. Then, a brace of crunchy cauliflower floret bowls (£7.95). One called a Manchurian, which sported a crispy sweet and sour sauce, while the other offered us roasted cauliflower infused with coconut. A big hit with Mrs. M that one I can tell you.
As we were debating the merits of each of the bowls, and clearly fearing another lengthy discussion pending our lovely waiter arrived triumphantly carrying our next dish – an Avocado Bhel (£7.25). Set within a tall, stemmed cocktail glass, this really was a contender. Puffed rice, avocado and diced cucumber tossed in two chutneys – spicy tomato and tamarind – and finished off with roasted peanuts. Imaginative and creative, this was unexpectedly delicious.
The chef’s vegetarian tasting platter (£24.50) materialised next (There was also a meat and fish platter option). Aloo matar samosas, asparagus makai croquettes, crispy chilli aubergines, and onion bhajis. A mint sauce dip and a mango chutney to finish it all off.
We were nearing the home straight now but before that, a final main flourish – Goan pepper chicken fillets in a tomato, fennel, and pepper sauce (£16.95) and a pumpkin paneer – thick slabs of paneer cheese in a pumpkin and onion sauce (£8.50). the chicken was a total hit for me, a beautiful balance between taste and heat.
The encore turned out to be another triumph for Chef Yousuf. Mango Falooda (£7.50), fresh slices of mango with vermicelli, chia seeds and homemade kulfi ice-cream. A worthy end to an epic encounter.
Tsaretta Spice ticks all the boxes for an upscale and inventive contemporary Indian experience. Church Street might not have the rarefied air of Méribel about it but dine out on the terrace on a fresh night and you could always pretend. Then again Méribel doesn’t have international rugby on its doorstep does it.
Images (C) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Tsaretta Spice in Twickenham
Tsaretta Spice, 55 Church Street, Twickenham TW1 3NR
T: +44 (0) 208 892 1096 E: email@example.com
Tuesday – Friday 12 – 3pm and 5:30 – 11pm
Saturday 12 -11pm Sunday 12-9pm
Monday closed (except bank holidays)