The Tamil Prince
12 July 2022: The Tamil Prince - Heir to the desi-pub throne
It's always exciting to see a new curry house open up, especially one from the folks behind Roti King. Indeed, Tamil Prince was first brought to my attention via Tamila's instagram account, itself an East London based product of the famous Euston eatery.
Upon discovery, I immediately made a reservation to see whether it would live up to its rocking roti roots or fall flat like a pancake. Joining me were blog regulars J Spells and J Luetchie on what was a sultry July evening in North London.
The Tamil Prince is the reincarnation of The Cuckoo pub in Barnsbury. In this form, it follows a growing trend of desi-pubs emerging in the capital, albeit with a South Indian influence, rather than the traditional Punjabi.
Given its former past, it will surprise no one that from the outside The Tamil Prince looks like a pub, albeit a rather unassuming one without a clear sign. Whether this is still to come or a stylistic choice it doesn't really help one find what is a rather isolated location. In fact, understatement is seemingly the order of the day with the plain whitewashed exterior matched with an austere, yet stylish, racing green and dark wood architrave interior, giving the place an uncluttered bistro-esque feel.
On closer inspection, some gold lettering on the front window does highlight the restaurant's name, but otherwise only a glass window into the kitchen reveals this restaurant's break from its pub past.
Some hanging plants add a little more colour, but otherwise it's a fairly ordinary affair inside. Sometimes though, simple is best, and this is the case with The Tamil Prince interior; we were here for the food after all.
Starters and sides
Pulled Beef Uttapam
The diner's simplicity is reflected in the menu; a short list of small and large plates designed for sharing (think Gunpowder for comparison).
Kicking things off were a couple of deep fried delights - delectably salty okra fries with a peppery zing, and same same but different onion bhajis - the latter coming with their own uniquely spiced batter and a cooling minty sauce. Both light and crispy, and not too moist or crunchy - perfect.
Following the two finger foods was a fabulous uttapam pancake. This pizza from the east is a thick dosa with toppings, and is a dish traditional to Tamil Nadu - the chef's home region. On its spongey base was a palate warming blend of pulled beef masala, tomatoes and chillis. And, like the bhajis, the fire could be soothed with an amazing coconut chilli chutney. A must try.
Finally, we couldn't leave without sampling the signature rotis which matched their Roti King ancestors. The perfect accompaniment to the dal (see next section) and a necessary addition to any order.
All top quality and all high scoring, it's 9/10 for Starters & Sides.
For mains we had the dal makhani, chana batura and lamb chops. The former, is designated as a small plate but formed a central part of our meal alongside the aforementioned roti. Tamil Prince's take on this creamy black lentil classic is the best I've had, far better than the renowned (and, for me, disappointing) offering at Dishoom.
Also up there with the best of them was the chana batura - a dish comprising of a huge puffed puri, a side of chickpea curry and raita. The combination of the greasy bread, chana and chutney was delicious, matching favourites at Dosa n Chutney and Saravanaa Bhavan.
Finally, the pièce de résistance - the half rack of lamb chops. These four chunky chops were of the highest order, perfectly balancing moisture and flavour, in what was evidently high quality meat. No overcooking or charred ends to be found here; instead a rocket leaf garnish and further mint sauce providie the finishing touches.
Again, excellent and mouth watering food leaves it impossible not to score highly.
Service was swift, particularly with the first round of drinks offered immediately upon being seated (well, it is a pub after all). Well paced service continued with the right sequence of dishes and perfect amount of time between 'courses'. A special mention should go to the bartender who whipped up a wonderful old fashioned to end our meal, but otherwise all was as expected, in what was a busy, but ultimately relatively small and manageable restaurant.
Value for money
Prices here range quite a bit from £5 for the okra fries to £32 for the chops. Yes, you're paying for the quality of the meat, and prawns on the menu were a similar price, but comparability of prices to Gunpowder or Brigadiers seems slightly unjustified due to the out of town location. Nevertheless, it was excellent food for a pretty fair amount so a 7/10 equally seems fair.
In summary, The Tamil Prince is yet another welcome addition to London's modern Indian dining scene. For Islington residents it's a no brainer, but also worth travelling to for those from further afield. The quality of food justifies the prices, but perhaps this is one for a special occasion than a casual mid-week curry. If price is no barrier then the chops are to die for, but great satisfaction can also be found with the purse-friendlier small plates.
As mentioned, Gunpowder and Brigadiers are the lofty comparators, with The Tamil Prince comfortably sitting alongside these two established London favourites. Such noteworthy bedfellows and a very high score of 39/50 says it all really - highly recommended.
Read our review of Roti King here
Address: 115 Hemingford Rd, London N1 1BZ
Cuisine: South Indian
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Unassuming desi-pub -style restaurant in the heart of residential Islington