The Cholas, on South Clerk Street, is a place which has built up a devoted following in the few months since it opened. Armed with the knowledge that it offered a vast selection of dishes, I enlisted the help of a questing mob to help me with my deliberations.
My team comprised Patrick, visiting from Istanbul, Malcolm, who had joined previously at Origano, Michael, who quested to The Bonham, and Laura, who had been along at visits to Khushi’s and First Coast.
The Cholas’ menu of south Indian dishes is extraordinary in its diversity, encompassing a huge range of cooking styles, ingredients and flavours. It demanded careful consideration, to ensure that across our party we got a good variety of dishes to try.
Once agreed that we would try the “family dosa”, a 4ft long, thin rice and lentil flour pancake, we agreed upon starters and mains. Mike opted for the king prawns, then the lamb chettinadu; Laura the chilli idli, then the fish curry; Malcolm the king prawns and the chicken chettinadu; Patrick the mixed bhaji and the chicken nilgiri; and I chose the special fried fish and the lamb khotu.
Service was friendly throughout. Dosas aren’t the quickest items to prepare, so I was happy with the fairly steady pace of things.
Starters arrived looking rather intriguing. My special fried fish was just a simple piece of salmon, coated in batter and fried. It was quite tasty, but it felt like it was lacking an element to bring it together.
The king prawns were fairly routine, the selection of bhajis were extraordinary in their abundance, and the idli packed a good kick.
The family dosa followed, and certainly had plenty of theatre about it, delivered as it was across two plates. Sambar and other chutneys and dips accompanied it.
Hot on its heels came the mains. Mine was the standout dish. Shredded lamb and parotta (a flat bread) were brought together in a warmly spiced dish that was packed with flavour and wonderfully filling.
The other dishes were slightly more routine affairs, with the fish curry a touch underwhelming. The batura, a puffed, fried bread was interesting and provided a tasty accompaniment for trying all the various accompanying sauces.
I’m rarely tempted by dessert, but found myself hooked in by the gulab jamun, which proved to be intensely sweet. Mike and Laura shared a banana dosa, which met with their approval.
So overall, The Cholas was a very interesting restaurant experience, as the range of dishes on offer was impressive and many of the plates were full of intrigue. On the downside, the place is far from the finished article, as the quality of the execution of the dishes was not what it could have been. Of the more familiar dishes, such as the dosas, the idli, and the curries, round the table we agreed that we’d had much better in other places, most notably Tanjore.
It’s a place to which I will return, though, as I feel we barely scratched the surface of their version of south Indian cuisine. The Cholas made a compelling case for why this is a style of food that demands further attention. I hope the quality of their offering develops, over the coming months.
The questers (Malcolm, Laura, Michael, Patrick, Blythe) scored The Cholas:
3/3/3/3/3.5 out of 5 for food
4/4/3.5/3.5/3 out of 5 for presentation
3/3/3/3/3 out of 5 for setting
4/3/3/3/4 out of 5 for service
giving an overall score of 14/13/12.5/12.5/13.5/20, averaging to 13.1/20
We ate: fried chilli idli; special king prawn (2), mixed vegetable bhaji, special fried fish, lamb chittanadu, chicken chittanadu, fish curry, chicken nilgiri, lamb khotu, batura, family dosa, gulab jamun (2), banana dosa, mango kulfi
We drank: BYOB wine and lager (no corkage)
We wore: outstanding evening wear
Total bill: £92.20