‘Advert – We were invited by the team at Tawa to try some dishes from the new menu at the up and coming Hills Road restaurant. On this occasion we were not asked to pay but no conditions were given on attending. Everything written is accurate and our unbiased opinion’ For more information on our policy, click here.
After our well overdue review of Tawa the other week, I was invited back to the Cambridge station branch by Ajay to sample some of their new menu, due to start at their Hills Road restaurant. We were also given the opportunity to explore some of their core menu available at both restaurants to learn more about their ethos and what they have to offer. Needless to say, after my previous visit I was very keen to get back promptly, so I decided not to waste any time. Sean and I had a bit of trouble finding Tawa previously, so i decided to make a short video from the train station on how to get there.
For those of you who read our previous post (or have been to Tawa in the past) you will already be aware that the restaurant offers truly authentic Indian dishes that are eaten daily by real Indian people across the world. This shies away from the usual British-Indian/Bangladeshi fusion we are all familiar with and offers something rarely seen in the city (or anywhere in Cambridgeshire).
So, with a new Tawa restaurant opening only a few hundred metres away from the original restaurant, some of you may be asking, what’s the point? The answer is that Tawa on Hill Road aims to offer the same classic Tawa experience but a slightly different menu with an entirely different purpose.
Its location is the biggest clue. Hills Road is a very busy road between Addenbrookes, the Universities, and the Cambridge centre, with thousands of people pass there every day. Tawa aims to offer a ‘Tawa express’ that provides lunches, brunches, and quick food on the go without sacrificing quality or your waist band. A lot of the core menu will still be on offer and there will also be places to dine in and relax at the Hills Road branch but people will also be able to pop in and buy authentic Indian food on their way to work at the start to the day.
What I love about Tawa is its aims to be everyday food. Most restaurants serve their food very rich aimed at special occasions where you may be able to eat out a few times a week max. Tawa has a rule of thumb, where they target 600 cal or less for their dishes with an emphasis on using as little oil as possible. This is to make sure that Tawa is the sort of place you can pop by every day and still have a healthy balanced diet. In fact, the Hills Road restaurant due to open next week will only have an air fryer, with the sole purpose of making Tawa the sort of place you can pop by every day.
As I popped in I was greeted with a lassi. This is a yogurt based drink which has historically been used in the UK to calm a fiery curry but is a delicious, thick, and flavorful drink in its own right. It was presented in a really nice glass with a paper straw. I later learned that the team at Tawa have been incredibly passionate about reducing their plastic usage and have the restaurant almost entirely running without it (other than a few niche exceptions).
We started off with two versions of a popular Mumbai dish called ‘chaat’. The first of the two was the ‘vegetable samosa chaat’ which is a dish that will be available at both Tawa restaurants. This is something I have only tried a few times in my life, so I was keen to revisit it and see what a high end restaurants take on it would be.
For those of you unaware, chaat is a chickpea based dish. The chickpeas are spiced and accompanied with Greek yogurt, mint, coriander chutney and of course the iconic pomegranate seed.
The kale chaat was one of the highlights of the evening. What really sold it for me was the wonderful texture. The yogurt made it creamy, the lentils gave it volume, and the kale gave it a crispy bite. I can really see this being a great option for a light lunch to eat on the go.
Speaking of ‘on the go’, Tawa uses microwaveable boxes to contain their food. No plastic, light, easy to carry, and very convenient to reheat. This is handy for taking to work or bringing home to reheat.
Another stand out dish was the ‘Pav Bhaji’. This is going to be available at the Hills Road restaurant with the aim of being a quick and easy dish to eat on the go. Its roots also stem from the street food of Mumbai. It is essentially a thick curry served with a roll, salad, and lemon. This was one of the most exciting dishes of the evening, not just because of the taste but the great value too. The Pav Bhaji comes to not much more than a Tesco meal deal but is all fresh, balanced, and delicious food. The idea is to put the curry on the roll, sprinkle the salad on and then squirt some lemon on top for a vivid zesty flavour. Incredible!
Next up was the ‘Nargisi Kofta’, aka the scotch egg. This, of course, is an Indian take on the iconic British dish, rather than the usual British take on Indian food that many of us are used too with our Indian restaurant. This is minced lamb, green chilies, coriander leaves and cumin, all served with a locally sourced free ranged egg.
This was perfection. Many people like a very runny yolk but I have always been someone who prefers it hard boiled. There is still a slight run to it but it isn’t going to drown you like many other scotch eggs served in the city. This is exactly how I like it. There were also some crispy bits of lamb to compliment the texture which really made it pop. Top marks!
Tawa is also due to start doing chicken burgers. I have always been a huge advocate of the integrity of a burger bun for a successful burger. Many restaurants have failed this test with me but I am glad to say that Tawa has really paid attention to this detail. The bun is a locally baked, lightly spiced briosh bun with a slightly sweet flavour. It has a lovely golden colour and has the integrity to hold together anything I can fit in it.
The burger is accompanied with a chutney relish which really adds a nice flavour to the burger. Despite this, the burger did feel a little dry which can often be a problem with chicken. This however did not take away from the unique Indian take on an otherwise delicious burger that was thoughtfully thought out when preparing and was visually stunning.
Ajay was very keen to show me more of what his restaurant had to offer and was very excited to share dishes that he is clearly very passionate about. The fish curries were another great example of what makes Tawa stand out, so he brought out some small samples. In the middle was the ‘Cochin prawn curry’.
Prawns are a meat where timing is everything. The slightest moment over will turn them rubbery and slightly less will undercook them, even by a few seconds! Ajay shared with me his exact timings to get them just right. This shows the level of precision in their cooking that goes down to the very last second. This resulted in some well balanced king prawns in a lovely creamy coconut milk sauce. This is a great example of an accessible easy going dish for everyone.
The ‘Nellore fish curry’ pictured on the right is cooked with tilapia fillets. This was probably my preferred choice out of the two dishes, as it was quite meaty and had a nice sweet mango sauce. It is also a few pounds cheaper on the menu.
By this point I was absolutely bursting at the seams but Ajay kept it coming by offering me a choice of desserts. Naturally, I declined but he managed to twist my arm by offering it to me a second time. 🤣
He brought out some ‘Gulab Jamun’ which are sweet dumplings soaked in rose-flavoured syrup topped in pistachio nuts. I have had these a few times in the past and have always enjoyed them. They are a very light and gentle dessert that doesn’t bloat you out.
I was very excited to learn during my previous visit to Tawa that they had Jack’s Gelato ice cream on their menu. I was lucky enough to be able to try some this time, which was particularly exciting as I have visited Jack’s Gelato in the past and we are big fans. Even something as simple as ice cream was intensely creamy, smooth, with a very bold and prominent flavour which was almost impossible to ignore. It is also another example of how Tawa are working alongside local independent businesses.
I was lucky enough to also meet Vilas, the founder of Tawa, who was busy rushing around trying to keep the restaurant running while I was hogging Ajay’s time. It was a wonderful experience to meet them both and get to know them for an evening. I thoroughly learned a lot about what Indian cuisine has to offer as well as being reacquainted with a lot of dishes that I have not had in a very long time.
I am really looking forward to seeing the new Tawa open on Hills Road next week. I know it’s going to be a roaring success due to its authenticity, practicality, and high quality fresh ingredients. I can really see myself ordering the Pav Bhaji while on the go. I look forward to seeing what people on the Cambridge Curry Community and Cambridge Foodies think over the coming months.
Thanks for reading
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