British Asia News Network
Thai inspiration mixed with Indian flavours bring irresistible tastes to Greenwich
A new restaurant launched recently in Greenwich has been the hot topic of discussion in several ladies’ groups on WhatsApp and Snapchat. The foodie vegetarians have been swearing by the chilly paneer and many culinary aficionados were dropping in from quite far-away postcodes to try it – posting pictures and giving elaborate descriptions. I thought it was too much ado over cottage cheese and ignored it.
Soon the non-vegetarians followed suit, raving over Indo-Chinese food, a complete banal street food sold galore (often in open carts) in Indian cities; and a big hit among students and young professionals living on a tight budget. But the difference with this restaurant was the customising of good and fresh quality ingredients without losing that raunchy edge.
Having spent years foraging the street stalls in India to avoid bland hostel food, it was hard to resist the temptations of tasting this in the heart of London to bring back memories and flavours from the past.
The menu clearly said Thai and Chinese, but I could smell my Indian roots somewhere. So I decided to drop in for a meal to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a Sunday and we were lucky enough to meet the proprietors, (and find my Indian roots) brothers Kumar Sunil and Executive Chef Bhola Prasad who had opened shop in Toomai Square.
Executive Chef Bhola Prasad (left) with Kumar Sunil
They coined the name “Toomai” from a short Indian story about a young elephant. The revelation of starting Toomai Square came from a visit to Thailand. Witnessing the thousand-hand Guan Yin performance which emulates the abilities to render assistance, learning the folklore and myths of the Himmapan forest and its hybrid animals gave them the perfect visual representation for Toomai Square.
The brothers grew up in the North East part of India, where influences of South-East Asian food like Vietnamese, Thai, Tibetan, and Chinese is quite prodigious. The Chef combined Chinese cooking styles with Indian flavours and Thai exotic ingredients to get that clever combination which instantly appeals to the palette. Greenwich is the first branch opened by the brothers after their successful launch of the first Toomai Square in Lambarde Square with another partner.
Executive Chef Bhola Prasad was a Senior Chef at one of the famed-for-good-food five-star hotels in Kolkata, India – Hotel Hindustan International, lovingly called the HHI. He was poached by some top-notch Indian restaurants in UK where he worked during his initial years before venturing out on his own.
The extremely humble and approachable Chef was down-to-earth when he said that although his food was greatly appreciated by many celebrities, he did not recognise most of them.
“I’ve taken pictures with cricketers and Bollywood personalities who wanted to meet the Chef after enjoying their meal at the restaurant, but I couldn’t recognise many Hollywood actors and musicians. I just went with the flow and took some pictures with them,” he laughed honestly when I asked if he could share some pictures with us if I was to write a story on his food and journey.
And this simplicity and honesty gets reflected in the food. The ingredients are sourced directly from Thailand, China, and India. Starting with some classic Edamame beans, to a spicy honey-glazed chili veg served with honey-grazed green chillies, a fresh portion of Thai calamari, spicy chilli paneer or spicy chicken drumsticks, the flavours, freshly-made sauces and the taste hits your buds.
The mains were amazing too, with the yellow Lobster curry, Chicken Manchurian to Black Cod with ginger, shiitake mushrooms and some slow-cooked lamb curry in coconut milk and peanut (probably Thai) that melted in the mouth.
I tried a coconut lassi, that was fabulous, but my friends loved the mango lassi too.
Our Austrian birthday girl went bonkers with the chilli paneer, swearing that she would turn vegetarian if it could taste so good. She packed some for her lunch the following day.
The famed Chilli Paneer
I felt happy after the meal, and for the unique initiative by the brothers, made so affordable. The bill was around £50 for two, and we ate till we burst from our seams. Bhola Prasad, the Executive Chef shared, “in our family, stories have always been shared over a good meal. Through Toomai Square we want to share not just our heritage and food with our patrons but also our journey and story. We want Toomai Square to be an experience they won’t regret and definitely won’t forget.”