When visiting the Islington neighbourhood in which The Tamil Prince is located, it’s easy to remark upon how lovely it is. Verdant, quiet and full of fancy houses, it’s a welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of nearby Upper Street.
The pub slots in nicely in its corner spot, a stone’s throw from other local favourites like The Draper’s Arms and The Albion. Decked out in a lovely shade of green, it’s unassuming, but there’s a reason why I’m showing up at 5.30pm despite booking three weeks in advance. Thanks to some help from TikTok, the Tamil Prince has become one of north London’s hottest hangouts.
The head chef, Prince Durairaj, is an alumnus of Roti King, the no-reservations Euston restaurant (now with an outpost in Battersea Power Station) that has attained nearly mythic status as much for the queues that it attracts as the delicious Malaysian food it serves.
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The Tamil Prince aims to recreate this success with food from Duraijaj’s native south India, albeit in a different atmosphere. While Roti King is a BYOB spot with epic turnaround times, the Tamil Prince is a well-stocked pub with a busy but unhurried vibe.
Drinks and venue
While I wait for my partner to arrive, I enjoy a pint of Harbour pale ale and ponder over the accomplished cocktail menu, from which we eventually order a Spicy Margarita and a Serafin, the latter being a pear- and tequila-based drink that feels like a more refreshing Dark and Stormy.
There’s also an affordable wine list, with three bottles for under £30. On our waiter’s recommendation we opt for a £29 Primitivo, which is light, fruity and nobly carries out the difficult task of pairing well with curry.
We’re sat at bar stools next to the front door and I soon grow to love dining in this more casual section of the pub. There’s something strangely soothing about watching people stood at the bar, chatting to their mates while eating chicken lollipops (wings, frenched to make them less messy to eat – I’m unsure why they’re not on every bar snack menu).
What to eat
If you’re a curry house veteran, you’re unlikely to see many words you don’t recognise on the menu. Small plates include the aforementioned chicken lollipops, onion bhajis, a desi salad, okra fries and a beef masala uttapam. Large plates comprise a couple of curries, paneer masala, channa bhatura (chickpea masala with deep fried bread), lamb chops and king prawns.
Our beef masala turns up first, and sends my spice-intolerant partner into a fit of mania – I don’t think it’s too spicy, but it’s probably the most forgettable thing we order. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it; it’s just blown out of the water by the procession of food that follows.
Some shatteringly crunchy onion bhajis arrive next, which also have a very welcome thrum of spice. They’re accompanied by the lamb chops, which are easily the high-point of the meal. They’re not cheap, at £32 (or eight quid per chop), but they’re smothered in a charred, lip-smacking marinade, and thankfully the vibe here is informal enough that you can pick the bones up and really get stuck in. The minute my girlfriend pops down her fork, I can’t help but ask: “are you done with those?”.
Next is the curry, the breads, the rice and the chicken lollipops. The lollipops are too hot to eat when they initially arrive, but they’re so delicious that two still disappear before they manage to cool to a reasonable temperature. The curry, meanwhile, is absolutely everything you want it to be: spicy, rich, creamy and perfect for smothering onto buttery, flaky roti. The combo is so good that we barely touch the rice.
By this time, I think I’m too full for dessert, but then I hear the words “galub jamun” and have to order them. These treacly balls of dough made with milk solids, cardamom and saffron, accompanied by ice-cream, are the perfect sweetener to end our meal with.
In my opinion, the Tamil Prince is the perfect pub, with its casual but not careless, sophisticated but not snooty vibe. We arrive back home well fed and well-watered – our moods only improving when we realise it’s 9.15pm.
The Tamil Prince, 115 Hemingford Road, London N1 1BZ; thetamilprince.com
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