A decade of the best Indian food – celebrating the best award-winning curries with Tharavadu in Leeds

When Tharavadu burst onto the scene in Leeds city centre in 2014 it sparked a new wave of high-end restaurants and changed the experience of Asian food for generations.

Yorkshire folk have long embraced the curry as part of the county’s culture – albeit with a very anglo-Asian flavour – and we’ve welcomed a little spice in our lives.

But when Tharavadu opened its doors in May 2014 it had no idea of the impact it would make on the city’s curry-scene locally and nationally.

Having gathered a string of top accolades over the past decade the plaudits just keep coming, and this year it has already been rated one of the top 100 restaurants in the UK for 2024 by Square meal.

It has won four of its last six nominations in the cove ted Oliver Awards, run by us here at the Yorkshire Evening Post – but voted on by you, our readers. It is the record holder for winning the Best Indian category three years in a row.

Tharavadu , on Mill Hill, boasts a number of accolades over the past seven years, including Best Indian Restaurant in the Oliver Awards for three years running. It was also the only Indian restaurant in Leeds to be included in the 2019 Michelin Restaurant Guide.

Its exceptional cuisine is unlike anything you will find in many mainstream Indian restaurants. Here the flavours of traditional Keralan cooking are brought to life in the hands of chefs who have learned their craft back in Kerala.

It was the first authentic Kerala Restaurant in Leeds but quickly became a favourite dining spot in the region. Tharavadu entered in to the top 10 restaurants in Leeds on TripAdvisor, within the first week of opening.

Director Siby Jose recalls those early days.

“We started as a small 60 cover restaurant and from the very first day were so busy we were turning away more people than we were serving,” he says. Thinking it may just be a “flash in the pan” – the excitement of something new to the dining scene, they embraced the interest and continued to keep serving as many customers as they could, without compromising on quality.

“We just kept things low profile, and thought we’d see how things were in a couple of months.”

But six months later, when every day there were queues out of the door and a waiting list of months to book a table, they had to think about expansion.

Opening a second venue was ruled out, Silby explains. “That would have meant splitting the team, which we didn’t want to do.” The focus, he says, has always been on quality and authenticity, and both the great food and atmosphere was part of the success story at the Mill Hill premises, which lies close to Leeds Railway Station off Bishopsgate Street.

So, they expanded into the first floor of the restaurant and by 2018 had 140 covers. Even so Friday and Saturday nights are still often booked up weeks in advance with both new and repeat diners.

“It’s been an exciting journey,” says Silby. “Even in Covid times we were able to keep going with takeaways. Leeds accepted us with open arms when we started and every year proves to be better than the previous year.”

Quality First

“Whatever happens the quality of the food is paramount,” he says. “We have people who move away but when they come back to Leeds they come and eat with us and tell us the food is just as great as they remembered it.”

Although the menu changes, some signature dishes remain on the menu and the chefs are dedicated to keeping them of the same high quality and consistency that has won the restaurant so many accolades.

Snacks to start with such as Uzhunna Vada, cruncy south-Indian lentil doughnuts make the perfect appetiser, or transport yourself to the cherai beach shacks of Cochin with the deep-fried squid rings.

Dosa are a light, delicious breakfast dish in south India and a street-food favourite. These gluten-free pancakes, made from a rice and lentil batter, are loaded with a dazzling array of savoury fillings all aromatically spiced. Kerela kozhi curry is a succulent tender chicken curry, which diners agree beats chicken tikka masala hands-down!

With so many meat, fish and vegetarian options on the menu the only difficulty will be in making your final decision! The restaurant is fully licenced and the food that is served is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat – you’ll find dome-shaped dosa, or fish steamed on dark green leaves which will give you a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. And with friendly service guaranteed, great value, and plenty of both lunch and dinner options it’s easy to see Tharavadu going from strength to strength for another 10 years.

Favourite with the famous

Not only is it the go-to place for Leeds’ curry aficionados but its fame has spread into the world of celebrities and it has become a hot-spot for some very well-known names and faces, including British actor Simon Pegg, US actor Christopher Lloy, as well as former Indian Cricket Captain Virat Kohli and his wife Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, and players from the New Zealand, Sri Lankan and Indian Cricket Teams who have all sat down to pre- or post-match dinners when they’ve been at Headingley.

Read more, check out the menus and book a table at Tharavadu.


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