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