Highcross, Leicester, UK

Indian Summer Comes to Leicester: Tamatanga Review

"An Indian summer is a name often used to describe a warm, calm spell of weather that occurs in autumn. The exact origins of the phrase are uncertain, but it is thought to have first appeared in the UK in the early 19th century. It then went on to gain widespread popularity, replacing the term 'Saint Martin's summer' which was previously used across Europe to describe pleasant weather occurring around Saint Martin's Day (11 November)." Source: The Met Office
I have fond memories of the last Indian summer that we experienced in the UK. The year was 2011 and I was in my first year at sixth form, studying for my A-levels. In late September and early October, we enjoyed glorious temperatures hovering around 25°C and sat out on the grass with our paninis at lunch times. There was something so special about that period of warmth - it felt like a real treat that wouldn't come along again in a hurry. I'd love to experience the joy of an Indian summer every year but sadly, the British weather isn't that kind to us. What is possible, however, is capturing the beauty of good weather all year round in food form. That's exactly what Leicester's newest restaurant has on offer - Tamatanga provides home cooked, street-style Indian food that will give you that summer feeling even on the dreariest of days.

Abbey seated at the Tamatanga restaurant with a Blackberry Buzz cocktail in hand

Setting and styling

Tamatanga markets itself as providing "real, homely food along with love, laughter, and laid back vibes." The restaurant certainly hits the relaxed atmosphere in terms of style. The decor is incredibly colourful, with murals covering the walls and an array of boldly painted wooden wheels hanging from the rafters. This juxtaposed with the rather more industrial steel ceiling really well and made for a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. Once inside Tamatanga, you can choose to be seated in comfortable booths by the bar, at long benches with stools, or on cosy tables. Every area of the restaurant had its little quirks with a bright and bold theme running throughout the decor. Although it's a large restaurant, it is divided up into segments which keep it feeling intimate - perfect if you're on a date or celebrating a romantic occasion. 

As for the restaurant's wider setting, Tamatanga is centrally located at Highcross, Shires Lane, LE1. This makes it incredibly convenient for shopping, parking, and other attractions. Tamatanga is already well established in Notts and Birmingham, and I'm sure it will become a firm favourite with Leicester locals too. Why? Let me elaborate - it's all down to the food and drinks, of course!

Tamatanga
Food at Tamatanga, including the Veggie Heaven and Lamb Wrap
The Amritsari fish fry dish with chutney accompaniment
A barman at Tamatanga Leicester prepares cocktails at the bar

Bottoms up! It's time for a drink

When my boyfriend and I first arrived for the Tamatanga press night, we were greeted by the lovely Gabby from Cool as Leicester and a member of the front of house team, who offered to start us off with a drink at the bar. I can never say no to a cocktail, so to learn that Tamatanga offer two-for-one cocktails daily from 12-7pm was immediately a major selling point in my book. After mulling over the extensive Drinks and Tipples menu, featuring fourteen (yes, fourteen!) gins and an equal number of tempting cocktails, I opted for the Passion Slam (£7.75) whilst the bf chose Delycheeous (£7.95). While I did enjoy the fruity burst of the Passion Slam and the fresh half of passionfruit balanced on top, once I sampled the Delycheeous, I knew I'd found a favourite. This combination of gin, lychee juice, passionfruit and pomegranate was simply sublime - so refreshing! 

We were offered a second round of drinks alongside our dinner so I picked up the cocktail menu again and selected Blackberry Buzz (£7.45). I personally couldn't taste the coconut or passionfruit puree elements of this drink but the blackberry flavour was really tasty - perfect for washing down the spices of the meal! My boyfriend tried something a little different with his food, the Argentinian Illusions Malbec (£5.85) from the wine list. This vegan-friendly red was full bodied with just the right amount of tannin to give a sumptuous but not too dry texture. It went down very easily!

Tamatanga's Chaat Bombs

Food, glorious food

Moving on to food, I'm delighted to say that I was spoiled for choice with the vegetarian and vegan options on the Tamatanga main menu. The first thing to catch my eye was the Chaat Bombs. The Tamatanga menu provided an excellent introduction to this form of Indian street dish which I'd actually never heard of before. Chaat is incredibly common in Indian sub-continent cuisine, commonly sold on roadside food stalls. All variants of chaat have a base of fried dough puris, with various other ingredients such as chickpeas, yoghurt, and tangy spices layered on top. Tamatanga's Chaat Bombs (£5.95) were served with sprouts, chickpeas, sweetened yoghurt, and pomegranate as well as being dusted with vermicelli. I really enjoyed the flavour sensations of the Chaat Bombs; the sweetness of the yoghurt and the pomegranate contrasted well with the tangy tamarind. My only complaint was that the texture was a little too wet for my taste - the yoghurt was perhaps a little too heavily applied and the crispness of the puris suffered as a result. It certainly didn't ruin the dish for me, however.

As his way of starting the meal, my boyfriend chose the Amritsari Fish Fry (£6.45) from the selection of Small Plates on the menu. Traditional Amritsari fish dishes hail from Punjab state in northern India. The region is best known for its chicken dishes, including the iconic chicken tikka, but this fried fish snack has also been a local favourite for centuries. This might surprise you given that the Punjab region doesn't have a coastline, but it does boast five rivers to keep people supplied with tasty fish. Tamatanga's take on Amritsari Fish Fry serves spiced coley fish bites with gurka roasted tomato garlic chutney. It went down a real treat with my boyfriend. He reported that the fish was perfectly crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside.

Veggie Heaven dish at Tamatanga, featuring achari broccoli

From the Clay Oven section of the menu, I selected my main dish, the Veggie Heaven (£14.95). Tamatanga chefs are expertly trained in the ways of the clay oven and boy could you tell! The Veggie Heaven dish was comprised of two paneer shashlik kebabs, one mushroom shashlik kebab and two pieces of achari broccoli. The paneer was easily the tastiest I've ever sampled - the spicy coating on the outside packed a punch on first bite but soon the mild, milky cheese inside soon quenched the fire. The achari broccoli was a real highlight too. Cooked to perfection and retaining its crunch, this was a really satisfying accompaniment. This dish was also served with a small bowl of tarka daal (perfect for dipping your broccoli into!) and a choice of rice, naan, or tama chips. As soon as I heard that garlic naan was on offer, I was sold! The naan wasn't overly heavy on garlic but had it obviously been freshly made so I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As soon as my boyfriend saw the It's A Wrap heading on the menu, his mind was made up on the main part of his meal. He's a northerner at heart and nothing makes him happier than enjoying a kebab wrap and chips. The only way to eat it is with the chips inside the wrap, or so I've been assured. Unsurprisingly, he was a big fan of his Lamb Wrap (£11.75). As with all of Tamatanga's menu offerings, the portion was generous and the meat of excellent quality. The mint and coriander chutney served with the wrap was a great cooling accompaniment to the spicy meat and fries too. His only complaint about the main course was that the chips were a little too salty for his taste.

We were looked after by the very lovely Kylie for our visit to Tamatanga and she made us feel incredibly welcome. We were never rushed for any part of the meal and she was able to speak knowledgeably about the menu and make useful recommendations. The only slight downside to the service side of things was that we weren't offered dessert or tea and coffee to round off our meal, which was a shame. This definitely wouldn't stop me from returning to Tamatanga in future or recommending it to friends. When it comes to price, Tamatanga doesn't present the best value food that Leicester has to offer but in terms of taste, it's right up there with the best. The size of the portions definitely makes up for the fact that you pay a little bit more.

The exterior of the Tamatanga restaurant at Highcross, Leicester, with the establishment's name on a big orange sign
The colourful interior of the Tamatanga restaurant with brightly coloured tables and chairs

Dining at Tamatanga: What you need to know

Food is brought out as and when it's ready, just like at restaurants such as Wagamama. I think that this is a great idea! Yes, it's informal but it means that nothing gets cold - everything is served piping hot and super fresh. Sometimes this set-up can cause worries that someone from your party will be left without a meal whilst the others are chowing down, but that wasn't an issue here. Even though Tamatanga was pretty much full on the press night that I went along, all of the dishes came out very close together, meaning that nobody was looking on dolefully whilst the others on their table tucked in.

The restaurant is ideally set up for vegans and coeliacs. Choosing a vegan or gluten free option couldn't be easier at Tamatanga. On the reverse of the normal menu, there's a clear page dedicated exclusively to vegan and GF dishes, with a huge variety of options on each. The front of house staff were also very welcoming and attentive to guests with other dietary requirements. A gentleman on the table adjacent to us had a nut allergy and the server talked him through all of the dishes that he should avoid - great service!

There's Instagrammable spots aplenty - just head upstairs! Who doesn't want to mark an enjoyable meal out with a snap to share on Insta? If you want to fill your feed with a flower wall and incredible murals, you'll find plenty of places to pose in Tamatanga! Upstairs (outside the loos) is the best place to head to - there's an amazing painting of a tiger perfect for releasing your wild side!

You'll be well kitted out for your meal. Instead of your knife, fork and napkin simply being plonked on the table, every seat in the Tamatanga restaurant comes with its own Eating Kit, a paper pocket containing everything you'll need to eat your meal, including a napkin. This was a really nice, unique touch. Happily, the paper packaging looked like it would be suitable for recycling, so no worries about excessive waste there.

Where is your favourite place for a meal out? Hit me up in the comments!

*My meal at Tamatanga was complimentary but I was not obliged to share a post on my experience.

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