Feed Me, Leicester: Eating Everything Before We Go, the Kayal Edition

One of the lesser-known perks of having an overtly personal blog that occasionally masquerades as something useful is that you sometimes get some rather unexpected offers out of left field.

Like last week, after I finished up my rather haphazard month of attempting happiness, I randomly got an email from the guys at Momondo, a travel site of sorts, saying they wanted to take me out for dinner. Leave the Thwack with a sitter and go have a grown-ups’ night out. Tell the world what Leicester’s culinary scene has to offer. I could choose the when and where and whatnot.

Hell yeah, I shouted, stuffing Thwack into a passing taxi. Take me out! Wine me! Dine me! I’m all yours!

I hadn’t had a proper night out in nearly a year, what with being knocked up and all (proper= dirty martinis + unpasteurized goat cheese + room temperature charcuterie + no howling infant, etc).

Well, we did that last weekend, but in our exuberance (and fragile post-detox state), we discovered we were now shockingly cheap dates and couldn’t remember half of what we had eaten and the photos of the evening were blurry and odd, to say the least.

 

Barcelona

I remember this.

 

So that was a bit of a write off.

We thought we might try a slightly gentler approach for the second attempt: maybe a nice lunch in town, with a hopefully snoozy Thwack in tow. Somewhere we had been wanting to revisit in more detail after an initial set-lunch special when my parents were still here.

We went to Kayal, a lovely Keralan/South Indian place on Granby Street downtown that has a few other branches scattered around the country. They do good, light, fresh seafood, so legend has it. They don’t deal in the usual sub-continental takeaway stodge, drowned in heavy sauces and buried under a mountain of buttery naan bread, that you frequently get in Leicester.

The Hairy Bikers liked them. That was good.

Also, they have nice low ambient lighting and a good amount of pleasing white noise in the background, excellent for maintaining a snoozy baby.

 

Kayal

This is the set lunch menu, in case you were interested.

 

We started with a plate of chayakkada (tea shop) snacks- lots of crunchy things to be dipped in mango and lemon pickles or tomato chutney.

There was the mildly sweet achappam, made with rice flour, coconut, black sesame and cumin seeds, and shaped like a star or flower or (in our case) a Trivial Pursuit game piece.  And there was the poppadom’s ethereal little whisp of a sister, the pappadavada, which was made from a weightless batter of rice flour, cumin and sesame.  Crunchy little nenthraka varuthathu (AKA deep fried banana slices seasoned with turmeric). Curiously orange poppadoms made with black gram lentils and rice and cut into triangles and fried.

We had had these the last time we were there and were more than happy to revisit the land of tarted up street snacks. Kind of like ordering a sampler plate of Monster Munch or Hula Hoops in a western restaurant in Mumbai.

 

tea house snacks kayal

Ceci n’est pas un plat de doritos

 

Kayal tea crunchies

Om nom nom

 

They went very well with a cheeky midday beer.

Thwack was excellently slack in spite of our undignified crunching and slurping and exaggerated eyeball rolling.

 

thwack

Le Thwack, c’est slack!

 

And then we shared the mega melange de seafood sampler, which was a massive platter bursting with really really lovely and delicate Cochin squid rings, super light grilled spiced fish (gorgeous), kidilan konju varuthathu (spicy king prawns), and an inexplicable yet tasty lentil cake. Oh, and sambar and coconut chutney and teeny tiny cuplet of shredded fresh salad veggies.

 

kayal seafood platter

Tasty aquatic creatures!

 

 

We were slightly over ambitious and ordered two vaguely different dosas, not realizing that these were the biggest freaking dosas in the whole wide world. These were comparable in size to, say, a 2D representation of Thwacky. You could clothe a toddler in one of them easily.

If, that is, you felt that fermented lentil and rice batter crepes stuffed with a thick smear of spicy mashed potatoes were an appropriate material for children’s clothing.

I’m not here to judge. Just saying.

 

masala dosa

Masala dosa had peas in the spud

 

nair dosa

Nair dosa had a smear of butter and tangy red chutney inside, along with the explosion of mashed potato

 

Oh, and in our ambition to make it a really impressive lunch, we also ordered a lamb curry. Or, more specifically, Cheera Erachi, the chef’s signature dish according to the menu. Lamb in spinach, spices, turmeric, pleasingly spicy red and green chilies and onions and what tasted like a solid splash of coconut milk. Michael also found evidence of star anise, which was unexpected but appreciated.

 

lamb curry

Plays well with dosas.

 

We ate until we could eat no more. The dessert page of the menu was quietly pushed to the side.

 

maryanne and dosa

That was a really big bunch of dosa, y’all.

 

And then, as the last bits of dosa were stuffed into our gaping maws and the last few inches of lovely cold beer were supped, two dark eyes suddenly opened and stared, glaring. A howl rumbled up from the depths. Banshees shrieked. Kittens fainted.

The Thwacken had awoken.

Lunchtime for grownups was officially over.

 

the thwacken awakes

Um, roar?

 

Where it’s at:

Kayal Leicester

153, Granby Street
Leicester
LE1 6FE
Ph: 0116 2554667

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.