Its very strange that mallu's who make mallu food at home still crave for mallu food and ends up eating at a mallu joint whenever possible. I am just not able to understand this. Aren't we supposed to be sick of the food we are so used to and try out different cuisines? Well i sure hope to.
On a lazy Sunday we headed to East Ham in London for lunch(border of Zone 3 and 4 and at the Eastern most end of London), which is like a mini India, South India to be precise. That's where you have all the mallu, tam, stores selling anything from Udayam coconut oil to home made dosa batter (which i consider a saving grace since i cant be bothered to grind the rice and make dosas) and the never ending line of restaurants from Saravan Bhavan to Chennai Dosa to Hyderabadi Biriyani Centres. The department stores there sell your Indian cooking utensils like the Hawkins pressure cooker, the Idli steamer, Appam kadai and even the traditional Kerala saris. Impressive i must say!
Coming back to lunch, we decided to try out the mallu restaurant (see what i mean) called Thattukada. One look at the place and you are not impressed. There is a maximum of 6 tables crammed next to each other and the pink walls do not add any sort of consolation that this place would be worth the visit. Well, i guess that's what the whole Thattukada deal is all about right? But since the Food and Hygiene license etc. need to be attained in order to run a restaurant here in UK, the place is kept relatively clean. Lunch time was busy and we had to wait a good 15 minutes to get a table. There is no concept of waiting to be seated, reservations etc. as i again imply, its literally a Thattukada and we mallu's are shameful enough to hover around a person finishing up his meal so we can probably grab his place the moment he gets up to wash his hands. Something like that happens here too, as the bill is paid at the counter after the meal and not brought to your table (we learned this only on our second visit).
The menu is elaborate for a small restaurant like this. Starters are Vada, Banana fritters (vazhakka/ethakka appam), samosa and rolls which we didn't try, as we realized it would kill our appetite. Then there are the thattu dosa's with sambar and chutney, puttu and appam ( a Syrian Christian delicacy) with a curry of your choice. The seafood section is quite exorbitant with at least 10 to 15 items (curry, fried, steamed etc.). We were four of us and so decided to order different items. We started off with a Mango Lassi, sambharam and Lime juice for the men (after which they obviously ordered our very own Kingfisher beer) followed by mussels masala and a plate of beef fry. Both were delicious and we ended up ordering more. Mains were again split between us as the quantities were decent. You can opt for the standard meals (veg or non veg accompanied with veggies, kappa, pickle and curry) and choose from fish, chicken or mutton if you are going for the non veg. Fish would be the most safest of these as we tried the other two and wasn't up to mark. Another favourite was the egg curry. I personally have never had such tasty egg curry in my life. That with the Kerala parathas are a brilliant combination and is a must try. We also tried the Prawn Biriyani and had to waste quite a bit as it was too big a portion but very very tasty. The Karimeen (pearl spot) fry was next on our list, but decided to skip since it looked very oily (yes, mallu's also have the habit of looking at the other tables and figuring out what they are having).
The meal was very fulfilling, not to mention unhealthy as the oil (that too coconut oil) is lavishly used in all the dishes. Another advantage and a very important one at that is the price. Four of us drank and ate to our hearts content and the whole bill came up to 40 odd quid, which is approx 10 per person and is not a bad deal at all as per British standards. We didn't see any desserts on the menu and so skipped it. Make sure you ask for the specials as the mussels and beef fry were not on the menu and they were the weekend specials. They also apparently have fancy stuff like quail fry and duck. Maybe next time.
If you happen to be at the east end of London, make sure you visit this Thattukada, as it is good value for money in an otherwise expensive London.