Thursday 31 May 2007

Full Marks (and Spencer)?

So at last, the Marks and Spencer Simply Food store has opened in Petersfield, in place of the old Somerfields shop. M&S are known for their high quality food, and it was good to see that this fairly small store has opened with a decent range of Indian dishes.

The main range has mainly chicken dishes of the sort that you'd find in a restaurant or takeaway: korma, CTM, jalfrezi and balti. Piri piri is the only recipe not seen on even the most basic menu. Other meats are represented by just lamb rogan josh and king prawn makhani. Maximum heat rating is three chillies - this feels like medium to me.

There are also some curries in the Balanced Meals section. These are a meal in a single tray, including rice, lentils, vegetables and so on. They usually work out at around 500 calories (more than a snack, certainly not a blow-out), but the only two I could see were keralan king prawn and red thai chicken curry. Both delicious, but I missed the Andhira lamb curry that has been available from other Simply Food stores.

There are several chicken curries with rice or naan outside the Balanced Meals section, including bhuna with naan, korma with pilau rice, CTM with pilau rice and CT balti with naan. Finally, there are some meals for two, and a tiny selection of Indian starters, rice and naans (including garlic).

Once or twice, when a restaurant hasn't come up to scratch, I've toyed with the idea of a Curry Club evening based on a supermarket's ready meals. Based on quality and variety of food, Sainsbury on its better nights could furnish one of these, Waitrose and M&S might just miss on variety. I have my doubts about Asda and Tesco after a couple of poor meals. Last Sunday night, a Morrisons' beef madras was superb! So maybe the ready meal Curry Club evening is a possibility, but I suspect that's not really where we want to go.

For now, I can't give M&S Simply Food full marks. They lose points for variety and price. But every dish I've tried has tasted good, and you can't beat the quality. It's a welcome addition to Petersfield's range of shops.

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