Those of you who read my 2019 North East Bucket List will recognise the fantastic subject of this blog post: Thali Tray – Newcastle’s first and only Indian street food and craft brewery joint! What an absolute hidden gem this is, nestled under Byker Bridge at Arch 2 Brewery, Ouseburn. My friends and I made a cracking decision when we chose to make this the first place to tick off my 2019 bucket list, and here’s why!
I thought my love for the Ouseburn Valley could not get any deeper, until I walked up Stepney Bank and found myself in a lovely little courtyard, lit by strings of exposed light bulbs and a roaring fire pit in the centre (the website states that blankets are available for ‘non-Geordies’!) This really is the last place you’d expect to find an authentic Indian street food restaurant and I think that’s part of the reason why I love it so much!
After winning the ‘People’s Choice Award’ at Wylam Brewery‘s ‘Argie Bhaji Curry Battle 3.0’ in 2018 with his street food, Josh from Thali Tray teamed up with Newcastle Brewery Ltd to come up with this fantastic concept of a craft brewery and thali house meshed into one.
With a pint of Arch 2 IPA in hand, I perused the simple yet very exciting menu. As well as some Indian-style bar snacks and small plates, there is a choice of different thali trays. I first came across this age-old style of Indian cuisine served in compartmented trays during my own travels of India back in 2013. Part of why it appeals to me so much is that I love this idea of having different tasty components to graze on. However, when the food is as good as it is at Thali Tray, it’s less a case of grazing and more a case of demolishing the entire tray!
There are three set trays: the Kashmiri Tray, Keralan Tray and Punjabi Tray, all compromising of dishes with different spice levels and a variety of meat/vegetarian and vegan components. There is also an opportunity to create a custom tray if you can’t pick just one of the regional thali trays! I opted for the Keralan Tray (£9) – it arrived on a tray very similar to that which you used to get school dinner’s on, but this was no school dinner – I was absolutely blown away by the spicing and deliciousness of each individual component:
- Nadan Chicken Curry – a medium spice curry in a wonderfully fragrant tomato, onion and coconut cream sauce. Took me straight back to South India!
- Kerala Beef – another medium spice curry consisting of melt-in-your-mouth slow-roasted beef in a masala with coconut and curry leaves. This one packs a flavourful punch!
- Choice of Onion Seed Naan or Puri Bread – I opted for the homemade naan and it was the perfect tool for scooping up the delicious curries.
- Soybean Tikka Skewer – now this was a surprise and a half! When I saw this on the menu, I sighed and wished that it could’ve been a chicken tikka skewer. As soon as I had a bite of the soybean, drizzled in yummy raita, I wondered how I could’ve been so naïve! Gorgeous little addition to the tray.
- Cardamom and Turmeric Rice – an extra fragrant kick that went really well with both curries.
- Lime Pickle, Red Onion Slices and Fresh Chillies – I always seem to avoid lime pickle on the pickle tray at an Indian restaurant, yet Thali Tray’s homemade lime pickle has converted me! Beautifully tangy, it cut through the spice of the curry and really brought the whole tray of food together.
This is the first place in the North East that I’ve heard of that serves thali and I can honestly say that it transported me straight back to the side-street cafes of India. Each component of the tray was a flavour sensation and I quite easily scranned the whole lot! Thali Tray is a truly unique place and yet another crowd-pleaser to add to the growing list of exciting places in Ouseburn.
As for me, I’ve already planned a return visit this month for a family birthday! Which tray shall I go for this time?