Friday 9 November 2007

Saaki - Liss

Alas I am no Columbus! This week t’was my intention to explore uncharted territory, to The Agra Tandoori in Havant but on Wednesday eve I ended up in Liss. Saaki, on the banks of the River Rother, once a foaming torrent now a quiet trickle. Inside the PLACE resembles a Mogul marquee, rich maroon, an enormous glass chandelier suspended from the tented ceiling.

‘Success runs in the family’ announces the menu. One illustrious relative, ‘a man of many parts’ opened the first indian restaurant in Britain before Waterloo then became shampooing surgeon (chief hairdresser or carpet cleaner?) to royalty no less! Yes, the restaurant had between 20 and 30 diners ably supported by 2 waiters, presumably heirs to Sake Dean Mahomet. SERVICE allowed for my companion and I to enjoy a slow relaxed evening out. At the end, we slipped away into the night with a takeaway menu as a keepsake only to find on 2nd glance we could have got £5 off our £30 bill! However, I was spared going back 3 years, building a time machine etc.. on 3rd glance the offer expired October 31st 2003 and why bother? PRICES are such a 4 course meal comes to £15.

Our FOOD consisted of a stuffed Pepper and a delicious savoury Lamb Kebab wrapped in a Chapati followed by Prawn Patia, which caused a highly satisfying bitchy chilli kick at the back of the throat and an average Chicken Tikka Dupiaza. The best dish, ‘Misti Lou’, not a dewy eyed prostitute but a gorgeous Pumpkin bhaji.

...A year later I find Saaki apparently revitalised, now boasting a smart website and an up to date takeaway menu featuring some new dishes also available to eat in, just as well for Rich, Aaran and I. A long temper is needed, the on duty waiter (just one this time) strolls around, chefs cook and serve. Still everyone was happy.

Happier when our meal arrived of course, perfectly content with big lumps of tart, spicy Chicken Tikka glazed with a camel brown crust. Aaran likes Aloo Chat and he loved Saaki’s version most. Curries were better than in November 2006. On the table a hot creamy Kazana. Good quality cuts of chicken breast smothered in a dark orange sauce pleasantly fragrant with cinnamon, mild sweet cardamom, thickened with almond flour and coconut, blended with hot green chillies. Lamb Saag, touch gloopy but holding distinct flavours of cumin enriched creamed spinach, fenugreek and coriander. As well as Chicken Dhansak. A hearty mix with pleasing afterkick though perhaps too redolent of chilli powder. Pilau was tasty enough to come through and complimented the Kazana beautifully and helped support side dish of Mita Aloo. Diced sweet potato whipped up into a light, fluffy, creamy treat.

...Revisiting my write up on the above visit I am faintly embarassed by its naive optimism after a pitiable curry club meal. Only 7 days seperated the 2 but there was a world of difference in experience. Perhaps success has run out of the family to paraphrase the menu. Never seen as many glum faces around a dinner table since the last supper. Just as well no other diners endured Saakis labours.

Things began in uninspired fashion and got worse. On the starter platter: an eruption of lettuce leaves hiding small and chewy Onion Bhajias, Garlic Mushrooms with tomato ketchup sauce as well as Aubergine slices, tasting of oil and lemon juice. Sloppy but just about passable for restaurant food. Another 10 minutes and we were served the mains. Oh dear. Aforementioned Lamb Kazana was ok but the pilau rice had more flavour than a bizarrely titled Fresco King Prawn. Korai and Madras curries were terrible. The former with scraggy lumps of chicken, insipid except for saturated coriander leaf, the latter, yellow in colour, showing a complete absence of paprika, cinnamon, tomato puree, fresh tomatoes, nothing but chicken stock in a watery gravy astringent with chilli powder. Bombay Aloo, alais "spicy potatoes" barely registered on the palate. Although I've had worse pumpkin and mix vegetable dishes elsewhere both looked jaundiced.

In SUMMARY after possibly the worst indian food in memory I could never return to Saaki confident of a decent meal. Its hard to reconcile the PfCC meet with previous visits. Except to say unlike the décor the cooking isn’t fit for royalty. Nonetheless, there aren’t many curry houses adopting their laid back approach to dining and mores the pity, I like this at least!

willp2328 score: 4/10

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