Wednesday 31 December 2008

Aubergine - Southsea, 30/12/08

'Time is like a Jet plane, it moves too fast', wrote Bob Dylan and he is sooo right! Hadn't seen Same properly in a year, life had simply moved on before we knew it...At least we're still young. We can still navigate the new fangled club scene and eat a mountain of curry, no sweat - especially after an afternoon of breaking up wood and killing poison ivy.

The tikka at Aubergine remains delicious and the lamb chops too, Sam gnawed all the flesh off the bone with the relish of a blood hound. He also enjoyed Urbisi Murgh, chicken with buttery rana beans in a tangy, tomato based curry sauce, while I tucked in to Hariali Machli. Meaty white river fish in a delicious minty spinach-green puree with a hint of diary and a lift from fresh chillies. Attractive and tasty pilau with whole spices as well as a dainty serving of Chana Pindi: creamy chick peas, lightly covered in a rich, roasty gravy, rounded off another fine meal.

The restaurant was the only place with business in the festive limbo between Christmas and New Year. No wonder, it is the best on Albert Road and in Portsmouth. Not just the praiseworthy food with a difference but the professional service and cosy setting make it a place to visit.

FOOD (& DRINK): 4.5

Willp2328 score: 8.5/10

Tuesday 23 December 2008

King Cobra - Southsea

Searching through my man draw I came across several old AA batteries, instructions for assorted gadgets long since dead, a wooden puzzle (the kind you get from distant relatives for Xmas when you're too old for a Cadbury's variety pack) and various inkless biros, before finding the takeaway menus.

A boy's look revealed I was highly familiar with most restaurants in Southsea - just as well three or four new curry houses have sprung up in the last six months. One of these is King Cobra, round the bend from the Kings Theatre and hard to miss by virtue of it's dayglo frontage.

I began with benchmark Chicken Tikka, tasty, well textured flesh, which might have benefited from a slightly more piquant marinade and better presentation. Tim's mixed starter rather crowded onto his plate.

My main dishes included Darjeeling Lamb, savoury with a leafy-tea-tasting mixture of fenugreek and coriander, underscored with woody cinnamon bark, few too many curry leaves; Chana Sag, a perfectly acceptable preperation of spinach and chick peas and perfumed pilau.

Overall the meal was fair, but on Albert Road there is so much competition. Every local has a different favourite which they visit time again and it will take more than the giant black and orange neon cobra out front for the place to attract a loyal customer base.


Willp2328 score: 6/10

Sunday 21 December 2008

Spice Quarter - Cardiff, 20/12/08

Travelling between Fratton and Cardiff on Worst Great Western’s Express Service is depressing. The carriages haven’t been cleaned inside or out for…since they rolled out of the yard all pristine and new roundabout 1996 (!?)…and there are only two. Two for a journey that takes in at least ten major cities and towns. Packed in like the proverbial sardine for a truly sluggish journey that seems to last half a lifetime is an experience I will never repeat, I’d sooner go via Guildford and Reading. Last weekend I did and despite two changes I arrived clean and content, in the same time, with no unscheduled stops for the residents of Bramley Hedge or Farthing Wood.

I thought I’d write another report on the Spice Quarter simply because I doubt there is a better Indian in Wales and I ate there again Saturday evening.

Such an opulent dining room, quiet, professional service and the food from the state of the art open kitchen! It has the same intensity and diversity of flavours the accomplished curry chef can achieve at home.

Three delicious Lamb patties with diced apricots were fatty, fruity and sweet, just right and not overpriced at £6. A Chicken Karai, Punjabi country fare, had such a robust, concentrated taste: tangy garlic, zingy coriander seeds in a rich tomato puree with beautifully charred green peppers and big, moist chunks of onion - wonderful! Accompaniments not quite so good but above par all the same, included pilau, buttery and plentiful, and, Jeera Aloo, floury potatoes, margarine and subtle hints of earthy cumin. Kev had, on my recommendation, the Saag, a wonderful blend of savoury spinach and fenugreek with a brilliant, lingering, bitter sweetness of cloves.

Despite huge portions, the cooking and presentation underline the fact the restaurant is really quite classy, a rare quality in the Cardiff area. If I lived here the place would seem rather like an Oasis in a culinary desert.


Willp2328score: 9/10 (still!)

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Spice Lounge, Petersfield

Great food, thin turnout: 10 main dishes for 10 people - achari lamb, lamb shatkoora, Gurkha chicken (not quite as tasted in Liphook or Grayshott), (ayre) fish bhuna, prawn balti, garlic chilli chicken, chicken jalfrezi, hot prawn dhansak, chicken chilli massala, and one more that didn't make it to my end of the table.

Spice Lounge were very hospitable, we had a great evening, the food was good - just fewer attended than we might have expected for a Petersfield venue. Maybe too many of us were credit crunched. This was our lowest December turnout since 2003 when only seven made it to the pre-rebuilding Madhuban.

Christmas is coming - do your online shopping

Some good news: Amazon shopping paid off. £10 went into the kitty from earnings from our Amazon shop, based on purchases in September. You can click here for the Petersfield Curry Club shop or if you look to the right of this blog, you'll see an Amazon advert. If you click through either of these on and then buy something (books, electronics, DVDs, CDs, etc.), you should earn some commission for the Petersfield Curry Club. This can make the drinks bill look a little better in three months time - whatever Gordon Brown fouls up next while trying "to save the world" (as he foolishly boasted at today's Prime Minister's Questions).

Sunday 7 December 2008

Giraffe - London, SE1

Giraffe are really a chain of international joints though they serve curry in various guises. As well as being World Music themed restaurants - 'guaranteed to make you feel good' (substitute 'good' for 'bored') - they are terrible (namely the one on the south bank).

The kitchen is staffed by Bouzouki virtuoso's, sadly incapable of culinary genius. Cooking meat properly would be a start, and why not employ a sous chef to prep some veg, top AND tail beans and wash and chop the coriander?

Everything about my Vietnamese curry was wrong. The price (£8.95), the rice, still a little crunchy, the pinkish rubbery chicken, the bland frozen tiger prawns, the soapy, sloppy coconut and lime sauce and the aforementioned greens, lobbed on top to finish a disgusting dish. Undoubtably the worst I've had in a couple of years.

Did I complain? Did I ever! (I didn't)


Willp2328 score: 3/10

*2 whole points for Yuri and his genial American company!

Thursday 4 December 2008

Salaam Namaste - London, WC1

Apparently a common perception of the English is that we like to complain a lot. At the weather, at our banks, at our sports teams, at our pets (that is why Dogs are so popular: great, dum and furry, yet animate enough to give the impression they are listening - try moaning to a plant pot, you soon realise it's a futile exercise and may appear quite mad). I try not to whinge, oh how I try, it's boring when others do it, but sometimes you feel justified.

Wednesday was such a time. After having enjoyed a pretty good meal - slightly dry chicken tikka in a sweety, nutty cashew paste; gosht zardaloo, a toothsome stew, fruity with apricots; a great, tangy aubergine side and sour, creamy dal makini - I found myself knee deep in farce.

The bill arrived, £666! Spelt trouble. Last minute absentees meant our party of 23 was 18, but the manager wanted to charge us for their food - £19.95 a head. Restaurant policy or not, it wasn't made clear at all to me when making the reservation, a reservation he had already moved back to 7.30 from the original time of 6.30pm. I was a little trousered, trolleyed, lamp shaded, whatever else the upper classes say, and quite indignant. There was a strong temptation to get up, exclaim 'I said Good Day!' and leave, threatening to return and buy the place and make drastic changes, made even stronger by the manager, who all but accused us (I was not alone in my incredulity anymore) of being prejudice against Indian's and Indian restaurants. 'This would not have happened in Claridge's' he said, damn right I thought.

The whole incident was resolved by us agreeing to pay for five who never set foot inside the place, but declining to pay the discretionary service charge. This was a shame in a sense, as the waiting staff had, in truth, been pretty good, sadly their boss is a naughty boy. It certainly left a bad taste in the mouth, spoiling the end of a fun evening. I had problems with Salaam Namaste in the summer over a telephone booking they failed to honour. In terms of customer relations they must do better!


Willp2328 score: 5/10

Monday 17 November 2008

Mirchi Masala - London, E1

Now a 6 strong London chain of fast food cafe outlets dispensing fresh and flavourful North Indian fare, the restaurant interiors resemble Macdonalds, at least the Commercial Road branch does (though the similarities end there). No spotty, pizza faced teenagers serving, no shouty jeenagers eating, service quick, polite and efficient.

This time I enjoyed Methi Chicken, bitter with cloves, fiery with black peppercorns and filling, Masala Baigan, a gorgeous, treacley vegetable mush and pilau rice - lacking aroma - but pleasantly moist nonetheless.

For a quick fix, the restaurants are ideal; they offer all the romance of an airport lounge. Prices aren't as bangla for your buck as one might assume, equally one won't feel forced to buy the credit-crunch busting Daily Star next morning, to 'read' or use as toilet paper. Mirchi Masala is reliable. Certainty is fast becoming a comodity worth buying into.


Willp2328 score: 7/10

Thursday 13 November 2008

Gurkha Chautari - 12th November 2008

We had a small (8) but enthusiastic turnout for the November Curry Club meeting on Wednesday 12th. Our usual scribe sent his apologies, so you have the benefit of my ramblings instead.

The Gurkha Chautari was as welcoming as ever, and as is our custom, we asked them to choose the menu for the evening - and not to forget the chicken livers (bhuteko kalejo). We weren't disappointed - excellent mixed starter with a double portion of chicken livers, plus momo (lamb dumplings), potato cakes, and choyla.

The main courses comprised a selection - Nepalese chicken, lamb in a spicy sauce, sizzling chicken tikka, hot battered chicken, jeera aloo, bamboo shoots in black bean suace, and a variety of rice, naans and other vegetables. Everyone enjoyed the choice - little was left over.

House wines were a Merlot and a Pinot Grigio - both very drinkable. We raised our glasses to two members who passed away recently: Tony Luff, former landlord of the Queen's Head at Sheet, and Rugby Club and Curry Club stalwart had suffered a long illness with amazing fortitude. Tony Stocks was a friend of several Curry Club members but due to work commitments had only been to one meeting. His sudden passing was a shock to us all.

Monday 10 November 2008

Lahore Kebab House - London E1

As busy and noisy a transport caf as I've ever been in on a damp Monday night. LKH has a reputation stretching beyond Shadwell. The clientel is predominantly Asian too, a good sign, according to your average foodie. So too the side street location - 'off the beaten track, harder to find, no compromises made for tourists', don't you just loath them! And the great open kitchen? 'No short cuts being taken'!

Nevertheless, food (Pakistani) arrives all in a rush. Crisp Poppadoms, with sonorous slightly runny mango jam, mint raitha were only just being cracked before starters of spicy orange morsels of char grilled chicken tikka and slightly gristly rolled sheekh kebab turned up. The Mains weren't going to wait either. Salty, bold Lamb Sag, sour with green chillies, leafy with coriander. Chana Masala, big fat creamy chick peas in a light tomato soupy sauce, tangy and slightly hot. A veritable mound of soft, fluffy, popcorny rice, a very garlicky Naan and two milky, light, sweet and frothy lassis.

All in all we (Mikey was there too) got absolutely stuffed (very generous portions) for £42, a sum which might seem astronomical when the credit crunch, a silent asteroid heading for a blind date with earth, hits, but seems fine in these salient days.


Willp2328: 7/10

Monday 3 November 2008

Tandoori Lane - London SW6

Convenience food has a bad name. We are constantly persuaded in nu-wave MBS lit to forego oily curries, msg loaded chinese, pork pies, monkey burgers, cancer causing sausages, battery chickens, tinned veggies - what can Brits eat these days without feeling guilty? Even in the cinema, previously a refuge for gluttony, adverts showing the calorific nature of most of the stuff on sale in the foyer are broadcast on a loop, before the main feature. However, as I recently discovered, there is such a thing as a healthy takeaway!

Tandoori Lane is in the Harden's restaurant guide - a small, yet rather popular local curry house in the wealthy, suburban haven of Fulham. It serves 'the best vegetable korma' among other keenly priced delights. Our takeaway dishes were clean and light, yes! a remarkable thing; far too many are cloying and greasy, overwhelming any subtle flavours. Jeera Chicken contained gorgeous succulent, eggy hunks of thigh in a delicate tomato orange gravy with julienne root ginger and the unmistakable flavour of toasty cumin seeds. A spinach bhajee was a smooth, juicy, puree, possessing a moreish iron-rich taste while the pilau proved equally tasty with a salty bite and gentle aroma from bittersweet cardamom and cloves. All round, impressive. No wonder it's a local favourite.

SERVICE: 4 (half an hour)
AMBIENCE: 5 (cosy, front room, Neil Young on the stereo)
VALUE: 4 (change out of a tenner for my part)

Willp2328 score: 8/10

Other 'healthy' takeaways can be found at the Indian Vegetarian Studio, Cardiff.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Spice Lounge - Petersfield: Why so special?

The worth of the Spice Lounge in number terms might be...Convenience 5/5, Cosiness 5/5, Comfort Food Factor 5/5.

Whatever the authenticity of the dishes they are consistent and rarely bland. Big on flavours, clean and neat in appearance and most importantly reliable, including the new additions to the menu (there are several), Shatkora redolent chilli resin and pickled lime, Shashlik Masala, smokey, creamy and sweet with green peppers. Moreover, solid accompaniments in generous portions make the restaurant a highly satisfying place to eat.

Service has always been polite but recently it has acquired a certain geniality and sharpness. I joked with one of the staff about stalking him in the library...wondered at the possibility of staging a horror movie there. A serial killer who finishes off his (or her - inarresting twist!) victims with a swiftly administered paper cut after luring them into the store room. 'Oh Doris, Mr Johnson's books are well over due! And he's usually so good at renewing them. Have you seen him lately?' Cut to 'Doris' wearing a malign smile... I'm digressing. I was about to voice my admiration for waiters.

I admire waiters because they work social anti social hours, have to be pleasant in the face of condescension and don't get much financial recompense. I respect the guys who make the Spice Lounge tick over: with the kitchen they create, to use Alan Titchmarsh's favourite adjective, a lovely dining experience.

If you live in the Petersfield area and haven't been, go. You can relax in the comfortable booths, linger long and it won't burn a hole in your pocket.

Willp2328 score: Sounds like a tag line but really...'like all good times, you can't put a value on it'

Thursday 9 October 2008

Dhanmondi - Whitehill, 8/10/08

How many times in life do first impressions prove wildly off the mark? Chamberlain on Hitler: '(Adolf) is a man of his word'. Decca on the Beatles: 'we don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out'.

In not quite such drastically mistaken fashion I once described Dhanmondi as ‘a likeable local’ and sure enough it is popular - over half full on a Wednesday evening in early October – and very likeable – the service is so kind – but really I was simply damning the place with faint praise. Dhanmondi only gets better with each visit. The 2007 curry awards included the restaurant in the country’s top 100, there are some 8000 across Britain.

An excellent midweek meal was highlighted by their fabulous Kurzi Lamb. A whole baby sheep dressed to the nines in floral vegetables, supple, succulent, the most gorgeous roast meat you could hope for. Unusually Sali Boti came as chicken but was delicious, fruity and sweet with the buttery fragrance of bay leaves and enriched with cinnamon. Gusht E Ada, gingery lamb and green peppers and Nawabi King Prawn, rich, dark, briney and gravy-ish proved pretty moreish too.

Huge metal pans of cauliflower and peas were a well-chosen accompaniment, gently perfumed pilau and good Naan’s supplemented the feast. Indeed, it felt like a special occasion. There aren’t many establishments that make one feel as welcome, at ease, content and so it joins my ‘area’ top 10.

FOOD: 3.5

Willp2328: 7.5/10

Friday 3 October 2008

Shahanaz - Haslemere, 2/10/08

For over a year I’d always bypassed the pink kitsch of Shanhanaz en route to the morely homely confines of Chilli Night - always until Thursday. The cold in the air gave my sis and I and appetite, just as well given the copious servings we were about to receive (and Lord we were truly grateful). The dining room is large and square, a bizarre venue on several levels with a raise in the middle, remiscent of a night club, carpeted over and repainted.

Quite a crowd had gathered and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. Two fat ladies, eighty eight, a seventieth birthday party, earnest young couples, a table of 12 women armed with pencils and notepaper (?!).

The chutney tray, delivered by an ex-Gurkha Chautari employee, featured a delicious, unctious, honeyish tamarind jam. Our starters, rich, stir-fried, melt in the mouth chicken livers with slivers of green pepper and onion and Bel Puri were very pleasing and equally filling. Main dishes included a rather stodgy Sali Boti and a thick, dark Jeera Beef with strong savour of roasted cumin and hot chilli which was perhaps a bit overpowering. However, they were no less than average while a side of creamed spinach and the sweet buttery crunch of babycorn as well as tasty pilau were superior.

There’s plenty of choice (350 items?) and enough quality in the cooking to make another visit a proposition. It’s simliar in standard to Petersfields, Spice Lounge, not much different from Chilli Night either.


Willp2328score: 6/10

Thursday 2 October 2008

Spices - London N1

Living in London with a modicum of disposable income and a fair few free daylight hours leads one to idle in cafes or if not keen on coffee, pubs - the liver is evil and must be punished!

The Eagle is a popular city boozer with a wide selection of international beers on tap, packed to the gilded beams on Tuesday evening, warm, busy and atmospheric. Akin to it's avian namesakes it's hard to believe this place and the like are becoming an endangered species.

Disbelief suspended DJ and I trotted back up to Angel and found Spices, a small curry den round the corner from the tube station. The intimate deep crimson dining room had space for eight tables of four including us.

The food was on the whole very good. Our waiter keen to explain the differences between British curry and Bangla homestyle - claimed 80% authenticity. Having spent the previous few hours with a friend who after 6 months in Bangladesh vowed never to eat curry again I was interested to found out why.

I came away with no answers. Chicken Rezala, a smooth yoghurt based curry packed with spicy flavour of fresh coriander, a twist of mint and sour green chillies impressed. There were good bready roti's and clove infused pilau as well as a plain but not unwelcome Bhindi bhaji. DJ enjoyed his Makhani.

Another bonus is it's BYO although we had tap water and you can have any dish cooked in the Balti fashion to enhance tastes if you wish to spend a little more.

They also serve: beautiful Chicken livers, sandwiched in a light pancake. Fish tikka, paprika tinged smokiness, and rasp of green chilli. Chicken Lobue Bengal, in a fruity sauce, sharp and sweetly acidic with lime, pungently bitter with fenugreek. Lamb Chilli Massala: delicious, bold garlic tomato sauce with a rich caramelized onion base and Pindi Aloo Chana - diced, potatoes and chick peas in dish well tempered with creamy and ground spices, including tumeric and pepper.

Please also note, food arrives when it’s ready, the kitchen will not be rushed.

FOOD: 3.5

Willp2328score: 7/10

Friday 12 September 2008

Indian Cottage - Albert Road, Southsea

Having felt vindicated in deciding to watch England play Croatia this time rather than go to curry club the weekly fix was postponed.

Wanted to try somewhere new. It’s getting increasingly difficult but I managed with sister number 2. Unfortunately the following report will make me sound like a whingeing footballer (you know the type, wear red and white…play in a new fangled, branded stadium with more space for Execs’ than real fans somewhere in North London…N5?!).

So to the Indian Cottage, one of Albert Roads most established curry houses. In the past it has won local awards and, around Portsmouth at least, enjoyed a reputation similar to the Madhuban at Liss. Yet recent visits to the Madhuban and Thursday’s trip to the Cottage suggest their culinary powers are waning.

Both restaurants offer plenty of decently priced alternative dishes, satisfactory portions, reasonable service (the Madhuban, quick but a little ingratiating, Indian Cottage, competent if rather sombre) and a pleasant dining environment – the Cottage is truly exotic with its royal blue and gold design, thatched bar, varnished wooden elephants, Indian vases and pankas, flapping in the gentle breeze of the air con. However, while the Madhuban has of late served me up flavourful but cloying fare, the Indian Cottage provided the opposite.

After good poppadoms (warm, crisp not over salty) there came bland, watery Chicken Tikka without smokiness or spiciness followed by Gujaratie Lamb. Essentially a particularly iron tasting, savoury spinach curry sour with whole green chillies, it wasn’t bad but not outstandingly moreish either. Sweet and tangy Aubergine, plus extra if not entirely necessary texture from creamy cashews worked the taste buds where Pilau, devoid of aromas, like boiled rice and a vague hint of cinnamon bark, did not.

Overall…not really.


Willp2328rating: 6/10

Thursday 21 August 2008

Viva Chautari!

The Gurkha Chautari is the place to eat out in the Petersfield-Haslemere area right now! The largely Nepalese fare eminating from the Kitchen is tremendous, I can't say more, except that there's always plenty of it to saciate even the most rapacious diner. Moreover, the level of service is excellent. 'Chautari' roughly translates as 'place of rest' and one is made to feel very much at home, especially when the accomodating prices are considered. Everyone involved in their success deserves a medal (including me). So...

Cue: drum roll
'Ladies and Gentlemen'
'Madames et Monsieurs'

...The completely unofficial, unauthorised GOLD goes to
(repeated in 3 different languages)

...the Gurkha Chautari!
Cue: Nepali National Anthem

Saturday 19 July 2008

Mirchi - Albert Rd, Southsea

Simon felt sick. He stayed off school Monday, sat through Sports Day on Tuesday, was full of woe Wednesday, had far to go Thursday and left his bank card in the Post Office - perhaps he wouldn't be fit for Friday's marathon pub/curry session, a last hurrah in the academic year? And yet he was (though the level of fitness required for such an event is open to debate).

Mirchi provided the venue. It was very good and I wish them every success.

We began with the most delicious Hush Tikka, firm yet tender smokey hunks of duck and onion then progressed to the mains. Impressive, near authentic Lamb Shatkora, warm, medium citrussy undertones of ground coriander, lemon rind sourness from Bangladeshi lime and a creamy, sunset orange Goan Korai that tasted as good as it looked . Light, soft, sweet Peshwari Naan with sultanas, almonds and sugar, diced Bhindi (Okra) in a cool china white recipticle, moist, rich and tangy as well as decent pilau embellished our meal.

I've been twice before and a third visit has convinced me it's second only to Aubergine on a stretch over populated with curry houses. You'd be daft to visit the Balti Express, Monsoon Thali House, the Golden Curry, Goa, the Eastern Eye or the Romance of India (particularly daft as this has now closed) plus the three or four Elm Grove equivalents instead. Mirchi may cost more but YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Coda: Another fine meal one Friday in August. Indian Fish Cakes to start. Delicate but dominant flavours of minced prawns and cod coated in a light eggy batter and shallow fried - pools of tamarind and chilli sauce a welcome condiment. Followed by powerful Green Herb Masala, humming with roast garlic, fresh heady coriander, salt and hot slivers of green chilli. Saag Aloo, mellow and vaguely aromatic like Chinese 5 Spice as well as pilau rice with strong hints of woody cinnamon were also very good and the Jalfrezi is a gorgeous roasted chilli concoction. However, I'd avoid the Sheek Kebabs - gristly and rubbery tough.

FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5

Willp2328 score: 7/10

Thursday 10 July 2008

Ouch! Gurkha on Gurkha: Grayshott's Durbar versus Liphook's Chautari

Although now part of the same concern, there remains enough difference between the restaurants to make a comparison worthwhile, not least the geographical fact one is in Grayshott and the other in Liphook.

Factoring in the the inflated cost of petrol (ignoring the railways), for those just above the poverty line - with digital TV, membership of the local cinema and the means to afford a meal out, i.e. 20k with kids, 14k without - which is really worth the traveling too? The following 'best for...' may help you decide.

aperitifs: CHAUTARI - The Links has flourished under new management -lovely terrace too

dining room: CHAUTARI - a little more spacious and light

tables/chairs: DURBAR - there's a round table!

crockery/cuttlery: DURBAR - lovely cast iron recipticle for lentils, blue rimmed china bowls for chutneys

toilets: DURBAR - less like my Aunts

service: CHAUTARI - staff in the Durbar are pleasant and polite just less efficient(not helped by the bar which is almost out the back door)

poppadoms: TIE

chutneys: DURBAR - excellent homestyle lime and chilli chutney, better HPesque Tamarind sauce

starters: CHAUTARI - both offer Chicken Livers (Kalejo) and salt spiced Lamb nuggets (Choila) but only at Liphook can you enjoy Bhuteko Prawns, pan fried, plump and sea fresh in a mild, thin tomato sauce obliging high notes of heady coriander leaf and sultry earthiness

clay oven: CHAUTARI - a close one but the char grilled meat and fish at Liphook cannot be matched, e.g. Pahadi Kurkhura, chicken in a sour yoghurt, spear minty, green chilli strong coating

curries: TIE - never had one that hasn't been at least good. Some have been truly superior including Ameelo Jinga (high class heady, sweet and sour Prawns), Bhutuwa Lamb (in a thick, rich paste with red peppers), Khursani Kukhura (egg battered strips of chicken in a tasty dish infused with sesame oil, strangely reminiscent of pancakes with brown sugar and lemon), Khatmandu Ko Wasa (best quality stewed lamb in a hot rich, smooth curry, pepper laden with a strong undertones of red wine and acetous cardamom) as well as Monkfish in a smooth, light tomato orange sauce, that sang of several spices

vegetables: CHAUTARI - spot on Jeera Aloo - rich round waxy baby potatoes plus my favourite Aubergine dish in smoky, spicy, soy marinade

dal: DURBAR - creamy ochre yellow lentils tempered with toasty cumin seeds and garlic, Kalo dal, savoury, mild black lentils

rice: DURBAR - really fragrant rice simmered in whole milk and toasted cashews

bread: DURBAR - truly toothsome Gulio Roti's, soft buttery dough stuffed with raisin and almond paste

wine: TIE - similar wine lists, both par for the course. They tend to serve wine at the correct
temperature though

beer: DURBAR - they offer two Nepali beers not one

dessert: forget it!

freebies: none as yet!

prices: TIE - for all the above expect to pay the same whichever you're at

gurkha heritage: DURBAR - you might see a real Gurkha major (the owner)

In conclusion, if you live in Grayshott or Liphook then count yourself lucky, you've an excellent local on your threshold. If you don't then at the time of writing I'd opt for the Durbar (just!) over the Chautari. Why? For all aforementioned differentials, there's simply more choice on the menu.

Monday 7 July 2008

Spice Merchant - Osborne Road, Southsea

There a probably as Spice Merchants as there are Balti Expresses or Taj Mahuls, there were 3 in Cardiff (2 were the same chain but...) and there's one in Southsea. It's to be found toward the sea front on Osborne Road, populated by several decent ethnic eateries. The dining room is smart but rather dull, subdued maroons and off whites. The grey July evening didn't enchance the drab atmosphere.

Things brightened up when starters arrived. Tandoori chicken on my right looked lovely, more than the large, fruity Aloo Dosa (potatoes in rolled in a chappati) in front of me though it’s light aniseed-fennel savour proved quite agreeable. Pleasingly a main course of Darjeeling Chicken did turned out to be similarly satisfying: a subtle tea flavoured, herby, mild curry with hints of leafy coriander, peppery mint and woody, fragrant cinnamon. Meantime a meltingly sweet pumpkin bhajee and caramel tasting okra slivers made fine accompaniment even if the simple carbs could have had more complex taste, in particular bland pilau rice. However, this is a relatively minor quibble given that food is well presented, cooked clean and comes in fairly sizeable portions.


Willp2328 rating: 7/10

Saturday 28 June 2008

Curry Naz - Osborne Road, Southsea

Funniest thing I heard this week was a colleague of my sisters claim that the curries round here are 'nothing like the curries in Luton'...'I've tried the Madhuban and I don't see what the fuss is about, etc etc'. The grass will always be greener on the other side for some - even when the other side is Luton, known for its Airport and Vauxhall plant: concrete and industry.

Whether or not Luton deserved the title of 2004's 'crapest town' is irrelevant when considering the merits of 'Curry Naz', a traditional kind of curry house. Smart yellows and blues, an atmosphere that leads one to sweetly reminisce of rose tinted pre new labour days! The restaurant’s been a stalwart on the Southsea scene of some time, a reputation built on tasty food and inobtrusive service. Staff, polite, discreet, calm and experienced appeared at the table with food, left quietly, appeared again in between a lull in conversation to ask if everything was ok, before slipping away until they judged our eating to be over.

The meal began with run of the mill poppadoms before a decent starter of Jeera Chicken. Strips of tandooried chicken breast in a salted smoky marinade, scattered with cumin seeds. Next up, juicy Balti Lamb Jalfrezi, demonstrating a super concentration of flavours. Well developed curry aromas, spicy scorching green and red chillies, gingery twangs (coriander seeds) and mustardy pangs made for a great dish. A rich, cinnamon strong Keema Peas (another old favourite on the menu) achieved similar standards. Bhindi (Okra) with just a little charcoaled sweetness and fluffy pilau were quite acceptable, though a Roti was a little crisp and mean.

Minor issues aside Curry Naz appears a jolly reliable purveyor of almost excuslively North Indian cuisine akin to that which thrived in this country 20 years ago. Tops the Golden Curry on the evidence so far. TBC!

FOOD: 3.5

Willp2328 score: 7/10

Monday 23 June 2008

Gulshan - Reading

Outside Gulshan reads a sign, it says: 'Caution this area is prone to high winds'. I wondered whether Reading's rapacious curryholics were to blame. Stepping through the doors, confronted by the sight of ex boxer turned panto star Frank Bruno grinning maddly at us. Imagined him leaning back on the bar. 'Where's yer drink Frank?'...'It's behind you!'

The tone was set for an amusing evening - Chris and I were off to see Paul Merton's improv chums and our waiter contributed in no small part by belching loudly upon delivering our main courses.

Chat-e-phal was what I began with and my was it strange. Served at room temp in a gaudy looking indian bowl were diced potatoes, pumpkin, chick peas, grapes and wait for it...a glacier cherry, all drenched in a watery sour balsamic tamarind dressing.

Lamb Sag was however, well above par, not that my appetiser had been unpleasant (just retro in the extreme - circa 1970). Hefty pieces of meaty mutton in a savoury preparation punctuated by citrussy coriander seeds, along with a fine roti and moist flavourful pilau rice, orange and saffron yellow were more to my taste.

Not bad for Reading (!).

FOOD: 3.5
VALUE: 3.5

Willp2328score: 6.5/10

Friday 13 June 2008

Shapla - Alresford

In a renewed effort to make Petersfield Curry Club's Blog amusing I shall begin every restaurant review from now on with a joke.

Where better to begin than the funniest joke in the world. Here it is...
Question: "What do you call a Frenchman in sandals?"
Answer: "Phillippe Philoppe"

So good I might as well offer up the second funniest joke in the world too...
Interviewer: "When did you first discover you suffered from dyslexia?"
Interviewee: "When I went to a toga party dressed as a goat".

More next week!

Concerning last weeks curry club visit to Shapla, the food was once again well above par. A good meal was highlighted by a super Korai dish of shrimps in a fluid, minty preparation with the creamy, nutty savour of ground cashews, as well as Saag Aloo, buttery spinach and waxy potatoes rounded out by delicious roast garlic and Meat Madras, the perfect definition, sour with lemon and tomato puree, firey with pepper and smarting chilli powder. In addition pillow soft Naans (not chewy in the slightest) and bits of a mixed starter including plump slippery tandoori marinated King Prawn and a cumin flavoured sheek kebab were great. The only lowlight was a Stuffed Mushroom of deep fried disappointment.

The service was a bit harrassing but this didn't spoil a very pleasant evening. Shapla remains able to offer a selection of curries where the variation in taste and texture is clear.

VALUE: 4.5

Willp2328score: 9/10

Wednesday 4 June 2008

The trouble with Salt n' Garlic

Cooking without garlic is unimaginable for some. Italian chef Antonello Colonna says “to eliminate garlic is like eliminating violins from an orchestra.”1 The problem is that it has a very strong, predominating and permanent flavour – it hangs on the breath for hours. Garlic is seen as integral to indian cooking, salt too, in balancing a dish, better defining the spices. However, the combination of garlic and salt can quite often undermine a dish if used too liberally.

My Jaipuri curry at Jaipur, Southsea, lost the gentle woody taste of cinnamon, the toasty crunch of cumin seeds and the buttery perfume of bay leaves as a result. Only warm bitter cloves registered. Salt n’ garlic lamb - fine, except where other ingredients are compromised. Across the indian restaurant scene there has to be a little more respect shown to, in essence, the world’s greatest and most various cuisine.

Spices in a curry will be more evident the longer left to blend. Restaurants cannot keep customers waiting but they musn’t feel pressurised into rushing. There will continue to be a compunction to offer ‘traditional’* curry to satisfy the masses who won’t order anything that isn’t CTM (easily abbreviated, instantly recognisable, reputedly tasty) but chef’s could still cut menu’s (out with the English dishes for one!) and have time to prepare special sauces in advance as well as concentrating more on spicing.

Joe public like salt and garlic but if only they could taste the difference.

In truth a number of curry house chefs aren’t the masterchefs they claim – most can cook meat and veg OK but many can’t get flavours and aromas from whole spices or herbs, typically fenugreek. A solution? Use more powdered spice, be generous with herbs, take time to taste one’s effort, make sure not to throw in too much salt and garlic! Everyone would sleep better for it. There are time and monetary costs involved but an over reliance on garlic and salt could keep the Indian fare in Britains 7000+ curry joints from being considered worthy of it’s name.

*the irony being these dishes are usually the least authentic on offer

1 'Is Garlic Essential in Italian food' - Napa Valley Regsiter: June 26, 2007

Saturday 31 May 2008

Hason Raja - Bloomsbury, London

The menu at Hason Raja is, to my taste, ideal. The food is largely Bangladeshi / North Indian, hearty and robust with liberal use of chilli and unground whole spices and portions, it transpired, are about the right size.

There are plenty of tandoori items among the starter selection. I enjoyed Salmon Tikka smothered with a smooth, sandy green herb paste but one could opt for charcoal smoked Monkfish, Brocolli, King Prawns.

Main dishes are classic. Anari Champ (Lamb with star ainse and pomegranate), Rara Rogan Gosht, Meat Shatkora (with wild lemon), Chicken Nilgri (with a prickly, minty spinach blend), Murgh Jalfrezi. I decided on Jungle Mache, a spicy Korai like curry tasting of mild, sweet capsicum, tangy garlic tomatoes with fiery peppercorns, bittersweet cardamom, liquorishy cloves.

Lots of good vegetable dishes too and a mustardy, succulent Bhindi Masala was great. Meanwhile Pilau rice proved slightly audente and just right.

A restaurant I'm pleased to have found - it would be a fine local as prices are OK (£25 a head with a glass or two of wine). Apparently it is Ricky Gervais' favourite, two floors should be enough to accomodate his list of celebrity 'mates'.

FOOD (& DRINK): 4.5

Willp2328 rating: 8/10

Monday 19 May 2008

Spice Lounge – Petersfield, 17/05/08

The restaurant sometimes feels like the epitome of the tempremental Great British curry house. It’s snug and warm inside, with an unpretentious demeanour that occasionally seems rather curious. The waiters generally provide decent service, though prolonged gaps between courses are not unknown, and for the most part the kitchen turns out tasty curries but doesn’t always show a dab hand with spice. With so many alternatives available to me reasons I eat here regularly are: 1) I know what to order and what not to order 2) Firuz the manager is a true gentleman and makes diners feel very welcome.

Eating in following an afternoon on Southsea common watching the FA Cup final, I enjoyed the typical Spice Lounge experience. The atmosphere was informal and homely, Firuz was characteristically kind and generous. Food wise ‘Ayre Biran’ was a tasteless, pan fried cutlet of white fish with obligatory salad whereas ‘Achari Murgh’, made with mango chutney, lime pickle, tomatoes and fruity fennel was full of flavour and spiked with chilli powder.

Their interpretations of traditional Indian and Bangladeshi fare are really bastardisations yet they work fine and who except for monomaniacs like me notices anyway? The ‘Achari’, the ‘Sali Boti’ – made with coconut, almond and tomato puree, rich and lovely like a luxury Korma – the ‘Chilli Mossala’, which makes clever use of ready made green chilli pickle are three examples. Thing is GB curry is a cuisine in itself and if that’s what you’re after – it probably is – then the Spice Lounge is almost as good as any. Vegetables can be bland (not Saturday’s earthy Chana Masala though) but side and main dishes alike are always well presented, rice and breads are perfectly acceptable.

In summary, I love the place for all its little imperfections. Oh and it’s pretty good value too.





Willp2328 rating: 6.5/10

Sunday 11 May 2008

Aubergine - Albert Road, Southsea, 9/5/08

I’m a celebrity! For the second time in a fortnight I was recognised! This is what it must be like to be a cast member of the Bill thinks I. Free drinks all round! Unfortunately though the train wouldn’t wait. Sitting in Second Class, I reflected on a good meal at Aubergine.

Great textured, meaty Chicken Tikka dressed up pretty followed by Makai Gosht, Baigan Bartha and enough fluffly plain rice. My curry of tender lamb cubes and buttery sweet corn was flavourful, yoghurt based and creamy with an abundance of caramelised onion. My vegetable side dish, baked and mashed aubergine, light, lemony and leafy with coriander.

Considering all 4 of our party were more than satisfied with their food – Simon (Duck in a dry tamarind sauce spiked with resinous chilli), Emma (gooey Lamb Pasanda), Mum (Navratan Korma; mixed veg, nuts and dried fruit topped with grated cheese) - a bill of 33 quid (including 3 starters and a pleasant bottle of Sauvignon Blanc tasting of dry limes) was very reasonable.

I named the place in a recent Top 10 of Hampshire Curry Houses, it deserves it’s place!

VALUE: 4.5

Willp2328 rating: 7.5/10

Thursday 8 May 2008

Blue Cobra - North End, Portsmouth, 6/5/08

Compared with high standard I have come to expect from Blue Cobra I had a slightly average meal on post bank holiday blow out with Swansea mate Dave. I won’t entertain the idea standards are slipping or rush to any hasty conclusions but the menu is getting bigger and bigger – unless the chef has as many arms as Ganesha he’ll find it difficult to do himself justice, well he would had they a regular clientele. Doubt the kitchen ever has to respond to 100 plus covers even at weekends, a shame, the restaurant deserves to be patronised.

Perhaps the abundance of new dishes is designed to attract customers, they sound tempting. E.g. Bombay Buffalo Bhuna - slow cooked lean Indian Buffalo in a medium strength thick sauce with black cardamon and Chicken Mooli. Beef Malabar, another new addition, was my main course. I’d hoped for the classic version, thick, pasty with roasted coconut. Turned out tart and mustardy with an underlying bittersweet liquorish taste from cloves and star anise. Salty but the flavours just about balanced.

A new starter, Dim Aloo (stupid potatoes) – two breadcrumbed patties, mostly egg and a little masala mash were fine but a bit dull. The pilau rice was as per usual perfectly audente and plentious. Apropos portions have got even larger, why waste good ingredients? This doesn’t neccesarily mean better value of course. A massive Aubergine side dish, drenched in ghee disappointed though it disappeared all the same (and not under the table). Cooking egglpant well is definitely a benchmark of a good indian, that said I’ve had too many good things* in the past to judge Blue Cobra on this alone.

* rich and delectable Gosht Kata Masala, chilli hot Naga Chicken, aromatic Tava Lamb, savoury Murgh Masala and Garlic Aloo Paneer

FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5
VALUE: 3.5

Willp2328 rating: 7/10

Sunday 4 May 2008

May meeting - Chilli Night, Haslemere

As usual, we had a fine evening at Chilli Night. Attendance was a little lower than expected, but the food was well varied: chicken jalfrezi, garlic chilli chicken, lamb rogan, Ayre karai, achari lamb and prawn madras. These were accompanied by a good selection of rice, lentil, vegetables, and naans.

Fine food, very well presented, and all it lacked was the appetite of Will to hoover up the excess. He missed his first meeting in over a year - I hope the family holiday made up for it.

Friday 2 May 2008

The Top 10

'Where are the best places for curry near here?' - a question I am often asked. Last Saturday in the Gurkha Chautari it was Chris' turn.

After lovely herby fat little Momo, an excellent Bhutuwa curry (Lamb in a thick, rich paste with red peppers) and smoky, piquant Aubergine (Bhenta Tarkari), I felt I'd eaten in one of the best restaurants around.

So, below is the near definitive list, the TOP 10 south of Guildford, east of Chichester and west of Salisbury:

10 Jaipur - Albert Rd, Southsea
09 Dhanmondi - Whitehill
08 Mirchi - Albert Rd, Southsea
07 Madhuban Tandoori - Station Rd, Liss
06 Tiffin Club - Oxford Street, Southampton
05 Aubergine - Albert Rd, Southsea
04 Poppadom Express - Oxford Street, Southampton
03 Kuti's Brasserie - Southampton, Wickham, Fair Oak & Portswood
02 Gurkha Durbar & Chautari - Grayshott, Liphook
01 Shapla - West Street, Alresford

(any comments welcome)

Friday 18 April 2008

Pasha - Cowplain

Pasha not to be confused with Palash a few doors down. Passing by on the London Road leading into Waterlooville, a trick of the eye convinced me I’d chosen the wrong place. ‘It said Palash not Pasha!?’, ‘Where the f***s Pasha then?’, ‘I dunno’, I protest, ‘I thought it was back there’. Well, several scrambled attempts to get hold of people with interet access to look up the restaurants number, directory inquiries etc.., and a brief recee on foot, revealed Pasha, pretty much in the same place. ‘Oh…’ – lucky I didn’t go into Palash and ask for Pasha, or even worse go into Pasha and ask for directions.

We were greeted politely by an ex employee of another local Bangladeshi. ‘I think I’ve served you before’ he said, narrowing his eyes, ‘Blue Cobra’ , I hesitated, remembering the spilt wine and broken glass of one particular visit, ‘er…yeess’.

Later he asked me for my opinion of the food. I told him I liked my Duck Korai very much. Lovely livery duck, smokey like patee in a smooth hot, tangy, sour orange gravy with great slivers of onion and red, green capsicums. Bhindi Bhajee was fine, ditto a pilau rice and Mum’s Vegetable Biryiani, presented sandcastle style with cucumber swirls bla bla bla. Prices are above average but this is a restaurant that was recently voted Top 100 in the UK at the British Curry Awards no less! Poppadoms with 5 assorted dips then a sardinious* fish puree had begun things reasonably and while I’m still to have a truly memorable puree preparation, I tend to judge places on their mains. Just as well then.

* another one for Dr Johnson to add (?)

FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5

Willp2328 rating: 7/10

Thursday 17 April 2008

The Great Curry Trail

Wed 16 Apr, 11:20 pm - 11:50 pm 30mins

1/2. The Great Curry Trail: Self confessed 'food pervert' Ravinder Bhogal goes on a quest to trace how Britain came to fall in love with Indian food. [S]

This is a must-watch programme for anyone that loves Indian food. She traces the development of the Indian restaurant in the UK from Veeraswamy's in Regent Street, via Southall (Punjabi), Brick Lane (Bengali), Birmingham's Balti Triangle (Kasmiri), Leicester's Golden Mile (Gujerati). Next week she visits Manchester, Newcastle and the home of CTM, Glasgow.

At the moment it's not listed on BBC iplayer. Maybe this is a mistake, maybe they haven't caught up, maybe they're just f***wits. Look out for any repeats and don't miss Part 2.

Monday 14 April 2008

Spice Lounge, Petersfield

Unbelievably, we hadn't been to Spice Lounge since May 2007. There's so much strong competition from the other restaurants in the area - in fact the only one we've visited twice in the last year is Gurkha Chautari in Liphook. Anyway, we didn't let them down, and a good turnout of Curry Club members enjoyed food to match, after seriously denting the kitty over aperitifs at Foggys.

Following a mixed starter of bhajis, samosas, kebab and tikka chicken, we had a great array of dishes. Chicken came as CTM, chicken chilli mossala, garlic chilli chicken, and murgh Khyber Pass; prawn dishes included zingha zafrani (tiger prawns), king prawn sag and prawn jalfrezi. Lamb dishes were achari lamb and a balti, and side dishes included chana dhal, tarka dhal, a selection of plain, keema and garlic naans.

Will missed his first Curry Club meeting in over a year, so you won't be getting one of his ratings for this meal. I thought the food OK, reliable, but not outstanding. Possibly the decision to serve so many main dishes made it less easy to perfect any of them. The only disappointment for me was the tarka dhal which seemed all thick dhal and no tarka (sizzling garlic oil on top). But as ever, we were made very welcome and we shouldn't leave it another 11 months before we go back.

Mela - Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Roughly speaking ‘Mela’ translates into Hindu as ‘festival’. Accordingly the dining room is a colourful and lively place, the busy canteen style open kitchen adding to the party atmosphere.

Zoe, Duts and I joined the Sunday evening crowd clearly enjoying good to very good indian food at truly reasonable prices. Portions are large too. Zoe and Duts ordered deep-fried white bait. Salty and lemony, enough for a main, it came in a pappad shell basket with a bright, fresh salad. I had 3 thin fillets of chicken, spicy, peppery and chilli hot.

Feeling content already, we were allowed time in between courses to chew the saturated fat*; Gordon Ramsay becoming Harry Ramsden, meeting Kate Moss (and stealing her jumper), and so on. When the main dishes came Methi Murgh was spot on, pungent with green tea tasting fengureek and slightly piquant shredded chilli. Sweet, coconutty Peshrawi Naan and lots of rich cumin rice was on hand to soak up Tarka Dahl soured with raw mango.

Noticed Charles Campion says it’s the best value place in the area (WC2 and around), he’s surely right. We were made to feel welcome for the whole evening. Slow Food = Satisfaction.

* I write this only for effect - the cooking is very clean in fact.


Willp2328 rating: 8/10

Friday 4 April 2008

The NEW Madhuban - Liss

Last Saturday evening was so busy, though there was a corner for Chris and I. Bedar Miah energetically runs front of house and he rushed to and fro, shaking hands, saluting old friends, scribbling orders, while his smiley staff of young male and female waiters served the throng. Lodue, his older brother, operated the bar, in a beige cashmere cardigan, looking every inch the well to do Asian gent.

A couple of Mango Lassis and poppadoms in, food arrived. Gorgeous Chana Aloo Chat tasting of roast garlic and tangy spices followed by creamy, rich, paprika tinged Korma Mirchiwangan. Plenty of lamb, added sweetness from beetroot and red pepper only a little cloying. Panch Mela, a buttery mixed vegetable curry and filling saffron rice too much - and not because I'd eaten all the excellent chilli and lime pickle.

The old Madhuban was my godfathers favourite Bangladeshi restaurant and we met again on Thursday. I enjoyed a good meal of Salmon Tikka, 4 pieces encrusted with red chilli tainted coating and Prawn Balichao, a genuine Goan speciality, tart, citric, reminiscent of Lime pickle and vinegar. In addition, Saag Paneer was mellow, mild and lovely.

So what of the new Madhuban (now beginning it's 21st year)? It's more roomy (despite being full to bursting on Thursday night, as it was on Saturday). It's lighter with a different kind of atmosphere, not as cosy but perhaps more convival. It has the same colourful menu, more choice (Korma Mirchiwangan, Panch Mela, Salmon Tikka and Prawn Balichao among the new additions) but higher prices (although it's still better value than other local curry houses). In SUMMARY standards haven't suffered, they may even have improved but only time and a few more gratuitous visits will decide.



Willp2328score: 8/10

Thursday 27 March 2008

Gandhi - Kingston Road, Portsmouth

2 hours in the Odeon watching Ratatouille gave Tim, my brother and I an appetite. As we filed out of the cinema 8 o’clock was fast approaching, high time for food. There’s a multitude of ethnic eateries to chose from in North End though on this occasion I’d booked a table at Gandhi in advance.

The PLACE has been a stalwart on the restaurant scene in Pompey but recently received a make over. It’s very slick, bronze fittings, cushy booths with white gold upholstery and a team of black clad waiters who (shock horror) realise that when one makes a reservation one expects a table made ready. So it was that we were led to ours. SERVICE was effecient, albeit a little robotic.

First job was to sort drinks and poppadoms etc. A decent Chardonnay, tap water, mango chutney aromatic with a little cardamom – mint sauce, onion salad. Despite opulent appearances PRICES are modest.

The menu offers FOOD with a difference. Specials - unrecognisable from trad curry house fare – made me suspicious (I don’t like fusion), so I chose Lamb Korai, cinnamon spiced pilau rice and bhindi. The Korai was a thick, rich and fibrous tomato based curry, plummy, salty with musky bitterness of curry leaves and fenugreek. The Bhindi, buttery and charred with crispy fried onions. A hearty meal had began with Beguni Murgh. Melt in mouth diced chicken wrapped and pinned inside an aubergine slice. Packed with flavour – eager spring onions, savoury sweet green pepper and a creeping heat from shredded chillies, tangy coriander.

...My first experience of Gandhi was good. The second occured the following Friday, after a few hours pub philosophy on Nationalism. Had another table booked for 3. Sat opposite me, Simon and Emma. Ordered Crab Malabar, moist orange brown patties on a very clean plate, plenty of meat but a touch briney. Then came a Lamb Dhansak served in a white boat. Well textured lentil sauce, plenty of fenugreek, sour with lemon juice sweetened with grainy palm sugar. Impressed by Brinjal Bhajee. Aubergine quartered lengthways, tasty eggy flesh augmented by considerate spicing. Sampled Emmas Biriani, excellent smooth livery duck (all agreed on high quality of meat/poultry) accompanied by too great a serving of an average Vegetable Curry as well as Simons Rajestani curry which was wet, coconutty, possessing a sour limey aftertaste in part derived from green finger chillies.

...Thoughts of an evening spent watching another labourious England football friendly proved the cue to visit Ghandi a third time, still glamourous enough for WAG's. Early April showers (in March) had made the extra time to walk to Blue Cobra an unattractive proposition.

A decent Lamb Bhuna was tanic, like a French Stew (a Bourguignon?) redolent of red wine soaked meat, bittersweet cloves, pervasive fenugreek, pungent curry leaf. Nutty Chana Masala, suffered from burnt onions which imparted a charred taste while a starter of mussels in their shells, garnished with rice was unexceptional and underwhelming flavour wise. Although I felt queasily full on leaving my sisters really enjoyed their meal (a mixed biriani and lamb korai) both of which are very good.

In SUMMARY Ghandi is one of the better 'Indians' in Pompey though not the best .

FOOD: 3.5

Willp2328score: 6.5/10

Thursday 20 March 2008

Everest Spice - Kingston Road, Portsmouth

The tiny Everest Spice is owned by a former employee of the Nepalese tourist board. His description of Portsmouth, an 'historic city famous for its beautiful beaches' belies this. With me to indulge in a spot of food tourism, Dave, Ian and Dave all from Bridgend, 'famous for its suicide rate'.

Sekuwa - large lumps of clay oven chicken brushed with a light, savoury, mellow yellow coating of curry powder, tumeric and a hint of lemon well complemented by a Nepalese achar (pickle) made for a highly promising start to our meal.

Next Sherpa Kurkhura (or Gurkha Chicken*) included more hulking pieces of poultry in a tomato sauce pungent with curry leaves, given some bite by spring onion and a green chilli or two. A side order 'Aloo Tama', used whole slices of pickled (tinned) bamboo shoot meaning the soap like radishy taste rather overawed the potato based preperation.

Dave had a 'moment' mid way through his Mayalu - a mustard coloured nutty,creamy curry with...flabby, raw pieces of chicken...! His face turned a deathly white, his voice broke, I could hear his insides screaming 'aaaaarrrggghhh!' However, a few circumspect prods with a fork revealed the secret ingredient to be Lychee. 'What's a Lychee?' asks Dave, fresh from a trip to the orient, clearly he's never studied the desert menu in a Anglo Chinese joint before.

We'd no time for desert as football half times were up so left after paying £20 a head (including 6 beers, standard poppadoms and dips). In summary, Everest Spice was decent. I may return

*waiter may have misunderstood my order. Everest Spice's version of the Himalayan staple is far removed from Gurkha Dubars rendering of the same.


Willp2328score: 6/10

Monday 17 March 2008

Paradise Balti – Petersfield, 15/3/08

For a fix (not that I’m really in need) the Paradise suits me fine. It did ok for Aaran, Rich and I on a spontaneous Saturday night visit (alright I did book…but only 5 hours in advance!).

Fish Tikka, 3 hunks of lovely succulent Trout in a honeyed crispy charred crust was terrific at an uber reasonable 2.95. Lamb Goanes, a smooth, sweet, sour curry with tobasco flavour while agreeable enough tasted a little one dimensional and carried an initial burning sensation.

I’ve never been convinced by the execution of their vegetable dishes and an olive oily Aubergine Bhajee did little to change feelings. However, good breads and excellent rice made up for this.

The staff looked a little jaded but were quiet, unassuming and cordial as always despite being very busy – the place does a roaring takeaway trade. The kitchen resisted the urge to rush (a good thing) and we were served late, yet in the cosy confines happy to wait.


Willp2328 rating: 6.5/10

Friday 14 March 2008

Jaipur - Southsea, 8/3/08

It had been a long afternoon. Manchester United scraped past Portsmouth in the FA Cup (what a penalty save from Ferdinand and Scholesy’s last gasp winner, well!) while England laboured to victory at Murrayfield (Wilkson was inspired!). At least that’s what friends attending my birthday celebrations were obliged to pretend.

Pompey was buzzing, strange as their team lost earlier in the day, but then city is an enigma. We escaped the boisterous crowds, went to Jaipur. A lovely long evening was enjoyed, much hilarity, terrific curry. Starters arrrive as appetising portions leaving room for the excellent main courses. I had ‘parsi style fried chicken’ out of curiosity really, on a previous visit I’m sure the waiter mumbled it was ‘like KFC’ * – if so I can see his reasoning, two bread crumbed chicken drumsticks were pleasant but not remotely indian. However, Hyderbadi Lamb Hara Masala was fairly authentic and totally delicious. The sauce was smooth and creamy with coconut, rich with almond and piquant with mint plus the kitchen cooks meat very well. A sumptuous Dum Bhindi, long green fingers of okra stewed in curd and tangy onions and decent pilau embellished things accompanied by a bottle of refreshing Rose with rhubarb custard flavours. A firm favourite.

* presumably Kentucky fried chicken as opposed to Albert Road equivalent Kens fried chicken


Willp2328 rating: 7.5/10

Madhuban - Liss, 12/3/08

It had been at least 3 years since the PFCC patronised the Madhuban. Plans for a February return were postponed due to the Miah brothers refurbishment. And what a change they have wrought! The House colours once rich gold and royal blue are now deep maroon and off white, the dining room, a slick and airy rectangle is certainly more spacious than the cosy L shaped den of before.

That said our table ended crammed with dishes, some new additions to the time honoured menu, reprinted and updated. One such, a brilliant tart and grapefruity Lamb Shatkora accompanied by an earthy dal. Of the familiar, Jalfrezi was as sly, hot and delicious as ever with slabs of tender, salty duck and the Madhubans saffron yellow pilau remains the best.

A woody, aromatic King Prawn curry with cinnamon and cardamom as well as mixed vegetables were pleasant and though the Madhuban Special was mild and in truth bland our starter platter comprising well spiced lamb and chicken kebabs, onion bhajis, keema khumbi (breadcrumbed mushroom cups stuffed with lovely stodgy mince) arranged around a serving of superlative chicken chat was very good.

Although a nondescript Wednesday evening we were surrounded. Success breeds success and the team have built upon reliable, sometimes excellent cuisine, vivacious, assured service (no clammy handshakes, abstract mutterings) and an established reputation. No wonder their name is a byword locally for fine and proper curry.

VALUE: 4 (prices have risen a smidgen but are still the most reasonable around)

Willp2328score: 8/10

Friday 7 March 2008

Shampan - Brick Lane, London

Shampan is one of the best houses in trendy Banglatown. I feel I can safely say this despite only one visit last Saturday. It was full to the brim and buzzing by 7.30, looked to have quite a high turnover. As four of us sat munching on poppadoms, including a dense sweet and mellow coconut chutney it seemed another earth tremor had moved our table a full 3 feet! It was actually the genial head waiter with an audacity you almost had to admire though in fairness he and his staff were superbly efficient all evening.

Dishes arrived quickly but not too quickly. The kitchen’s interpretation of Aloo Chop turned out to be a gorgeous potato ball stuffed with cheesy mash and succulent shreds of baked lamb. One of their Bangladeshi speciality curries - ‘Rezala’ - was very flavoursome, citrussy and hot with juicy green finger chillies. Lamb Passanda was spot on, nutty with a hint of red wine. Among the assorted vegetable sides, Shatkora Dal, liquid and limey with earthy cumin was good, ditto a Sag Paneer, creamy cubes of curd in a rich gooey sauce blended with spinach. Bombay Potatoes were so much better than the they often are, coated in tangy tomato paste and roast chilli powder. Tasty pilau too!

In summary the place offers distinctly flavoured curries at fair prices (71 pounds for poppadoms, chutneys, 4 starters, 4 mains, 3 sides, 3 rice, 2 breads, 2 cobras) served smartly in a functionable dining room. They must do well. Not only does the corner house location mean they’ve two shop fronts but they haven’t a pimp to drag in floaters. Rather impressive.


Willp2328 rating: 8/10

Jaipur - Southsea, 29/2/08

Mary and Dave couldn't make up their minds after I'd generously offered them a choice so we tossed a coin. It came up tails, so we headed back up Albert Road to Jaipur instead of trying Curry Naz for the first time.

I began with a highly spiced garlicky Shami kebab. Then Lamb Kohlapuri, a rich, roasty, thick curry with a twist of chilli powder.

Unusual vegetable dishes mark the restaurant out from the run of the mill indians. On this occasion a bowl of boiled runner beans tossed with grated coconut, mustard and cumin seeds made for an interesting if rather insubstantial addition. Staff sweet as ever.

At the time of writing they’ve an incredibly reasonable ‘Banquet offer’ available which allows you the works, including indian desserts for 11 pounds.


Willp2328 rating: 7.5/10

Thursday 6 March 2008

Shapla - Alresford, 5/3/08

In general really good indian cuisine should produce a slowly intoxicating blend of flavours that twinge the taste buds, tantalise the tip of the tongue and tingle in the back of the mouth. Shapla's kitchen consistently serves up dishes which produce these very taste sensations, even if the poppadoms were, on this occasion, stale.

Salmon Shapla, a subtly charred, spicy, fishy fillet served on drainpipe plate with tamarind jam was an ideal appetiser. Lamb Sag, hearty and robust, expertly treated with cumin, coriander as well as fenugreek to bring out the deep savoury flavour of the spinach was excellent. Similarly their Chana Masala, buttery, a touch salty with nutty undertones and a trace of musky tumeric. The Biryiani must of been special as Dad really enjoyed it and he's not one to get made up over curry.

No wonder then all 5 of us enjoyed our food. Tim's Murgh Rossa and Mum's Methi Chicken were reportedly 'really nice' and Paula's starter Jinga Peshwari (2 king prawns coated in a thick cashew/almond paste) looked delectable - I'll have that next time!





Willp2328score: 8/10

Thursday 28 February 2008

March meeting - Liss

The table is booked! Madhuban, Liss on Wednesday 12th March. We'll be meeting at the Bluebell for aperitifs from about 19:30 that evening. This is the pub at the T-junction of Station Road and Farnham Road (map here).
As usual please e-mail your intentions so that we have some idea of numbers. We look forward to some great food at this excellent restaurant.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Punjab - London, Covent Garden

After a day on my feet taking in the magnificent and varied architecture of central London it came as a relief to sit down all the same. Al Cochrane, one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, a guy with an insatiable thirst for life who I hadn't seen since I was eleven and almost another person, joined me for beer and curry. He said I hadn't changed at all, he's probably right - I've still got enough hair to make a winter coat and the same amount of freckles (on the last count at least).

Once inside the Punjab, poppadoms and dips included a lovely mint chutney, the recipes on their webpage. Chosing from a short list of appetisers I opted forAloo Tikki. They arrived swiftly and turned out to be two lovely potato croquettes full of hot creamy mash sour with resinous green chilli.

For main course I decided on chefs special Annari Gosht, ignoring the spinach based dishes ('for the Punjabi musclemen'). Cubes of firm, supple lamb like steak in a moreish curry sweet with lush, exotic pommegranate at the same time intense and sour. Good Vegetable Kofta, herby, fleshy balls in a tart pumpkin sauce were similarly flavourful. Al’s chicken korai tasted good despite paultry serving (!) – at least compared to large mound of rather watery pilau.

Service was calm and quietly efficient, the restaurant was full including a fair number of turbaned seekhs, dignified and handsome. We received our bill (£40 with drinks – toothsome buttermilk lassis) from a particularly fine, tall, soldiery punjabi. The place has been run by the same family for decades and generates a warm atmosphere with resplendent burnt yellow wallpaper, soft lighting and the buzz of contended chatter from diners full of robust food. Among the amusing quips on the menu one Mr Lawerence ate lunch and dinner here for forty years. It's easy to imagine the place as a home from home.


Willp2328score: 7.5/10

Monday 18 February 2008

Midnight Tandoori - Palmerston Road, Southsea, 17/2/08

The sense of calm in the air of the smart, new high ceilinged dining room and the politeness of the young waiting staff have made this a recent favourite of mine. For the aforementioned atmospheric and the reliable fare offered from the narrow kitchen up the stairs I have no qualms about taking myself and anyone else along (on this occasion Steph and Louise, both enjoyed their food).

An appetiser of flaked crab meat in a moist preparation of tangy ginger and garlic served with a wheaty puree succeeded as did an undeniably tasty house special chintzily entitled ‘Tamarinda’. It was medium hot, patia like. Chunks of tandooried chicken in a saucy, smooth blend of bitterswet vinegary tamarind and green chilli. Soaked up with yellow pilau and Aloo Gobi – floury fried potatoes and cauliflower in a pleasant margariney onion curry – it all amounted to another worthy meal.





Willp2328 rating: 7.5/10

Rasa W1 - Soho, London

Das Sreedharan is a venerated culinary master in fact he’s ‘a complete genius and such a nice guy’ according to Jamie Oliver and he should know! I looked forward with high anticipation to a visit to Rasa in Derring Street, the W1 of 5 rose pink restaurants in London.

My cousin and I tried to make the most of it, i.e. order as much as we could and try new things. Not difficult as the menu is unrecognisable from Bangladeshi houses (circa 80% of the ‘Indians’ in the UK) – it’s Southern Indian.

No Naans (the tandoor oven in which they cook originated in the North), instead we had citrussy rice pancakes called ‘Uzhunappam’. These arrived a few minutes after ‘Malabar Erachi Chaaru’ and ‘Adipoli Erachi Mulegu’. The former, an aromatic pale brown curry of meltingly tender little morsels of lamb prepared with coconut milk, limey curry leaves, underscored by earthy tumeric, was good but rather mild. However, a superior side of Savoy cabbage, fresh, crisp, nutty and a little sweet as well as ‘Mysore Bonda’, large deep fried balls of mellow yellow mustardy mash were memorable. Similarly a fine range of chutneys (6 including delicious creamy coriander and raw candied mango) and ‘Medhu Vadha’ albeit for their unusual texture – bland, spongy, savoury doughnuts with shredded green chilli. Pleasant but in need of the coconut dip provided.

The place largely trades on reputation but judging by one or two comments some still expect too much. ‘Portions are small’ wrote one internet critic. I can only assume Mr Creosote has broadband at home, I left stuffed with tasty food, washed down with a glass and a half wine and tap water given ungrudgingly. A reasonable return for 30 pounds sterling.


Willp2328 score: 8/10

Juboraj II - Cardiff (Centre)

The Juboraj Group operate 3 restaurants in Cardiff. One can dine in Georgian splendour, raj style opulence or in the warm, snug, confines of their city centre digs as I did with sisters and Jo last Friday.

After warm eggy poppadoms, run of the mill accompaniments, a starter of Salmon steak (Machli Biran), gently pan fried until oily and succulent, dusted with ground spices satiated the appetite. A perfect meat madras stimulated it again – supple cubes of lamb in a hot, sour gravy with a lovely deep red hue – while a heavily salted spinach bhajee made me nothing but thirsty.

We enjoyed decent fare though not as good as the excellent Lakeside West branch (aka Juboraj III).


Willp2328score: 6/10

Thursday 14 February 2008

Next Month?

Firstly, thanks to all for a great evening.

Secondly, I apologise for not taking views on a venue for next month (12/3/08).

The Madhuban and Shapla seem to be the most likely.

I think a visit to the Madhuban is on the cards - they're just about to finish refurbishing ready for the Spring.

Any comments welcome...



Gurkha Chautari - Liphook, 13/2/08

Since the last curry club visit the owners of Grayshott's Gurkha Durbar have take over the place. Waiters now dressed in the house waistcoat. The quality of the food was uniformly excellent too.

A starter platter included slippery meat dumplings (momo), moist potato cakes sweetened with carrot, delicious chicken livers (kalejo) and sinka prawn.

Served a profusion of main courses to sample. Among the best, battered strips of chicken in a tasty dish infused with sesame oil, strangely reminiscent of pancakes with brown sugar and lemon. Elsewhere on the table really tart and smoky clay oven chicken, plump prawns in a syrupy and sour orange sauce possessing a surprisingly petulant little chilli kick, a rich and savoury curry of stewy lamb and spinach as well as a lovely stir fry, fresh and vibrant with green chillies (piro kurkhura) were distinguished.

Standout sundries included a garlicky ochre dahl, ever so slightly burnt, Aloo Jeera, spicy rotund baby new potatoes and toothsome Gulio Rotis spread with almond flour.

We lingered a while to let the feast digest, sipping brandies and watched a couple of tight but loose females flop in and out, before being turned away from the Chinese takeaway across the road. I wonder if they remember.

Willp2328visit: 8/10

Thursday 7 February 2008

Blue Cobra - North End, 6/2/08

Educated in Anglican Faith schools I thought the only spirit one could find in a church was the holy kind. Not so. Wednesday evening I sank a couple of pints in a North End chapel, converted 4 years ago into the Lanyard pub before heading up the road for curry.

I friar tucked in to a moreish Kufta Fish Ball. Tuna lightly spiced with garam masala blend of tumeric and cinnamon, deep fried in golden bread crumbs. Followed by an enormous serving of Fiery Lamb. Hulking slices of roast meat in a juicy and salty gravy with ginger syrup, green peppers, chilli flakes adding a scorching afterburn. Mushrooms stir fried with an abundance of fresh leafy coriander made a pleasant aside. A Sample of Simons Murgh Masala - a savoury mouthful of chicken tikka and mince curried with toasted cumin and flecks of bitter fenugreek impressed. Blue Cobra's appeals lies in the distinct flavouring and large portions of food and cool atmospheric.

Willp2328visit: 7/10

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Sea Raj, Grayshott - 25 Jan 2008

There's a new Indian restaurant in Grayshott that specialises in Indian Seafood cuisine. The Sea Raj occupies the former Cafe Baba - small, no more than about 20 covers, and so they hope to do well from the takeaway business. Initially they seemed reluctant to take bookings except for special occasions, but now it's full on Friday nights and maybe others too.

The web site proclaims Europe's first Indian Seafood restaurant! The phone number is 01428 608826.

So, given the few tables available, we only got round to dining there in late January, after it opened in the middle of 2007. I can report that it's very comfortable, friendly, with immaculate linen and table settings. There are fish and more conventional Indian dishes available both for starters and main courses. We enjoyed two delicious portions of scallops, a prawn puri and a shami kebab (not on the menu, but hey, they're helpful people who want you to enjoy your evening).

We all had fish Main courses, either tilapia (a delicate white fish) or boal (massive predator) steak. There's a helpful guide to the three Indian fish varieties on the table - the other one is Ayre which is another large predator. Three of us had the good sense to go for grilled or pan-fried varieties, for example with tomatoes or capers. My mistake was to go for a jalfrezi - I like a hot curry - which really didn't suit the fish at all. They also have various traditional curry house dishes - the usual karahi, madras, vindaloo - and some specials such as Lamb shanks, whole roast quail, and so on. Wine prices were reasonable - a decent Chilean red and then a better Rioja Crianza were both enjoyed. For four including drinks and a decent tip, our evening was £120 - not eye-watering given the quality we'd enjoyed.

So the conclusion - friendly, smart, quite different to the run of the mill curry house, and maybe can fit a Curry Club in there (provided not too many others book!)

February meeting - Liphook!

The table is booked! The February meeting will be at Gurkha Chautari, Liphook on Wednesday 13th (no clash with Valentine's Night this year). Drinks will be at The Links Hotel, just a few minutes' walk away. Please note that this is a change from the original plan to go to Madhuban, as they will be refurbishing on this date. Will Parkes is organising this month's meeting.

I sent the monthly e-mail last night (4th Feb) but because of a problem with my provider, they were all still sitting in the Outbox this morning. I'll try again tonight.

Thursday 31 January 2008

Midnight Tandoori - Palmerston Rd, Southsea, 30/1/08

Wednesday evening saw me swiftly back to the Midnight Tandoori to test out their traditional curry and savour another glass of plummy Monetpuliciano.

For starters 'Prawn and Pineapple' was as simple as it sounded. Cloaked in a light tomato yoghurt sauce and underwritten by earthy tumeric and concentrated coriander it contrasted nicely with the plump seafood and the acid sweetness of pineapple.

Next up smoky chicken in a hot, sour Jalfrezi sauce, moist with sweet fat onions, roasted peppers and fried tomatoes. There was a citrussy tinge (lemon juice?) to my Sag Paneer of creamy curd and spinach simmered in usual savoury spices. Raiding across table I got a mouthful of an original walnutty Passanda that had arrived beautifully garnished with rose petals in a deep triangular procelain bowl.

Dishes are well presented, staff well turned out and brought up -haven't been trained to be pleasant, its natural. In between serving the four or five tables they talked of football, Man Utd versus Pompey and Cristiano Ronaldo's winning goal. Safe in the knowledge the three points were secured and full of good food I left very content.

Willp2328visit: 7/10

Saturday 26 January 2008

Midnight Tandoori - Palmerston Rd, Southsea

The PLACE is hides itself well, tucked away in a niche between two multi storey apartments down toward the sea front. Rich ended up in Kashmir, a few doors down until he realised his mistake, Mike and Aaran turned up 45 minutes late after a search.

Business has been 'alright' according to the bearded young bangladeshi on duty Friday evening, they've a small but loyal clientel. Aaran's Mum is a regular, 'surprised she's not here' he mused, perhaps just as well as he forget her birthday (hope I don't get in trouble for this remark).

While waiting for company I enjoyed a glass of House wine, yes its Montepuliciano D'Abruzzo! An excellent value red with bold fruit bouquet, cocoa finish, popularised by the Wine Society and Matthew Dukes among several.

Studying the menu PRICES seemed reasonable and as the evening progressed positively good value. Polite and effecient SERVICE merited a decent tip and FOOD wise it was super.

I began with a Chicken Sheek. Dry, orange chippolatas with a smoky chilli taste. For main course Lamb Joshwala proved one of the best dishes I've enjoyed for under £7. Tender, fat chunks of meat in a zingy and lively spiced curry with rich chocolately undertones, highlighted by cherry tomatoes bursting with ripe flavour. Delicately treated pulpy slivers of okra and decent white pilau well above par as well.

In SUMMARY the Midnight Tandoori is a discovery I'm glad to have made, if I can call it so, was recommended to me in fact. The menu is generally north indian but they are are enough variations to explore to merit more than a few return trips.

Willp2328 score: 8/10

Thursday 24 January 2008

Paradise Balti - Petersfield, 23/1/08

Arrived 10 minutes early so I sat and read the Daily Mirror. That took a minute and a half. I observed fellow Wednesday night dinners until my mate turned up. The restaurant was pleasingly busy, over half the tables occupied.

Graham had resolved to give up drink until February but a visit to Weymouth last weekend derailed good intentions. We shared a bottle of Cabernet Sauvingon, all red summer fruits, raspberries and red currants.

After crisp, warm poppadoms a jolly nice meal was had. Coconut Fish, 3 mini cod fillets fried with coconut and coated in bread crumbs was simple, light and sweet. A Prawn Patia, toothsome yet sour with tamarind, spicy with chilli resin, heady with coriander. First class perfumed pilau rice and a succulent moreish Cauliflower, Pea and Tomato curry cooked in lashings of onion was lovely.

The chef has been the same for 15 years, seems he knows that punters want an 'indian' to involve big flavours and equally sizeable portions.

Willp2328 visit: 7/10

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Mirchi - Albert Road, Southsea, 18/1/08

After a late afternoon session in the Wine Vaults discussing the top 100 pop albums of all time (does Ennion Morricone's Once Upon A Time In The West soundtrack qualif? Yes of course!) we started on a bottle of grassy Muscadet with honeyed melon aromas. Emma is an architect and was surprised at Mirchi's carpet, it'll wear out in 3 years, not 7!The thing is, will Mirchi still be around in 3 years? The venue has changed hands at least 4 times in the 3 years I've known this stretch of Albert Road.

The food is good enough to suggest the guys here might survive. Chicken Tikka, firm fleshy nuggets in a thin but tart n’ spicy marinade was fine. Lamb Goan Korai - dense cubes of Lamb in a whipped up creamy coconut sauce, juicy with stewy onions, soured by red peppers and green chilli rather nice too. Chana Bhajee, fibrous chic peas lightly fried with earthy tumeric, cinnamon as well as fresh leafy coriander also satisfied without amazing. Pilau ok.

Overall the meal was decent, a word I don't like using, but on this occasion the most fitting way to conclude.

Willp2328 visit: 6.5/10

Thursday 17 January 2008

Khans Brasserie - Midhurst, 16/1/08

A triumph! At last I succeeded in paying for a whole meal with Mum (even if I did have to resort to hiding her wallet before driving to Midhurst). Minus handbag she indulged in poppadoms, pineapple juice, Onion Bhaji's three and ordered the same main dish as I (it's in the genes).

For my part I chose to begin with 'Panir Kebab', a balloon of tandoori chicken filled with mash that looked interesting but didn't really excite the taste buds. Two Sally Lambs, reasonably priced at £6.50, were pleasant although lacking the nuance of other incarnations. A rich potato and apricot curry it tasted most of citrussy saltiness of freshly ground coriander seed and a little of camphorous bitter sweet cardamom though the meat was well done. Good plain Naan, soft and light as well as a decent Bhindi bhajee (ladies fingers prepared with ginger and garlic) were enjoyed. A large glass of a blackberry tinged Shiraz proved a fine compliment to the food.

The staff were friendly and the restaurant felt very snug inside, like being deep in the bowels of a warm, friendly giant - the BFG? Just hope the bladder holds out - the gents loos are outside (not literally but they are seperate from the main building)

Willp2328visit: 6/10

Friday 11 January 2008

Gurkha Durbar - Grayshott, 10/1/08

I approve of the large portions of rice the Gurkha serve, always need it. A man sized helpling of lovely audente basmati did more than soak up my curry. What an excellent meal it was! Especially as it turned out not to cost a penny (no such thing as a free lunch but there is such a thing as a free dinner, if its curry and its eaten with my Godfather – just don’t all ask at once!!).

Poleko Maccha to start – that’s a char grilled salmon fillet to the laity, coated in a subtle piquant marinade, nutritious and delicious, succeeded by Khatmandu Ko Wasa. Sounds like a fatal martial arts maneuver but if executed in the Durbar turns out to be best quality stewed lamb in a hot rich, smooth curry, pepper laden with a strong undertones of red wine and acetous cardamom. Mis Mas Tarkari, lightly fried vegetables, fresh with coriander was perfect, veg which you had to bite through rather than slurp (overcooking legumes is endemic in lesser curry joints). All in all as near faultless perfection as I’m likely to enjoy in a purveyor of eastern cuisine.

Willp2328visit: 9/10

Thursday 10 January 2008

Dhanmondi - Whitehill

On the occassion of first visit I don't remember looking forward to a trip to angry Bordon with such anticipation, somehow I'd gone almost a month without curry.

Aperitifs at Foggy’s then troops in convoy, under cover of darkness to Dhanmondi. PLACE a strange space, once a village hall? Unlikely, locals not known for community spirit…careful now! Before I go any further must stress staff were perfectly hospitable, SERVICE attentive, glasses replenished with pleasant Chardonnay in between times. Much debate about FOOD, chewy lamb?? Starter middling mix of mini bhajis, vegetable samosa, lamb and chicken tikka. Mains all of same Medium consistency but combined well while each having distinct flavour; Chicken Banarosh with pineapple, Lamb and bangladeshi lime, two other dishes, King Prawns and tasty Tandoori chicken both in a dry tangy sauce. Sides comprised Tarka Dall, thick and viscus, plus blend of Spinach, potatoes, chick peas, onion slivers. Plenty of pilau, daily bread.

...Back in the new year, a year which sees Dhanmondi recognised as one of the top 100 curry restaurants in the UK by the British Curry Awards.

Turned out to be a memorable visit. Not only did we enjoy some rather good food but we were allowed behind the scenes. We met the cooking team (all 3) and had a fresh, buttery Naan, soft, doughy, tangy with garlic, cooked in 40 seconds, slapped onto the inside of the tandoor over right before our eyes. That was after a good meal, highlights including Balti Lamb. Thick dark brown treacle like gravy redolent of citrussy ground coriander. A Delicious Mushroom Bhajee, dry and herby. As well as King Prawns smothered in a gingery tomato sauce aromatic with cardamom.

The Jalfrezi in a rather thin gravy could be improved on and didn't benefit from being served on a platter ditto a bland Sheekh Kebab and an overly salty meat samosa. However, the Restaurant was so accomodating. I felt priveleged to be shown inside the inner sanctum and come a little closer to uncovering the well kept secrets of the British Curry House.

In SUMMARY Dhanmondi is a likeable local.

Willp2328score: 6/10

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Tiffin Club - Southampton

A new corner restaurant, the PLACE is really just one high ceilinged dining room large enough for 30 diners or the Indian cricket squad who visited during their summer tour. The basement kitchen sends up creative dishes in a dumb waiter, then carried to table by very polite, well spoken staff with a genuine passion for the food being turned out below. SERVICE impressed.

Main courses arrive plated up, sides and sundries do not both at a more reasonable PRICE than any other posh curry joint around Southampton’s trendy Oxford Street. A meal for 3 with drinks costing 59 pounds was easy to swallow. Just as well as – I had a sore throat. Although a thick Mango and Pommegranate Lassi soothed my thoracic irritation. After thin crisp poppadoms I ordered Stuffed Squid. The Squid was wobbly and beautifully tender, not in the least bit rubbery, the filling of prawns and chilli with a suggestion of rosemary (in indian cuisine?) slightly bitter.

Mains included DJ’s seasonal venison (aka Rudolf) grilled in the tandoor to dense, sweet, tender perfection, Charli’s Mita Aloo, light creamy, fluffy sweet potatoes and my Nizami – strips of chicken in a smooth sour mustardy sauce ambushed by occasional slivers of chilli, root ginger, with a round sulphurous garlicky finish. All rather good. Methi Aloo, waxy, melt in the mouth new potatoes stir fried with pungent fenugreek and a little spinach was a great accompaniment. Similar accolades for Asparagus and sesame dish across the table. Pilau, plentiful and buttery like popcorn. We 3 agreed to return in the new year, DJ insisting I order Shah Venison Grill and a Peshwari Naan next time.

In SUMMARY I hope this comes to pass, a venue like the Tiffin Club deserves success and if I can play a Millaganesque small part in their victory then wonderful.

Willp2328score: 7/10