Wednesday 15 August 2007

Desert Island Curry

One need not be well off or own a tarted up Ferrari to eat at Chillies...though at first glance one can't help feel an invitation might be required. The Cardiff restaurant resembles nan's front room indeed this is all it is. I'd heard about Chillies from Holly, girlfriend of Ben, bass player in my rock band. She told me she and Ben had been to a place where on Sundays Mondays you could choose anything off the menu, eat as much as you wanted for a price best described as commercial suicide.

On their visit Ben ate so much he couldn't cycle home, Holly carried him some of the way. Good old Ben, stolid as a yeoman, the boy who lived off sliced bread and beans for two weeks when the band were holed up in a recording studio near Reigate (the rest of us enjoyed bizzarre Chinese takeaway offers, 'Evening lunch', 'House of Dinner’). He's only set foot in a hotel once in his life by the way, doesn’t know what it means to be ‘served’. Comes from a big family, holiday together, first second cousins, once twice removed, step mothers, brothers, only the YHA will have them...Dad turned sixty last summer, dreamt of waking up to the sunrise on Glastonbury Tor...he was blindfolded, led to the top and surprised.

Anyhow all this emerged over a mountainous curry at Bay of Bengal. Hill walkers are pioneers, pioneers push boundaries, expand frontiers, I thought myself a hill walking curry eating pioneer, in search of new experience and adventure. Chillies had to be visited, a discovery waiting to happen, I'll be forever glad of it.

On my first visit I simply had the best curry I've ever tasted. Lamb Korci, tender pieces lamb tikka cooked with mince and potato in a thick spicy sauce. If one was forced to survive on a desert island with a revolving choice of eight meals, this would be one, if all of them went off or got swept away in a freak storm, then god willing I'd run through the sand and salvage my Lamb Korci...ummm hmmm.

I’ve been on the Hampshire curry scene for a year. Long enough to visit many a house and enjoy some delectable dishes, in themselves good enough to justify an evening out, even a spot among my desert island curries.

I’ve tasted curry nirvana at the Spice Lounge in the form of Lamb Sali Boti, barbecued meat in a medium spicy red massala, rich and sweet with tomato puree, apricots and coconut, garnished with crisp straw potato. Thrice at the Madhuban, Dhaba Gosht (chunks of Lamb in a thick cashew nut paste, creamy, nutty sweet and refined), Elaichi Gosht (tender meat, an unctuous dark brown gravy with aromatic green caradmoms, woody cinnamon flavours, sliced garlic and an exquisite buttery aftertaste) not forgetting the most superior Lamb Dhansak. Shahanaz’s Jeera Beef, Shapla’s Jalfrezi and Chicken Chilli Massala, are sure to reward a short roadtrip and why trek around Nepal when you can find brilliant Kalejo - chicken livers, deep, rich, with a lingering bittersweet relish – at the Gurkha Chautari?

I'd advise vegetarians to fill the petrol tank (with sunflower oil?) and head in the direction of Grayshott to sample the Gurkha Durbars potato based dishes, Aloo Chana (potatoes and chic peas) Aloo Tama Bodi, bamboo shoots, black eyed beans and spuds, Teel Aloo, all with lovely mountain homestyle flavour to savour. Cinnamon cook their vegetables using the tak-a-tak method, a combined technique of steaming and light stir frying with a minimum of oil, dig out on Moghlai Spinach, dreamily stirred with cream, caramelized onion, sultanas, sweet cinnamon, tempered with savoury garam massala. Appropriately Aubergine serve mean greens from Paneer Kadhai (ripe cubelets of cottage cheese bathing luxuriantly alongside small, sweet hunks of green pepper in a rich silken amber gravy) to Channa Pindi (chic peas in smooth Madras strength sauce giving a gorgeous earthy Bombay mix flavour) as well as a rather special Navratan Korma.

Heavens in here!

No comments: