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.