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Tamarai Restaurant, 167 Drury Lane, London Restaurant Review

The Tamarai Restaurant showcases the finest pan Asian flavours from the culinary lexicon of Asia, from Chettinad to Burma, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. With the capacity of 110 for dining and a bar capacity of 300, this new venue is being feted as for its food and cocktails as for its trendy interiors.

167 Drury Lane
London WC2B 5PG
Tel: 020 7831 9399

If you like to combine eating really good pan-Asian food in a hedonistic atmosphere then Tamarai is somewhere to try. Located deep in a large and airy basement with black walls, low lighting, and lively pulsating music, Tamarai offers an all round sophisticated experience. This is a perfect place to combine an evening of enjoying excellent cuisine in an eclectic hip atmosphere, and if you like to get up and dance, on a Friday and Saturday night there is a chance to do just that as it metamorphoses into a uber cool nightclub. The stylish cocktail bar has a list as long as your arm of exotic sounding concoctions. We tried a house speciality - ‘Bubble Frappe’. Served in a Perspex container filled with crushed ice, this clever design revealed a vial containing the cocktail that was perfect for keeping it cold without the use of ice. Service is slick and attentive, polite without being intrusive, whilst the award winning wine list is the creation of Tim Atkin, an acclaimed Wine Master who regularly writes for ‘The Observer’ Newspaper.

However, I must pay homage to the food, which really was quite something. The menu is a chance to sample dishes from across the continent; the Head Chef is Manish Mehrotra, having apparently traveling extensively across the region to research the menu’s recipes. We began with a selection from the ‘Small Plates’ menu, sharing five dishes as is recommend between two. Sweet chili lotus root, (lotus being another word for Tamarai from which the restaurant takes its name,) came served hot crisp and crunchy almost like thick crisps and exploded onto our taste buds with a heady spicy kick. Herb tofu rolls with a cool coconut interior and a creamy flavour came with a spicy sambal sauce.

Very fresh tasting tender scallops, still with a taste of the sea about them were moist and well flavoured, soft shell crab came deep fried, with coconut flakes and a dense coconut sauce, and juicy duck spring rolls with a zingy pickled plum sauce completed the first stage of our culinary tour. To follow, there were several ‘Large Plates’ on the menu, with dishes from India, China Burma and Thailand. We tried two Thai dishes; moist boneless baby snapper served with crunchy water chestnuts, almond flakes and a touch of spice and some thinly sliced, well flavoured lemon grass pork. From the Sides menu we also tried a crisp and crunchy green bean stir fry and some perfectly cooked steamed rice.

To cool down our now nicely spiced palate we shared a mixed plate of desserts. Do try the roasted sesame and white chocolate semi freddo, (a very good, densely flavoured mousse like ice cream - divine!) served with wild berry coulis. There is also a host of sorbets and ice creams, as well as a refreshing fruit satay and amazing sounding chocolate banana spring roll with vanilla ice cream, (after this you would definitely need to get on the dance floor to burn off some of the calories).

Even though we had ploughed our way through quite a substantial meal we did not feel overloaded, just pleasantly sated, and, had it been the weekend, I’m sure the music would have lured me off my feet and onto the dance floor for a quick boogie.

Louise Elgin. September 2007.

A meal for two with wine and water is around £100.

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