Tamatanga Leeds: Here's what I thought of the new Indian restaurant chain on The Headrow
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And while the Indian food enjoyed at Tamatanga was exemplary and there was hints of exceptional service, the lingering feeling that it was still a work in progress couldn’t be shaken off.
Tamatanga opened on The Headrow last month after the success of its sites in Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham; promising “hearty, home-style Indian food”. And based on the vast amount of people there during our Wednesday visit to the otherwise deserted city centre, it appears it’s already making its mark.
After being met with an automated voice message when calling ahead and not being able to book online on the day, we arrived in a state of hope rather than anticipation.
We were warmly greeted by the host, amid others who were banking on a table, before a brief wait. The decor features a pleasing blend of shrubbery and wooden panelling; with a colourful ceiling decoration and smatterings of banal quotations in neon across the walls (‘this must be the place’ and ‘take me to the weekend’) adding to the unique but distinctly-high-street feel of the place.
Concerns that the busyness would impact our service were tempered by our initial waitress, who gave us a thorough and passionate playout of what was available. We decided to settle on the Tamatanga thali – a recommended signature dish – and a set of chaat bombs to start.
Things only felt more promising when our chaat bombs landed not long afterwards. The savoury snacks were a delightful light bite, with the heady mix savoury and sweet exploding with flavour.
Our unblemished opinion of the place started being chipped away at as our main was returned due to it being the wrong dish – for which we received no apology – and then when the hefty Tamatanga thali did arrive (aptly described as “like an Indian tapas”) it was dropped on the table like a hot potato, leading us to have to get up and source our own side plates.
The cordial atmosphere also started to dissipate as the night went on as remonstrations between staff in front of us, other customer complaints and stern looks from management fed into the sense that all was not quite in working order.
Fortunately the thali was worth the wait. The varied assortment of dishes were all of good-if-not-great quality without reaching staggering heights.
The subtle flavours of the green lamb curry contained a herbaceous aftertaste while the meat itself was tender and rich while my friend’s curry choice – the bangin’ baigan – was an equally well balance blend of vegetables and vigorous flavouring.
The other dishes on the board – which are mixed up regularly by the chefs – included a gloopy but wholesome daal, some earthy bombay potatoes and a delightful vegetable gobi – a fresh, sweet chilli dish I’d not had before.
Tamatanga has also made a big deal of its cocktails, and like our food, my cucumber and lychee mocktail was crisp and tasty, without leaving me dumbstruck.
Full to the brim, our plates were taken and we paid for the bill (a reasonable £45) with the initial waitress we’d had, discovering that she was a seasoned staff member for Tamatanga and had been shipped up from the Midlands to help out as the company finds its feet in the north.
Inevitably things will calm down and I wouldn’t be surprised if Leeds is just the first step on its expansion into the north of England.
Address: 52-54 The Headrow, Leeds LS1 8TL
Telephone: 0113 868 7788
Opening hours: (Sun-Mon, 11.30am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11.30am-11pm)