Wednesday 23 May 2007

Shapla - Alresford

First visit was on the night of the fair, big wheels, candy floss, airguns, wonky pellets, prizes weren't worth winning anyway. There was a baby in a pram, sleeping in the corner of the gallery. Don't get me wrong I enjoy fairs, full of vintage atmosphere, buzz, the whirling waltzer, dizziness, mysterious ladies in tents, 'cross your palm with silver'... sadly no freaks or exotic animals, liberal democracy, there you have it. No concessions or compromise on curry club nights, just pure indulgence. At Shapla the food kept arriving, disappearing down our throats, the house wine kept flowing in same direction, a bit of belt loosening was going on around me.

The PLACE looks like it might once have sold antique furniture/family heirlooms of various aristo families living around Alresford from the outside. Inside it had warm and cosy feel of a tea parlour.

SERVICE? Staff lined up to greet the PFCC and were genial and efficient all evening. Waiters in well cut cream suits supported the gluttony.

PRICES were and are a little above average but there’s interesting variety on offer. I guess you could get out of there (indeed you might need rolling) for £25 having sampled the more exotic new additions to the menu for 2007.

Back in November 06 the FOOD was really flavoursome. Onion Bhajis had sweet and tender innards. Pilau rice, wonderfully aromatic. The prawns in the Prawn Korai tasted sea-fresh! So often they lose their taste in among the medium spices. The Methi Gosht, a delight as was the Chicken Special. Saag Aloo with good size chunks of potato and the Cauliflower bhajee was just the best I've ever tasted. Good breads as well, plain, garlic and peshwari naans.

So I returned, lunched with my brother on the way to Winchester a few weeks later. Had very well spiced Momo (minced lamb wrapped in wonton style pastry), brother had Mixed kebab, great tasting, natural looking chicken/lamb tikka. Mains included Prawn Patia spiked with chilli, excellent but too much for Tom who kept heading to the loo to cool off (?) and a Balti Dhansak, rich, lemony and earthy. Veg included a light, crisp Bindi Bhaji.

Shapla is among the best in the county, view confirmed by a family visit in April. Latest starters Jingha Noorani, Shapla Salmon and an indian mousakka of aubergine, curried mince, curd cheese, not forgetting a wonderfully presented deep fried sea bass tail. Among the mains; a series of welcome Seafood specials, from curry outposts including the west indies, as well as 2 or 3 Halibut dishes and a royal rich Salmon Amritsar – Dad’s choice. I took on a very powerful Jalfrezi, korma tasting Saag Paneer an antedote to the green chillies and revisited the Shapla Chicken Special, an enormous serving of tikka chicken, potato chunks, pineapple hunks in a filling swamp of creamy onions. Ground red chillies drove home sister Katy’s Chicken Chilli Massala, Mum had a mud yellow Butter Chicken with subtle aftertaste of mint. To round off this feast, rice, some rather dry, crisp rotis and Pinot Grigio to moisten our mouths.

Don't like ending on sour notes but staff were abrupt and rather arrogant this occasion, unacceptable regardless of it being bustling Easter Thursday.

Experience much more positive on a quiet Wednesday in June for curry club visit. New head waiter (?). Large bubbly poppadoms, luscious lime pickle and a peppery mint sauce succeeded by a Mixed Starter chosen at the chefs discretion (see menu)! Seems we caught him on a good day too! Served generous and appetising plate of chicken/lamb tikka, sheek kebab, stuffed mushroom and onion bhaji. Food highlights were still to come however. Arrived in form of excellent Lamb Jalfrezi, sour green finger chillies stealthily creeping up the back of the throat, superb Aubergine bhaji, juicy and smokey, a ginger tinged Chicken Bhuna Balti and Rossa, roast Duck breast in a cinnamon spiced resin. Worth passing mention, a Prawn Dhansak, savoury, none to sweet with a hint of lemon and CTM, fine as a definition of the formula. As aforementioned don't like ending on sour notes - sweet sherry to finish aroused much consternation!

NB House Red, pale in colour, vinegary and lacking body.

Willp2328 Score: 8/10

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