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