Thursday 1 November 2007

Blue Cobra - North End, Portsmouth

The explosion of new ‘contemporary’ indian restaurants has reached epidemic proportions, there are 3 along Kingston-London Road for chrissakes! Saffron, Ghandi etc. All opened in last 12 months, sport trendy bars, cool furnishings, soft seats, big square plates to eat off. Fresh presentation, rejuvenation, changing perceptions of the curry house, they’ll be known as curry lounges far into the LED future if the trend continues.

Essentially Blue Cobra is as above, the PLACE is chic, SERVICE efficient and highly professional. Busy Wednesday (the norm?), 2 big parties plus several couples including my sis and I, no sweat, despite my best efforts…Almost drowned my Lamb curry in wine, replacement pulao rice arrived in blink of eye…broke stem of glass, cleaned up just like that. In fact I was probably most annoyed by my misdmeanours.House White was lovely, clear, fruit driven beauty, Gosht Kata Massala, warmly spiced in ginger with moist onions. Fortunately delicious smoky Saag Aloo salvaged completely. FOOD too good to waste, Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi smelt hot and sour, gooey Motor Paneer tasted just right in tandem. To start and finish given complimentary Poppadoms, chutney tray (NB. best Lime Pickle!), shot of Baileys cream. Nice touches extended into the kitchen. Starters: Mixed Kebab, tender Lamb Tikka in red yoghurt marinade, excellent Chicken Tikka in herby green marinade, melted cheese atop, Sheek Kebab with caramelized onions. Chott Potti, light sauce, allowing for creamy texture of chic peas. (NOTE: side salad came with Beetroot malt vinegar preserve!). If the staff weren’t so pro they’d probably be dreading my return, but they can cope with social hand grenades like me easily so I will return, soon, though not before a hair cut and a change of clothes (does white wine stain?!).

...And I did, within a week! Enjoyed tart Aloo Chat*, Chicken Green Massala, medium hot, heady concoction with coriander paste, Bhindi Dupiaza, sweet, buttery, moist, chunks of onion and Tarka Dhal tasted straight from the garlic earth. Smattering of fellow diners, nevertheless allowed to linger longer after table cleared - an hour at least.

*FACT: Chat Massala = same flavouring found in Bombay Mix

...Third visit, a quiet Monday in August (everyone’s in Spain), I notice they've received a customer excellence award over the summer. Impressed again with the food. Between discussing my annual attempt to reconcile the ‘50 greatest rock albums’, (3 Diamond Dogs – Bowie 2 Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd 1 The Queen is Dead – Smiths) I chowed on a fillet of charcoal grilled Salmon, oily and succulent, especially tasty with retained mint sauce, then a smarting Naga Chicken. Large cubes of tandoori bird flesh in a juicy, sour chilli-tomato gravy. A large helping of potato in a cheese based onion paste enriched with crushed garlic and chives was much appreciated as well.

...I like taking friends here, particularly those with a student mentality where spending money on the good things is concerned. The restaurant is an hours walk from the nearest establishment offering some student quick fix. Dave studying for a masters in Geology but he's not one for slumming it. Apropos he's also a Swansea City fan with a sense of humour - essential when your teams best player of all time is Lee 'Beer Gut' Trundle and your teams next opponents are Billarickey (yes it does exist outside popular song).

To begin he had a foot long Sheekh kebab, 2 minced lamb sausages and Makhani Chicken, fattening, butterscotchy and thick with cream - homogenous but delicious all the same. I had a stuffed pepper, charred and juicy, bulging with chicken in a coriander and green chilli paste that left the tongue tingling. This was followed by Tava Gosht. Delcious bbq lamb in a moist onion based curry, mellow, bitter and fruity with panch poran (a mix of whole cumin, fenugreek, nigella, black mustard, fennel seeds), ably supported by very dry, starchy chana massala and popcorn like pilau with red onion tarka. Happy days living as a prole in the lower middle income bracket!

In SUMMARY Blue Cobra has a fair bit over the Albert Road equivalents.

willp2328 score: 7/10

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