Friday 7 September 2007

Madhuban Tandoori - Liss

THE MADHUBAN, Liss Beloved of Pat Chapman (he runs cookery courses from here and bestowed the title ‘most caring curry house’ upon it), by the listeners of Radio 2 (best curry house in the south east) and by mums GP surgery, expectations were high.

First visit I was the only customer at lunch one Wednesday. The PLACE is keeping up appearances, blue and gold abound, lush greenery sprouting from the skirting boards. Waiter pleasant and had been to Cardiff once (relevance? I went to university there), couldn’t judge the SERVICE on this visit as he had sod all to do really but on a busy Friday night I can vouch for it being speedy, bit too fast maybe.

...Yes, reading between the lines I did go back, with all the family in tow and so soon! 2 evenings later. Each occasion the FOOD was very good and value for money, competitive PRICES.
Wednesday lunch I enjoyed a super Dopiaza. Great strips of onion, a tasty medium curry gravy. Bhindi Bhajee combined beautifully with the egg and peas in my special fried rice. Friday night starters included King Prawns in pineapple shells/coconut halves, these were dull, basically bhuna KP. Chicken/potato soup to my right (dad and sister Katy) were reportedly lovely, very dainty servings though. On to the mains, brother Tom’s Chicken Tikka Massala had a deep red hue and a pleasing swirl of cream atop, Dhajeerling Chic Tikka was excellent, I only sampled it, had Lamb meatballs in a chick pea massala. This with basamati saffron rice, Aloo Gobi, robust and very filling. Still I had room for pud but were told they had no Gulab Jumans!

...Fast forward 6 months. Manchester United had won the Premier League but the FA Cup proved a step too far. Saturday May 19th. Crushed like a can of Carling at 5.30pm not even a curry could console me. Trek to the Madhuban with a heavy heart. But hey the restaurant was looking and feeling superb, buzzing, staff busy as worker bees, serving lucky family of regulars treats from the honey garden. My sis & I really enjoyed our evening. Staff were jolly, caring, the Miah brothers (owners) out front meeting, greeting those eating like long lost friends. After poppadoms & chutney tray a fine Hariyali Chicken Chat had smooth tandoori mint raita as an excellent companion, Mulligatawny Soup, gummy & yummy. Jalfrezi, hot, molten. Mouth watering finger chillies, great chunks of Chicken Tikka straight outta the tandoor, off the skewer and into my curry. Good Madras Sambar – potato, carrot, languid strips of succulent cabbage - plus Saffron rice equalled happy me. Sis had Jardaloo Sali Boti. Hulking hunks of lean Lamb in a red ragout of apricot with Bombay Aloo. Textures, flavours more or less spot on. House White = Sauvingon Blanc.

...Back from the Lake District (where we discovered Madhuban curry sauces in a Windermere butchers), off the train and in for a curry. And what a curry! Elaichi Gosht indeed! Usual excellent tender meat, an unctuous dark brown gravy with aromatic green caradmoms, woody cinnamon flavours, sliced garlic and an exquisite buttery aftertaste. Fab Channa Massala with tart reminders of lemon, fragrant saffron rice and a couple of minced chicken rissoles (Hussaini Murgh Kebab). Another very good meal.

...And so on. Logbook, Day 5 in residence at the Madhuban - from ‘the diary room’:
Tonight I made a small but delicious discovery combining green chilli pickle and mango chutney. After poppadoms came chicken tikka, oozing taste with slippery onion rings, fresh side salad, proceeded by richest curry equation. 1 Palak Gosht* + 1 Tarka Dall** over pilau rice and Keema
Naan*** = hunger assuaged 4**** several hours.

*Lamb with spinach
**thick enough to wade through, highly redolent of garlic, spring onion
*** slightly chewy
****predictive text

...On this occasion I had a better than yer average Shami Kebab, mince patties pulped together with lentils, garlic, sweet cumin powder. Next, the Madhubans version of a Rogan Gosht – gentle and fruity, plenty of fresh tomatoes, herbs – together with Saag Paneer, creamy cubes of curd cheese in a mild preparation of spinach and onions. Paan, a mixture of sunflower, fennels seeds, aniseed the ultimate palate cleanser to end. £30.15 for 2 inc. grog! The highlight, deliciously perfumed saffron rice, the lowlight, a rather abrupt waiter who almost demanded we order because the place was ‘so busy’. Just wait til Sunday 24th June thinks I, it’s the restaurants 20th birthday and everyone’s invited.

...A week into its twentieth year and the Madhuban chugs along consistently as ever. Round the square table we had Kabli Kofta Bahar - keema meatballs and chic peas, Elaichi Gosht - cardamom lamb and Dhaba Gosht - roadside lamb. The Dhaba happened to be mine and was I going to share any? No. Chunks of Lamb in a thick cashew nut paste, creamy, nutty sweet and refined. Proves good curry does not have to be hot hot hot.

...Dhaba Gosht acclaimed by friend yesterday evening; 'top 2 restaurant dishes I've had', 'why top 2?', 'can't be certain I've eaten anything better'. I was equally satisfied. King Prawns (actually Tiger Prawns just as prawns are shrimps in curry joints) in tomato onion sauce on crunchy lettuce and chewy pancake setup truly delectable Lamb Dhansak. 5 levels to the taste. Sharp hint of lemon succeeded by a sugary low, then the heady high of fresh coriander, ending with aromatic bitterness of fenugreek and a round earthy lentil flavour. Methi Sag semed like the perfect accompaniment. It was.

...I am pleased to say I now ‘have’ a table. On arrival escorted to my usual place beside an ebony black Elephant. Couple of mates with me, enjoyed a good meal on a bustling evening. Delectably sweet chicken morsels in a tikka marinade tasting like mature cheese and bread crumbs then decent Achari Lamb, infused with zesty lime and cardamoms. Chana Massala, fine but no hint of lemon as before, Pilau a little audente. Apparently the patron has a new venture. An indian restaurant on a boat in Camberley that doubles as an international darts venue!

...Several men and women (do they compete as well or just drink and shout?) sporting darts playing girths eating in the cosy confines on a crisp late November evening. Friday 7.30 pm, already filling up, service is brisk without being impolite. Simply get your order in and be confident the food will arrive in good time without a rush. My brother and I settled in for a long evening.

Starters of a quarter Tandoori Chicken, plenty of flesh underneath sharp tasting sour yoghurt crust of lemon juice, paprika and Keema Khumbi satisfied. Though easy to please Tom’s Khumbi consisted of 5 button sized mushrooms strategically placed around an overlarge salad of slippery onion that looked sat on. To follow he thoroughly enjoyed Dhaba Gosht on my recommendation and an excellent stuffed paratha, with a gooey filling of cheese and soft onion. On the plus side Jardaloo Sali Boti had grate tranches of super succulent lamb off the bone in a medium to mild stew curried with woody sweet cinnamon, fragrant indian bay leaves and dry, musky tumeric. On the down side it was ever so slightly rich but not rich enough with ground almonds and had no obvious vinegary tinge. The choice accompaniment Bombay Aloo - starchy potatoes in a tomato onion mush with hint of chilli resin - was faultless, rice too. In the end we left content, passing Saaki, still open but looking lonesome, on the way to station. Even on average form the Madhuban still eclipses the little place.

A right and proper SUMMARY would be that this restaurant is one of the very best Bangladeshis in the whole of the South.

Willp2328 Score: 8/10

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