The Tamil Prince, Islington: 'An Idea You Can easily Get Behind'
It's the kind of place you could come back to again, and again, and again...
Lead Image: The Tamil Prince
I arrived at The Tamil Prince hot and flustered. It was a warm, muggy evening and I was running late; I had been peddling as fast as I could to make the booking.
Being painful conscious of the various trickles and beads of perspiration forming on my hairline and upper lip, I was a little apprehensive about the idea of sitting inside a crowded restaurant sweating over a curry.
Turns out I needn't have been as the meal I was about to get stuck into was the kind of simple pleasure that takes you away from superficial woes.
Found on the corner of two Islington backstreets, The Tamil Prince opened its doors at the back end of June, and it is an idea you can easily get behind.
Part British boozer, part Indian restaurant, the venue is a laidback neighbourhood restaurant combining the comfort of a pub and warmth of Indian food - a winning marriage on all accounts.
Created by ex-Roti King team, namely chef Prince Durairaj and Glen Leeson, the kitchen serves up southern Indian fare in an unpretentious setting.
The dining room reminded me of the share house you wanted to live in in your 20s styled out for an occasion dinner - casually stylish, bareboned but welcoming with place settings laid out and the good glasses in use.
We were perched up along the counter, which was prime people watching position.
Not at the actual bar as one might expect, the counter overlooks the row of outside seating and the Islington's back streets beyond - you get to check out what people are eating and drinking with ease while rubbernecking over Islington locals doing their thing.
The drinks list has a short but solid selection of craft beers, wines, cocktails and spritzes that I greedily eyed over while downing a pint of iced water.
I decided I was going to try a Serafin - a sharp and refreshing tequila and ginger ale cocktail with a touch of pear - as I waited for my friend, who also arrived in a heat-induced flap.
The food menu, much like the venue, is compact but done well.
Designed for sharing, it is made up of mains and sides and picky bits that add up to a smattering of textures, and full bodied flavours with the mildest of heat.
The first of the dishes began to arrive.
The bright desi salad, made with carrot slivers, radish discs and pomegranate seeds, was full of crunch and zing.
The colourful plate came alongside okra fries. Although I didn't expect the okra to arrive at the table all jammy and gross, if you've been stung once by a poorly cooked okra finger, you will always reserve a small amount of fear for the sight of it on a menu.
But again, I needn't have been apprehensive as they were fab.
The roughly chopped okra twigs were covered in a tempura-like batter made with gram flour and 12 spices - too many to remember, too may to discern - the result of which was the earthy familiarity you seek out when reaching for a comfort food.
Next, the grilled tiger prawns - Good lord. They were huge. As long as my hand and meaty, the hefty crustaceans were covered in a garlicky masala spice rub that clung to your fingers and the inside of your mouth as much as it did to the prawn itself.
This was served alongside a buttery roti wheel, a creamy rich dahl makhani stew and a bowl of paneer butter masala that saw the blocks of cheese swimming in a pool of thick sauce.
We skipped desserts, although they did look good, and went for a boozy note to end the meal on. This time I went for a Gin Collins to refresh and revive me before getting back on my bike to peddle myself home on this particularly balmy night.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 12pm-11pm; Saturday 11am-11pm; Sunday 11am-10.30pm
Address: 15 Hemingford Road N1 1BZ