Meal at Tharavadu, Leeds – Claire Vaux writes:

You might have heard it said that variety is the spice of life. Well, this lovely evening at Tharavadu restaurant on Mill Street in Leeds city centre was full of variety, spice and life. Let me explain…

Variety

I had been looking forward to this event, not only because I love curry but also because I was excited about meeting some new people and injecting something a little different into my weekly schedule. The restaurant was busy, which is always a good sign on a Thursday night! Unfortunately, this meant that there wasn’t much room for mingling, so I only got to speak to a few of the 22 attendees (the ones at my end of the table). Nonetheless, the variety of languages and the fields of expertise represented meant there was lots to talk about. In fact, our conversation ranged from fledgling romances to project management; from cycling to CPD events. There looked to be a good mix of age groups represented, too. That’s before I even begin talking about the variety of food and drink that brightened up the table throughout the evening! But perhaps that ought to wait for my next heading…

Spice

The incredibly efficient and helpful staff had made a list of our names and pre-ordered dishes, which they used when they took our drink orders. By doing so, they impressively managed to remember who was who, which made it a lot easier when they brought out the food. Being a group of linguists, I’m sure many of us would have had a good go at pronouncing the names of the dishes but I for one was unable to remember much more than the first letters of the dishes I had chosen over 24 hours previously, let alone recognise them when they were pronounced correctly by a member of staff at the restaurant (Charlotte kindly compiled and placed our orders in advance to speed things up).

Some of the dishes I spotted around the table included a tray of sauces and dips with bread and rice (see image above) and a fillet of fish wrapped up in a banana leaf (see the thing that looks like a green napkin in the image below). I also tried some of Linda’s Kadala Masala, an aromatic chick-pea and tomato dish.

The recipes used at Tharavdu originate in the Kerala region of southern India. Let me talk you through the dishes that my husband and I shared:

Vazhuthananga Curry

This excitingly named aubergine-based curry (I still have no idea how to pronounce it) had enough chilli in it to give me the sniffles but it also had aromatic coriander and it was slightly sweet, which balanced out the spice a little! We really enjoyed this dish, which was served in a metal bowl (like the ones you can see in the image below).

Vegetable Stew

The greenish sauce in this dish was similar to a classic Thai green curry, but with more of a salty flavour mixed in with the sweetness of the coconut milk. The sweet-salty combination reminded me of some Vietnamese food I tried a few years back. The Kerala cuisine dished up at this restaurant really does offer some completely different flavours to Indian restaurants representing the cuisine from other areas of India. Again, this dish was just right on our spice scale: not so mild that we forgot we were eating a curry in the first place yet not so spicy that we needed to order a soothing mango lassi and extra rice!

Lemon Rice

Sometimes rice is just a padder that fills you up and conveniently dilutes the spiciness of the curry. Not so with this rice. The lemon juice, curry leaves, mustard seeds and hint of chilli that were added to the rice gave it an attractive yellowish colour and made it tasty in its own right. This was the kind of rice that you would think twice about leaving on your plate at the end of the meal. Needless to say, there were no leftovers at our end of the table!

Karnavar Masala Dosa

Last but not least, the dosa, which was actually the first of our orders to arrive. Dosa is a sort of pancake bread that is made with fermented rice and lentils. The fermentation explains the slightly spongy, cake-like consistency of this flatbread. Ours was folded over into a semicircle shape and stuffed with mixed vegetables in a mild, tasty marinade. As the updated menu points out, this makes it gluten free. I think you can spot some dosa-tearing in the action shot below…

Life

The photos speak for themselves here really, showing the lively discussions in the life-filled restaurant. On a personal note, as I am relatively new to the life of a full-time translation professional, I also found it encouraging to speak to others who have been at it for longer or whose backgrounds are different. I was given lots of advice and encouragement and was able to share some personal thoughts on the industry. It was great to share a couple of hours of life together around some truly vibrant food. I look forward to being able to attend more YTI events this coming year – long may variety, spice and life continue!