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