I never expected to find an Indian afternoon tea near me, let alone one that made my mouth water as much as Urban Tandoor’s. I’ve only ever come across an Indian afternoon tea in London, but this Bristol Indian restaurant’s ‘classic’ afternoon tea is a true hidden gem.
Karis first heard about the afternoon tea on via the restaurant’s Insta account (which well worth a follow by the way; their nod to Squid Game was brilliant!). Speaking to the owner Sujith during my visit, I discovered that the idea for the Indian afternoon tea actually came about as an April Fool. Interest, however, was surprisingly high, and so what began life as a joke has in fact become a popular addition to the restaurant’s menu.
A colourful assault on the eyes – and tongue!
Urban Tandoor grabs your attention as soon as you walk through the door, with its vividly painted walls and ceilings covered in fake flowers. We were warmly greeted and taken to our table, which in a colourful nod to Covid-secure measures (the waiters also wear masks) was separated from the others by glass screens decorated with fake foxgloves and twinkly lights.
The waiting staff were friendly without being overly attentive. Straight away our waiter ran us through how the tea worked, explained we could order a wide range of extras if we wanted (you really won’t have room, but Karis did contemplate ordering a few things to take home!) and asked if we wanted tea or coffee.
Not long after he returned with our drinks, which also included a bucks fizz each. And just a few minutes later came out with a three-tiered tray of Indian afternoon tea goodies.
I particularly liked that the waiter went through each dish one by one, going into detail regarding the ingredients, and sharing some information about what be considered lesser-known dishes. He also ran through the chutneys, and helpfully for those with ‘sensitive’ tastebuds, gave us a heads up as to what were the spiciest of the options before us.
An amuse-bouche to get you started
He recommended we start at the top with a little amuse-bouche, a shot of coriander-flavoured jal-jeera topped with a puri. Jal-jeera literally translates as cumin water, and is a common, refreshing drink in India.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, having never come across it before, but I found it oddly addictive. There were tones of citrus, sour, tangy and spicy flavours that were truly bright on the tongue and really got those tastebuds firing. Boondi, which reminded me of puffed rice (but which were actually tiny fried gram flour balls) bobbed in the drink for some added texture, while the puri was perfectly balanced on the top of the shot glass. This was a small, puffed-up fried bread filled with potato and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, and was just as enjoyable as the jal-jeera (Karis dealt with hers in one mouthful, I was a bit more reserved).
Urban sandwiches and namkeens
We then moved on to the ‘urban sandwiches and namkeens’ (savoury snacks), which consisted of kasoori chicken tikka, pepper, green chutney on focaccia and mayo and curried egg mayo and cress on wholemeal sliced bread, garlic chicken tikka pakoras, onion and spinach bhajis and purple sweet potato and kidney bean tikkis. These were served along with Kara Chutney and Coriander & Mint Chutney for those who like spicy and non-spicy respectively.
The majority of these were absolutely delicious. The only thing I’d take or leave was the egg mayo sandwich, mainly because I’m not really a fan of them in general, but also because they didn’t have much of the curry flavour I expected. Karis was also a little be disappointed by the use of focaccia for the chicken tikka sandwich, but the well-balanced filling made up for it.
However, the other dishes were bursting with flavour and I just couldn’t get enough of them. My personal faves were the kasoori chicken tikka sandwich, which was very moreish (and I would definitely be keen to buy as a sandwich on its own), and the mouth-watering pakoras, which were perfectly moist and bursting with beautiful garlicky goodness.
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Scones to be proud of
They seemed a bit out of place in an Indian afternoon tea, but next up were some classic British scones. And these were scones to be proud of – these hefty beasts were some of the largest I’d seen in an afternoon tea for a while. Freshly baked, they were still just about warm when I got to them, with crisp shells and soft centres.
The scones came with clotted cream and a fruit compote, which sounds a bit standard until you taste the compote and its surprising kick. Karis was really impressed by the flavours of the compote – spicy without being overwhelming and sweet enough that it worked a treat with clotted cream. I thought I wouldn’t like the combination, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – it really, really worked!
I was very much in my happy food place by the time I’d worked my way through the delicious scone – my hunger sated, but my tastebuds eager to see what amazing flavours would be next. And so, in the name of afternoon tea lovers everywhere, I soldiered on to the urban meetha.
We started with the chocolate coated strawberries – you can’t go wrong with sweet strawberries in the contrasting bitter dark chocolate. These were obviously freshly made because if you’ve had chocolate coated strawberries before and they have sat around for half the day, the strawberry gets that over-ripe fermented taste and texture. Not enjoyable.
Next up, the rasmalai infused with saffron and topped with pistachio. This one had the texture of cottage cheese, but sweetened. It reminded Karis of Indian rice puddings she has had in the past in terms of flavour. The sprinkle of saffron on top was very strong, but after the initial taste, it moved towards the back, letting the cardamom come forward.
We, of course, saved the best for last – the gulab jamun cheesecake. There were two, which we shared. Oblong ‘doughnuts’ soaked in a fragrant sugar syrup and then stuffed with a cheesecake filling. There was a lot of cardamom in the cheesecake filling, which made Karis very happy. And they were a delight to eat.
Karis was a bit sad that the urban meetha didn’t include some of the other wonderful Indian sweets–like peda, halva, and jelebi–but it was good to try the rasmalai for the first time.
Indian Afternoon Tea in Bristol
Hand on heart, this was one of the most enjoyable afternoon teas I’ve had in a long time. It was great to find something so unique, but even better that the food didn’t just look good, it tasted great!
I would definitely return and have this all over again, and have earmarked it as somewhere to take friends when they come to visit.
However, I’m also keen to come back for an evening meal – the food tasted so fresh and flavourful that I’m eager to see how the main menu’s dishes compare.
Urban Tandor had the whole package – great food, service and also price. The Indian afternoon tea costs just £30.99 for two people, which I personally think is an amazing deal, and one I highly recommend you take advantage of.
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Our afternoon tea was complimentary for the purposes of this review. However, as always, all views are my own.