167-169 Wardour StreetLondon W1F 8WR www.imli.co.uk
If you’re not in the income bracket that can afford to eat at Tamarind, the Michelin-starred Indian in Mayfair, you can at least afford to eat at Tamarind’s little sibling Imli in London’s Soho.
Food here is light on the pocket but also light on the stomach with plates of tapas-style dishes that offer a variety of choice for your money and the chance to share. We’ve always found it ideal for grabbing a quick bite before going on to the cinema, as the service is sharp and you don’t need to worry about being late for your date.
The same applies to lunch in these days of clock watching bosses – eat and get back to your workstation is the order of the day, ideally don’t go out at all.
Here at FP we belong to the old generation, when lunch was lunch and could sometimes last well into the evening. Even so, the idea of a snappy, healthy modern Indian lunch sounded good so we marched around the corner to Imli to try some of their new dishes.
The menu starts at £6.95 and nothing tops £11.50 (for a seafood platter) and we had tasters of a variety courtesy of Imli management.
The Tilapia Amritsari, Tilapia fish in light batter and of gram flour, garlic and paprika was very good, the fish tasty and the batter crisp and light. The spicing sparky but mild. We liked the Papdi Chat, a real reminder of Indian street food with the cooling yoghurt against the tamarind, the crunchy wheat crisps and the healthy dose of bean sprouts.
The Indian Style Shepherd’s Pie was really just Shepherd’s with a bit of spice in, but it worked and on a cold day was a good filler. More authentic was the South Indian Fish Curry that was light fish in plenty of sauce to soak up with the masala rice and the decent nan breads – not too fluffy, nicely burnt at the edges and served in attractive triangles.
Also good was Tandoori Malai Chicken, hunky bits of breast chicken marinated in cheese and coriander stems (the leaves may look pretty, but it’s the stems that have the taste and flavour). I like my chicken a bit dryer to be honest, but I think I’m in a minority on that one.
Other dishes included some Aloo Tikki Ragda, a smooth potato cake enlivened with chickpeas and the sour bite of tamarind chutney, some tandoori’d paneer cheese and a rather succulent mango basil sorbet which actually was more like ice-cream in texture.
Imli definitely offers something attractive in a minimalist modern eating environment. Built for speed, not romantic dining, it has an excellent range of small dishes at a light price that are satisfying without being bloating and still packed full of flavour.