Friday 11 December 2009

Biplob - Swindon

On Wood Street, Swindon, this restaurant seems to have been adapted from knocked-though cellars under shops and houses - lots of stairs to climb on the way in, or to take a pressure break. It's a curry house with an interesting menu, with lots of choice, and the cooking seemed really good. Three of us had dinner there on Wednesday night, and we all enjoyed it. My colleagues chose prawn puree and sheekh kebab, and I took the mixed starter. The prawn puree had a tomato-based sauce rather than a deeper and darker pepper one, but it went down well. Sometimes a mixed started for one can be dull, but this had a good choice of tasters, and gave me a good feeling about the main course to come.

My colleagues both chose chicken tikka jalfrezi - plenty of spice, though they avoided the fresh chillies. I had a chicken korai - good pieces of chicken, hot sauce without excessive fat, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It's a very pleasant and well-patronised place, and you can't always be sure of a free table. They take bookings on 01793 490265, and I'll certainly be going back as part of my Curry Furlong researches.


Wednesday 2 December 2009

December meeting - Spice Lounge, Petersfield - Wed 9th

The table is booked! Our last meeting of 2009 takes place at the Spice Lounge restaurant in Petersfield, on Wednesday 9th December. Dinner will be at 20:30 as usual, and aperitifs will be at Foggys. Members, please respond to the e-mail that you'll receive shortly, so that we can get numbers about right.

We were last there in July, and at Spice Lounge we always look forward to a warm welcome, warmer curries, and a great social evening - a good way to round off 2009!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Lalbagh, Swindon

Looking for a decent meal in windswept Swindon, I turned to Google which found me the Lalbagh restaurant. Somewhere, I saw the claim that it's the best Indian restaurant in Swindon, a town which isn't short of these establishments. The web site said 'National Curry Chef - Swindon Finalists', and Cobra has declared that this week (22 - 28 November) is National Curry Week, so what more excuse did I need?

The restaurant can be found in Rodbourne Road, Swindon, which is something of a takeaway strip - fish and chips, kebabs, Chinese, two other Indian places, but Lalbagh is a proper restaurant, if not big.

Tonight I needed to avoid heavy fried food, so I started with dal soup - lovely lentil taste, warming and a just the right thing on a cold evening. Then I chose Lamb Darjeeling Special - cooked with hot chillies in lemon flavour sauce - with pilau rice. This was really good - lots of meat, fresh tomatoes and onions, with a subtle tang of lemon. The chilli crept up on me slowly - by the end, I needed to mop my brow. But amazing - the plate showed no trace of grease or fat, and even though I'd left some of the sauce in the serving dish, none there either. Very good food, very flavourful, and this is a restaurant that I'd visit again. Soon.

Details: 171 Rodbourne Road, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN2 2AY. 01793 535511/535577

Sunday 22 November 2009

November meeting report - Gurkha Chautari, Liphook

We had a good turnout and enjoyed fine cooking at the Gurkha Chautari in Liphook on Wednesday 11th November. The restaurant seems to be evolving in its style, quite distinct from the Gurkha Durbar in Grayshott, its sister. These are definitely not clones of each other.

The starters were the usual favourites - chicken livers, choila (peppery lamb), potota cakes and momo (steamed dumplings). They were all delicious - even one of our group who didn't normally eat liver agreed that this was the case.

Main courses were Khasi Bhutuwa (lamb), hot prawn curry, a medium chicken curry, sizzling tandoori chicken and a mixed vegetable curry that was so good and full of distinct flavours that it wouldn't disappoint as a main course dish (and I'm no vegetarian). Side dishes included rice, naans and bombay-style potatoes.

The cooking was interesting because we couldn't detect any garlic or heavy coriander tastes - instead, there was delicious cooking without heavy sauces. Others commented that maybe there had been too much rice, and maybe we should have had one more meat dish. But the overall impression was of enough spice - some real highlights from sensible use of chili - and everything very good and tasty.

This was a very good evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Highly recommended.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

November meeting - Gurkha Chautari, Liphook

The table is booked! Our November meeting takes place on Wednesday 11th, and the venue is the Grukha Chautari restaurant in Liphook.

Aperitifs will be from 19:30 at the Links Hotel, Portsmouth Road, Liphook and dinner will be at 20:30.

More details of the restaurant can be found here. We last visited in June 2009 - the report is on our blog.

An e-mail reminder/invitation will be sent to members of our mailing list. Please let me know if you expect to make it, either by replying through our feedback page or by e-mail.

Friday 30 October 2009

November and December 2009 meetings

Our November and December meetings will be as follows:

11th November - Gurkha Chautari, Liphook. Drinks: The Links Hotel

9th December - Spice Lounge, Petersfield. Drinks: Foggys

Monday 19 October 2009

October meeting report - Malabon, Petersfield

It was a first visit for most of us to Malabon, and as usual we asked them to choose the menu for us - which may have come as a surprise to them.

They did very well - a simple starter and then lamb curry (Gosht Lajawaab, marinated in spices & yogurt, cooked with cinnamon & coriander), a green chicken curry (from Goa), a king prawn special, and Radeshwari chicken (medium hot with tomatoes, chili and garlic). Side dishes included mushrooms, vegetable curry, naans and rice. This was a pretty good spread of food - loads of flavour - and we all enjoyed it.

Petersfield isn't a big place, so it's lucky to have three decent Indian restaurants. Malabon passsed the test, and will certainly be seeing us again soon.

Thursday 8 October 2009

October meeting - Petersfield - Malabon

The table is booked! Our October meeting takes place on Wednesday 14th, and our venue is the new Malabon restaurant on Dragon Street.

As usual, aperitifs will be from 19:30 at Foggys and dinner will be at 20:30.

An e-mail reminder/invitation will be sent to members of our mailing list. Please let me know if you expect to make it, either by replying through our feedback page or by e-mail.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

September meeting report - Madhuban

We had a fine evening at the Madhuban in Liss on 9th September. The England football team had their decisive qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and so the place was very quiet. We didn't mind at all - our group that evening was made up mainly of Rugby fans; England had already taken the lead by the time we left the pub. Result never in doubt! The staff made us very welcome and put on a fine display of cooking.

Starters included salmon pakura, hussaini kebab (minced chicken), shish kebab and onion bhajis.

Main courses were jungli mass - a dryish but very tasty lamb dish, naga lamb (hot chilis here), chicken tikka Darjeeling massala (Lodue's favourite), achari chicken, slow cooked lamb with apricot, balichow chicken, panch mela (mixed vegetable curry). Rice, naan and dhal were the accompaniments.

Everything was delicious and beautifully presented. Despite the fact that it was still Ramadan, and the staff had been fasting until sunset (7:35 that evening), they put on a great meal - in fact some of the best cooking that we can remember at a Curry Club meeting. Madhuban goes from strength to strength, and we look forward to our next visit.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

September meeting - Madhuban - Wed 9th

The table is booked! Our September meeting will be at Madhuban in Liss, on
Wednesday 9th. Please let me know if you'll be able to make it or not.
I've booked for 12, and if more want to come, we need to know sooner rather
than later.

Drinks will be at the Bluebell Inn, (map here) where Station Road meets
Farnham Road, from about 19:30.

Looking forward to a great evening!

Saturday 22 August 2009

Rasa N16 - Stoke Newington

Leaving a week between eating at/reviewing a restaurant can develop perspective, and allow for a little revisionism. However, my impression of Rasa N16, billed as London's finest vegetarian sub-continental, has not altered greatly since Thor's day before last.

Val and I left very content*, full of wholesome South Indian homestyle cooking. The pre-meal snacks, chutneys (rich garlic, sour mango, astringent mixed vegetable, light, fresh coriander), and assorted poppadoms, banana chips, crunchy murukku, did more than stimulate the appetite. Starters of meltingly sweet plantains in a light batter, as well as Idli - steamed lentil buns with a stewy veg curry - kept up the eager anticipation.

The main events: Rasa Kayi, a spicy bean carrot, cauliflower and potato dish with a lovely undertone of fennel, tangy, mustard flavoured Okra and a rich, nutty ochre yellow daal, accompanied by sweet rice pancakes (Acchapam), as well as coconut and tart tamarind rice completed an eclectic and well balanced meal.

It gets busy, mostly with young Americans, and service, while polite and smiley is fast (veg takes little effort to cook - right?), but later in the evening or earlier in the week, it could be the ideal venue. Super VFM too.

High marks!

*albeit with a craving for Apple Crumble...(?)

FOOD (&DRINK): 4/5
VALUE: 5/5

willp2328 score: 8/10

Thursday 6 August 2009

Paradise Balti - August 12th

The table is booked! Aperitifs at Foggys from about 19:30 and then dinner at the Paradise from about 20:30.

El Presidente will be your host next Wednesday evening, as we continue our focus on the restaurants of Petersfield. In September we hope to try out a new Petersfield venue, rumoured to be called Madhubon. Couldn't find it using Google, but maybe someone has a phone number and has already given it a try?

Please let us know by e-mail to whether or not you expect to be there. Looking forward to a great evening!

Thursday 9 July 2009

July meeting - Spice Lounge, Petersfield

We had a great turnout for our meeting at Spice Lounge, Petersfield, on Wednesday 8th July. The restaurant was very busy, and possibly this meant the staff were under pressure. We even struggled to get some hot pickle with the papadums, though to be fair, service picked up towards the end of the evening.

We enjoyed a mixed starter, comprising chicken chat puree, lamb kebab, chicken tikka, bread-crumbed chicken and onion bhaji. Then the main courses arrived. At our end of the table, we had lamb balti, CTM, lamb dhansak, prawn dhansak, chicken bhuna, vegetable curry. At the far end of the table, lamb jalfrezi and chicken chilli massala were briefly seen but never made it to us. Kulchi lamb came as promised, and was as tasty as ever. Sadly, my overall impression was that there was not much variation between the dishes - most things were suspiciously the same sort of deep red colour, mild to medium (not what we wanted) and very little spice.

All in all, the social side of the evening was far better than the food, and we'd rather have fewer dishes with a focus on doing the cooking right.

Reminder: Bryan Frost and the Ravons are doing a gig in aid of MND charities at the Festival Hall, Petersfield, on 1st August.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Tiffin - Canon Street, E1

Tiffin has a ringing endorsement from the Cobra Good Curry Guide, and though of late my faith in The Good Book has wavered a little, it deserves praise. I actually ate there, which is more than the editors of The Guide are sometimes capable of, and so can pass reasonable judgement - not that I am in anyway Pontius Pilate.

Yes, Tony and I enjoyed a good meal, ordered plenty (Tony drives an ice cream van during the day so he's dying for something savoury come 9pm). BYO Kingfisher washed well and starters included smokey Chicken Tikka, gristle free, savoury Sheekh Kebab's, great persuasively cumin flavoured Lamb Chop's, Veg Samosas and Aubergine Bhajia's - fatty batter tends to make these somewhat predictable.

In between planning a Nineteen Thirties themed party with new Grammarphone as the centrepiece (it has one volume: LOUD), main courses were eagerly set upon. Dahi Murgh comprised chunks of Chicken in a fresh, light, paprika orange yoghurt sauce, Tandoori Vegetables, two delicious skewers, ever so slightly charred, the pumpkin exhibiting an extraordinary raw, sweet, yet tart lemony flavour, as well as rice and a doughy desert bread, doused in toothsome organic honey, proved highly satisfactory.

The owner was very personable and kept assuring us they were usually much busier - they are only about six tables so presumably an orderly Saturday-Night-In-Tower-Hamlets queue forms on such occasions. He also apologised several times for the fact they'd run out of After Eights, I didn't think it fair to tell him I prefered Ferrero Roche. But Trifles and Eton Mess aside, I will pop in again, forgot to mention the food is cheap.

FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5

Willp2328 score: 7/10

Thursday 2 July 2009

Sea Raj has closed

Grayshott's innovative Sea Raj restaurant is now displaying a notice saying that it has gone out of business and that the restaurant is closed. Whether that's down to the recession, or to a lack of people wanting to try Indian fish cuisine, is a moot point, but it was an interesting experiment. No idea whether the owners have persisted with their larger premises in Farnham, but the lack of any web presence suggests not. Shame.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Elephant Walk - West Hampstead, NW6

Too hot and humid for a preamble today, so I'll get straight into the review, sweat running from brow, feet in a bowl of ice, and so on.

Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurants used to be thin on the ground in London but not anymore, indeed there are several, most a cut above average. Elephant Walk is run by a husband and wife team and three or four very sweet and lovely waitresses. It is small but light in a cafe like way, easy to find - and yes, it is better than average, good to very good.

Starter options appeared a little unremarkable with the exception of Idli's and Dosa's, so we went straight into the mains. Eight of us, three Thali's - meat and vegetable curries, rice, Gothamba rotis (similar to Paratha's but more chewy) and sambol - much enjoyed, just as authentic King fish curry with coconut and tamarind and vegetable sambar were. There was a lot of food, too much to sample, even if portions were sensible.

I thought Ooru Mus, a Pork curry in a thick treacle coloured gravy was strongly reminiscent of a stringent and savoury roast chilli dominated Madras, while mushy Pumpkin registered mellow coconut but lacked a mustardy bite. Still both were comfortably above par.

To summarise: it's decent value, one could get stuffed and get out for £10 if a herbivore, £12 if a carnivore. Beers include Lion lager, apparently ubiquitous across Sri Lanka. The Wine List is mercifully concise, and despite a rather anaemic complexion, the Rose was very palatable. Phew!

FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5/5

Willp2328score: 7/10

Saturday 20 June 2009

Planet India - Brighton

If you can find Planet India, you are in for a treat. A real treat. The kind you'll want to have all over again. But first a proviso: do not rely on Google Maps, listen to the directions given by the staff, and it helps if you're a fan of Baz Lurhmann - outside, inside it's very 'strictly ballroom'.

Once one has gotten over the cheap day glo splendour, the dancing waiters* and the fact the restaurant is v-e-g-e-t-a-r-i-a-n / v-e-g-a-n (no BYO meat allowed) one can really begin to enjoy oneself. Paul Mercurio would eat his purple heart out here!

I've never been served by a man in a nightie and flip flops before but he was so warm and kind, bluestockings such as I were able to overlook this. There are all sorts of unusual beers to be had - including Trashy Blonde - but the food is simply excellent. Big, simple, direct, delicious flavours. Large portions too.

We consumed with relish (ho ho), homemade Mango chutney and a wonderfully spicy, acrid pickle, then shared (almost) two bowls of chaat - the best, topped with sensationally fresh coriander leaf, sweet and tangy with tamarind yoghurt, and creamy with filling, fibrous chick peas. Taking the option of two half portions for the main course - constituting more than a whole - I delighted in a preperation of buttery little potatoes in a coconut rich tomato sauce and ochre yellow-orange daal, thick and hearty, reminiscent of the most wonderful veg stock. Chris had Sag Paneer, not quite so fulfilling, and Claire a gorgeous, perky Aubergine yoghurt curry. Cumin rice, moist and toasty, proved bountiful.

As I gazed out the window at the sea the following morning and spied a lone pink sail, I thought, only in Brighton! I imagine Planet India will remain hip in a kinda lo-kool way for some time, possibly until the inevitable death of our sun.

FOOD (& DRINK): 4.5

Willp2328score: 9/10

*only yoking!

Parveen - Islington, N1

Parveen has been around since 1977 - you could call it a 'stalwart'. In appearance the place is no regular curry house though, more resemebling a deep continental restaurant, the kind you find crammed full of sweaty french sophists on a hot summer evening a travers de la mer.

The only sweats you'll get here are from the curries, if you order a Vindaloo in particular. Al, opted for Ginger Chicken, and when it arrived, after regulation pappads, dips, ok Chicken Tikka (with thick red crust of paprika and chilli powder), our waiter announced it to be a Vindaloo...Vindaloo! Yes, the very hottest, dirtiest dish in the world! An awkward minute followed as, stammering in true Brit fashion, we tried to ascertain whether the kitchen had made a terrible mistake. They hadn't. T'was all a humourous jape! Ah! The laughs they must have back there...and the waiter was in on it too!

Anyhow, Al quite enjoyed his Ginger Chicken, although the meat was 'a little dry'. For my part, I felt the Lamb Saag was actually pretty lovely, possessing a savoury aroma yet tasting sweet with plenty of cinnamon, while a stewed Aubergine dish carried an odd but not unpleasant ketchup-like aftertaste. The small portions of rather dry pilau were a bit inadequate mind.

In summary: fair.


Willp2328: 6/10

Thursday 11 June 2009

Gurkha Chautari - Liphook

We had an excellent June meeting at the Gurkha Chautari. The restaurant was quite busy for a Wednesday night, and though our numbers were lower than usual, we were warmly welcomed.

Starters were delicious - lamb, chicken livers and momo dumplings. The restaurant chose the main courses for us: lamb and spinach, a hot and a medium version of khursani kukhura (chicken), hot prawn curry, monkfish, and 'Katmandu kukhura' - a mild chicken dish. All of these tasted really good, and were complemented by some vegetable curries, rice, chilli potatoes (sauteed rather than cooked in a sauce like Bombay potatoes) and dhal.

Some of our members' comments:
  • "some of the best flavours we've tasted"
  • "one of the best curries I've had"
  • "I usually find this place a little mild, but tonight - perfect"
  • "next time I eat here - monkfish"
  • "best food, best service, best music"

  • To summarise - a very good evening, enjoyed by all, excellent service. Highly recommended.

    Sunday 7 June 2009

    Emni - Angel, N1

    Emni is for trendies...has to be, sitting, as it does, on the corner of Camden Passage. One would never stagger in here, well oiled, after an evening in the Nag's Head, it's more a chic venue for catching up on office gossip, sharing a bottle of sauvignon and so forth. Hi ho!

    Credit must be given for effort. The front of house team try hard to provide for their lugubrious guests. Poppadoms and chutneys are a little different, seemed as though they might just have been home made, especially a really smokey tamarind sauce. Starters were a departure from the normal curry house fare as anticipated. Spinach and lentil patties, stuffed with a fig were very dainty and pretty, tasted fine except for a little too much chilli, somewhat overpowering. Other dishes included Scallops with mint and coconut sauce, spicy chicken chops, tandoori brocolli with paneer etc.

    Portion sizes were perfect, left us feeling full but not fit to burst. Laal Mass, tender pieces of lamb in a chilli hot Madras style sauce with julienne of root ginger was rich and sharp and complemented by a cooling, creamy blueberry raita. Sides of charcoal grilled, flattened aubergine slices were tangy and alternative while the pilau was moist and plentiful with peas.

    The restaurant claims they provide a taste of 'Indian rediscovered' and although they are more than a three sauce suits all subcontinental, most of the menu is familiar to a seasoned curryholic except for a few twists here and there. In a sense this is their USP as most of us seek comfort in curry rather than too much adventure.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5
    SERVICE: 4
    VALUE: 3

    Willp2328score: 7/10

    Tuesday 26 May 2009

    Great Nepalese - Euston, NW1

    As a rule of thumb the Great British Public are not often wrong, Daily Mail readers allowing, I trust most people's opinions. Great Nepalese has an enthusiastic and very loyal following, or, on the evidence of Tuesday's visit, rather a misgiven and very stoic following who are indeed wrong as to what constitutes good food.

    Enter through the door (after a fashion) plastered with stickers endorsing the culinary achievements of the restaurant, from Egon Ronnay to the Good Curry Guide, the last dated 2002-3. Yet! Lo and behold, wheredidallthetimego, here we are six years later, about to enter the LED future! Technology has moved on and so has the London dining scene - Great Nepalese hasn't, in fact it's been positively stationary for a quarter of century, maybe more.

    Poppadoms were stale and the chutney tray exceptionally dull and unenthusing. The mango lassi was watery. No appetisers so Aidan and I cut straight to the main course. My Dhaba Mutton, a few hunks of meat in a cinnamon tinged, red brown runny sauce - distinctly average, Bhanta, aka Aubergine, tasted more like bland courgette and may have come from the same stock. Meanwhile Aidan's Madras was identical to the dish I consumed with little relish save for a raw looking green chilli or two, even good pilau rice and professional service couldn't make up for it!

    Petersfield really is lucky to have the Gurkha Chautari and Durbar around if this is the best London has to offer (which it isn't but nevermind).

    FOOD (& DRINK): 2
    SERVICE: 4
    VALUE: 2

    Willp2328 score: 4/10

    Sunday 17 May 2009

    Zeen - Euston, NW1

    Open the menu and it's hard for one's heart not to sink at the invitation to 'Begin Your Voyage', just one of a series of roadside-caf-style seafaring quips, substituted for proper a la carte headings. Yet, however corny and irrelevant these are, the descriptions of the pan Indian food wash well and make one want to steer north eight knots and so forth...

    As Mary, Rosemary and I were really the only diners in the very orange, clean lined basement canteen, combined wait and kitchen staff were able to pay us their full attention.

    For starters, we were delivered a mini plate of crisp sized cumin flavoured poppadoms and gorgeous, aromatic mango chutney, fragrant with whole spices. There followed unusual batter fried bhindi that could possibly have been a little less chewy, and two fat pale sausage sheeks requiring more seasoning and spice.

    Things improved vastly with the main courses: an ace Chicken Madras, decent hunks of flesh in an unctuous gravy, rich with cinnamon, bittersweet cloves, creamy coconut and sour chillies plus an inarresting dish of great juicy courgettes stuffed with a cheesy, starchy filling, luxuraint in a toothsome nutty, onion sauce. The plain rice was great and a big, sweet, milky lassi was also much enjoyed.

    Now that I've been and zeen, I will return to Drummond Street, a lesser known foodie haven for sub continental food, and depending on the company, may give the place another go as it's pretty similar to, if perhaps not quite as good as Masala Zone.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5
    SERVICE: 4
    AMBIENCE: 2.5
    VALUE: 4

    Willp2328 score: 7.5/10

    Wednesday 13 May 2009

    Chilli Night, Haslemere - 13 May 2009

    The Inn on the Hill is a great place for pre-curry drinks, and their 1 Kg steak promotion looks massive - but maybe too much for me. But the aim of our visit was Chilli Night, and they didn't disappoint: lovely food - decent wine - average bill: great evening.

    Excellent mixed starters with a delicious fresh chutney were followed by

    Lamb Jalfrezi
    Prawn Madras
    Batak (Duck) Shashlik
    Lamb Rogan
    Garlic Chilli Chicken (my favourite)
    accompanied by Bombay aloo and Tarka Dhal.

    El Presidente insisted on chapatis and stuffed paratha. Your webmaster / blogmeister wanted garlic naan and plain rice. In the end, more of the chapatis were eaten than the plain rice and naan, so we concede to the wisdom of El Presidente.

    It was a good evening. Next time: Gurkha Chautari, Liphook.

    Thursday 9 April 2009

    Bengal Lancer - Kentish Town, NW5

    'Bengal Lancer' means 'prancer' in rhyming slang. As well as conjuring memories of all them upper class, cavalry types, hangin' around Kolkata, with big whiskers n' a jolly guffaw, gettin' all the women, it manages to produce some decent food.

    Chris and I, like fallouts from the grunge scene, traipsed in for a quick bite before going to see the Eagles (of Death Metal).

    The chutney tray was ok but overpriced, indeed everything is just a little more expensive here. However, when our meal came it was almost worth £20 each.

    I had Chicken Hyrdabad, which was rather good. Great hunks of flesh in a rich coconut paste with big creamy cashew and candle nuts, as well as a garnish of raw carrot and green chillies that in truth didn't really register because of a mild undertone. Roast parnsips were fine - a throwback to the Indian Raj - while Chris' Chasnidargh was a full-on maroon coloured, sweet, balsamic curry, again perfectly acceptable. A cute bowl of ochre yellow pilau and a bubbling garlic Naan tasted as lovely as they appeared.

    The restaurant has a reputation that stretches beyond the rather unassuming surrounds of Kentish Town Road. I would have to go back to ascertain whether it is deserved but it made a more than satisfactory pit stop all the same, and care had clearly been taken in the kitchen to produce interesting and well presented dishes.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5 (only stella on tap!!)
    SERVICE: 3
    VALUE: 3

    Will2328 score: 6.5/10

    Sea Raj, Grayshott

    We had a blank Wednesday evening after the Curry Club's visit to Chilli Night was postponed until May, so we decided to try the Sea Raj in Grayshott again.

    This restaurant's claim to fame is fish - and subject to availability, it can offer a good variety from Asia, including Tilaphia, Pangass, Pabda, Boal, Ayre, Khakia (Garfish) and Bang Mass. There is also a range of fish that you'd expect to see on a European menu. The exotic varieties are explained in the menu, and the restaurant's system is that you select a fish, and then add a sauce or cooking charge to it. Because we're not familiar with the Asian fish, it's difficult to know if any of the traditional curry sauces will suit. On a previous visit, grilled tilaphia and boal were very good, but jalfrezi really didn't go well with boalfish.

    There's a good range of starters, many of them based on seafood, but on the night, spicy crispy fried sprats were off, and a king prawn puree and a kp butterfly had to suffice. The puree was good, lots of flavours, very tasty, but the king prawn butterfly was a mass of breadcrumbs and little to taste. Crab meat in coconut sauce, or scallops in garlic butter would have been a better choice.

    We decided to try a couple of meat main courses this time. These were very good. The lamb jalfrezi was excellent, fresh peppers and clean flavours, with the lamb cooked exactly to the right consistency. Chicken archaria had a lovely lemon-y tang, and once again, good flavours. Naan, rice and bindi bhaji complemented the main dishes and made a very enjoyable meal.

    Other aspects: It's a small restaurant, with (I guess) only about 24 covers. As it was a quiet Wednesday, we had a 4-seater table for two, and this was comfortable. The table settings were smart, crisp white table cloths and black linen napkins - very stylish. It's an attractive place to eat, but also easy to fill, so it's a good idea to book. 01428 608826.

    You may be able to find some links from a Google search to the Sea Raj web site, but at the time of writing, the index (home) page was down for maintenance. The link on the title of this blog posting points to the 'menu' pages, but these included items that no longer appear in the printed menu at the restaurant.

    There's now another Sea Raj restaurant in Farnham, Surrey, but this doesn't seem to have hit the Internet yet. We'll keep you posted.

    Tuesday 7 April 2009

    April meeting cancelled

    The sad news of the death of Brian Barnes, former landlord of the Old Drum in Petersfield, and a good friend to many Curry Club members, meant that too few wanted to go ahead with the April meeting.

    When I joined the Curry Club, the Drum was our regular drinking spot both before and after meetings, and it even served the meal on one occasion (or more?). After he left, we migrated to Foggys. He'll be missed by many.

    Accordingly, we've postponed the visit to Chilli Night until our May date, Wednesday 13th May.

    Tuesday 31 March 2009

    May meeting - Chilli Night, Haslemere

    The table is booked! On Wednesday 13th May, we'll be going back to Chilli Night in Haslemere, one of our favourite restaurants. Aperitifs will be at the Inn on the Hill from about 19:30, and then dinner will be at 20:30.

    We've postponed this visit from April, for reasons that we'll explain elsewhere.

    You can see our previous reviews on this restaurant by clicking here.  I can hardly wait!

    As usual all current members will receive an e-mail and this will also be posted on our Facebook group.

    Masala Zone - Islington, N1

    My sisters 21st birthday meal was a surprise. Not that I didn't expect her to make the grand old age, I just didn't expect to be invited, or for it to occur on a Monday when she and her friends were supposed to be on a last minute holiday to Portugal. In the modern age, as they discovered, passports are required for international travel, unless of course you have recourse to an uber efficient military.

    The Islington branch of Masala Zone, from the creators of Veeraswamy etc, was chosen on account of their vegetarian sympathies. It's a posh canteen, a la Wagamamma, except with more atmosphere inside, smart furnishings but low back chairs, so one can only sit upright or slouch forward...and as my headmaster used to say: 'all joints on the table shall be cut!'

    I started with Chassa (a low fat indian diary drink with coriander, certainly an acquired taste) as well as a large and highly satisfying serving of Aloo tikki - fried potato nuggets drenched in a delicious, warm, sweet, tamarind sauce with chickpeas, earthy cumin seeds and cooling yoghurt.

    I continued with lamb kholapuri, a chilli hot, rich, sour aniseedy curry with tender morsels of meat, sampled a chicken madras, plenty of heat, redolent of roasted coconut and the pervasive savoury flavour of curry leaf and enjoyed the rice, moist and plentiful, with a basket of neatly folded chapatis.

    In summary, Masala Zone is very good. It's not worth listening to the dissenters, of which there are some, because they come across as spoiled/niggardly, so in one word: recommended!

    FOOD (& DRINK): 4.5
    VALUE: 4
    SERVICE: 4

    Willp2328 score: 8.5/10

    Friday 27 March 2009

    Green Spice - Albert Rd, Southsea

    To be frank - not mad like Bruno or shifty like Warren, but straight like... - Green Spice is a significant improvement on the previous encumbent of 61 Albert Road, Romance Of India.

    The venue is unprepossessing to say the least, squeezed in between defunct buildings on a corner where nobody lingers. The dining room, though modern, looks bland and devoid of atmosphere from the street. There's no jungle in the window anymore, so you can actually see in.

    Our party of four stepped across the threshold nevertheless and were greeted by a waiter who looked a little dishevelled (the first step in life is a well tied tie!) and somewhat slightly dazed. However, he and his colleague, smiled quietly and provided the most efficient and unassuming service I've had in a while.

    The starter section of the menu lists dishes that you simply won't find in these parts. Scallops in coconut cream, Venison Bhorta, Squid marinated in oven roasted spice and greek yoghurt.

    I chose Smoked (re: Somked) Paprika Salmon and it was executed with all the flair of a posh London Indian. A sizeable fillet of oily fish encrusted with the simple, direct and bold flavours of fresh paprika and dry, hot chilli powder alongside a long ribbon of juicy courgette. Rather excellent!

    Other starters included 'spicy' and seemingly crisp Onion bhajis in roundel form and Chicken Tikka, not an enormous portion but neatly presented once again.

    Miscellanious mains included two OK looking Thali's, both with a fairly standard selection of sample dishes and a giant Naan, in addition to a Biryiani for Emma, who revealed she 'didn't really like rice' (!?)

    My Jalfrezi had plenty of fire as well, just the right amount. Decent chunks of chicken in a resinous, rich, cocktail sauce. In combination with Bhindi, diced and caramelized and pilau rice, moist, buttery and aromatic, it was very good.

    The food certainly didn't rush out of the kitchen and it seemed a lot of care had been taken on our behalf. Moreover, the total bill was £61 including drinks, great value!

    We were there for most of the evening and only two other tables were serviced. If you've discovered this blog and live in the area, do pay them a visit, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 4
    SERVICE: 5
    VALUE: 4

    Willp2328 score: 7.5/10

    Sunday 22 March 2009

    Gurkha Chautari - Liphook, 21/3/2009

    Good things come to those who wait and I don't have Guinness or Heinz Tomato Ketchup in mind.

    The food at the Chautari emerges slowly, but it's not as if anyone in Liphook on a Saturday has got to go anywhere fast. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band anyone?*

    We arrived at 8 and left around 11. The restaurant was full. Families, Rugby fans (no Welsh though), Yanks (Yuri) and a group who appeared to be sitting at a dining table, using cutlery for the first time - thankfully they were all but finished when we began.

    A bottle of Shiraz was consumed before starters were brought. I had Sinka Kurkura - extremely tender, melt in mouth chicken slices, skewered and in a smoked sausagey crust. Then a passable Cabernet Sauvigon from Chile was emptied before the main course - Khasi Bhutuwa, supple morsels of lamb in a thick, rich paste with red and green pepper, Hariyo Mis Mas or mix vegetables and paneer, tangy yet light and utterly delightful. Sweet Naans (Guylio Roti's) and pilau completed the meal, oh and rather decent Nepali Rum on the house!

    Consistently fine food in a casual setting with Pink Floyd in the background (albeit the Wall, worms eating into your brain etc) make this almost my favourite place in the area.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 4.5 (please take the indian dishes off the menu :P)
    SERVICE: 4
    AMBIENCE: 3.5
    VALUE: 5 (prices have been taken down)

    Willp2328 score: 9/10

    * I am sure they are very good and they are playing on March 27th!

    Monday 16 March 2009

    34-10 and the Gurkha Durbar in fine form too!

    Back after a fantastic day out at Twickenham (England beat France 34-10), we finished the celebration with dinner at the Gurkha Durbar. They were on top form, accurate, good service, delicious food.

    Choila, chicken livers, kukhura saag (chicken and spinach), khursani kukhura (battered strips of chicken breast cooked wth onions, peppers and chillies), some Nepali Ice beer - a great way to finish a great day.

    Friday 13 March 2009

    March meeting - Whitehill - report

    On a mild March evening, we went to Whitehill expecting to enjoy ourselves, and we weren't disappointed. The rendezvous was at The Woodlark, a Marstons pub which opened less than two years ago. It has a Two for One meal offer, and on Wednesday night, it was full of diners. It's cheerful, obviously doing what people want, and not hurt by the fact that the next nearest pub, the Outback, is boarded up. Its only pub competition in the Bordon/Whitehill built-up area is the Woodlands Inn, a full 1.5 miles north.

    The Dhanmondi staff were as welcoming as ever. However, the resturant wasn't as full as last time - whether due to the credit crunch, or the competition from the Woodlark, who knows?

    The restaurant suggested a menu that comprised a mixed starter and then six main dishes - lamb tava (Kashmiri spices) and shahslik, and chicken jalfrezi, balti, shashlik, and gusht e'ada (ginger, onions, peppers, medium hot). A selection of rices, naans and vegtables accompanied the main meal.

    Everything tasted good, and we left very little. We also enjoyed both the red and white house wines and the digestifs afterwards - thanks! In our feedback to the head waiter, we mentioned that all the main dishes seemed to be the same colour - a strong hint that they're using food colouring.

    To sum up, we had another very convivial meeting and Dhanmondi certainly stays on our list of places to visit. Our plans for the next two months are that in April, we'll be visiting Haslemere again (Chilli Night), and in May, Liphook (Gurkha Chautari).

    Friday 6 March 2009

    India Gate - Chichester, 4/3/2009

    There is either an epidemic of train suicides at the moment (I've had 10 journeys disrupted in 2009) or it's the latest excuse from Southern Trains for their shoddy performance - everyone's sick to the back teeth of hearing about 'leaves on the line'. Chris, en route, from Brighton was delayed 45 minutes on Wednesday as another RBS shareholder took the ultimate course of action. Meanwhile, I retreated to the town pub surroundings of The Fountain to contemplate what I would do with a pay off £650,000...

    At risk of coming across as a look-back bore, India Gate was almost the first restaurant I wrote about. Almost the first, because I penned a sophomore review about Shapla before.
    Following a rather average meal in Alresford for the first anniversary of my 25th birthday on Tuesday (Deep fried seabass tail, needing a squeeze of lime to impart any real taste and a mediocre Halibut dish, with tasteless raw chillies and coconut cream, which took the edge of the overall flavour), it was back to Chichester's 'premier' curry joint.

    The dining room is modern, quite chic and was full.

    Run of the mill poppadoms with chutney tray kicked things off. There followed good, meaty Chicken Tikka with a piquant crust and Gosht Kata Masala - a hearty, worcester sauce infused, root gingery curry. Audente pilau and Niramish, robust, olive oil flavoured mix of cauli, carrots, spinach, diced potatoes and chick peas as well as a plum tomato, onion rich Korai and a great garlic Naan rounded off the meal.

    The food tasted pretty good and was presented in clean and colourful fashion, though if I wasn't working at the megalithic offices of Wiley-Blackwell I don't think I'd pay the train fare there and back.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5
    VALUE: 3
    SERVICE: 4

    Willp2328 score: 7/10

    Sunday 1 March 2009

    Rooburoo - London, N1

    Sounds Australian, yes? Aborginal? Kangaroo on the menu?! Bush-tucker Grub?
    No! Thank heavens! It simply means ‘face to face’ in sub-continental speak.

    The place has been showered with awards over the last couple of years, including ‘best cheap eat in London’, and was rated highly in Harden’s restaurant guide. I had been intending to eat here for a while but plans can fall through as so often they do. Thankfully, as luck would have it, a hastily organised get together of publishing post-grads gave myself and 3 others the opportunity to visit this lively restaurant.

    The wine was really good. Never considered pinot noir as a good accompaniment to spicy food, but it’s mellow, plumy tones really struck the right note. We shared a few bottles, feeling frivolous, in part because prices are indeed truly reasonable, especially considering the eclectic meal we enjoyed.

    Starters (or ‘Lite Bites’) included ‘excellent’ steamed cod wrapped in banana leaf, lamb paratha’s and the wonderfully titled ‘Chicken Ooty Tooty’ - a trio of tikkas in a sandy coriander, fruity lime paste. All Tandoori items can be ordered as starter portions.

    Mains were various. Yuri’s fish stew was lovely and tasted like a good bouillabaisse with chick peas and tangy Indian spicing. Val’s lamb steaks came drenched in a beautiful ochre yoghurt sauce with dashes of cream and a subtle twist of rum, while Jeremy worked through his herby, coconut Malabar seafood bisque much to his Francophilian satisfaction. I enjoyed Naga Murgh, from the perilously hot Nagaland! Succulent, eggy strips of chicken cooked in a light but hot, citrussy sauce (derived from pickling spices including fenugreek, cumin and fennel) with the fabulous, crunchy texture of ‘Mooli’ (white radish). Pilau was good value at £1.95 and Naans were pretty fine although a side of crisp red veggies felt nothing more than virtuous and I have enjoyed better Saag Aloo.

    Nevertheless, we had great fun. Rooburoo is run by an enthusiastic and professional team which consequently stands them apart most curry houses. Will return - for sure.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5/5
    SERVICE: 4
    VALUE: 4

    Willp2328 score: 7.5/10

    Thursday 12 February 2009

    February meeting - Haslemere - report

    Shahanaz - shame! The food was great but the impression was that they really don't want to play. We like to set the restaurant the challenge - for the given food price, impress us. Most restaurants do this really well. Shahanaz prefers not to take the initiative in this way; instead, we had to pick the food from the (extensive) menu.They didn't play ball at all; if a dish had rice included (there seemed far more rice than we'd ordered), they just kept quiet. The drink prices were excessive. House white undrinkable - in JA's view. Coffee and brandy after dinner - very expensive. It all left a slightly sour taste and no-one said we'd hurry back.

    For the record, we had a mixed starter each (expensive), and for mains we chose jeera beef (excellent), prawn dhansak (OK), tandoori chicken (good), chicken jalfrezi (very tasty), lamb nehari (delicious, lamb shank), and lamb madras. Rice, naans and three vegetables amongst six of us.

    We didn't go there meaning to push the boat out, but the price for six was about £270 including a modest tip. Including a pint or two in the pub beforehand, the evening cost over £50 per head. This isn't really what we want to see in these straitened times. You could go somewhere rather nice for that money. Usually we manage 12 for not much more than £300. In our view, Shahanaz does some great cooking; enjoy it as a take-away.

    Wednesday 28 January 2009

    The Greedy Buddha - Parsons Green

    Buddha is an exception in that he is the only fat oriental I know, besides Sumo wrestlers, and I don't know any of them (largely because they aren't out of nappies yet and are a few years behind me at school). Moreover, 'greedy' isn't neccesarily a word I would associate with deity of any sort but again Buddha attracts adjectives like no other - 'funky', 'laughing' and 'drunken' are but three. Anyhow, before I get mired in theology, on Tuesday night my cousin took me out for dinner. 'Would curry be okay?' (!).

    The restaurant itself sits on a quiet street corner in a Parsons Green backwater. It might be hard to find without local knowledge, though it filled up soon after our arrival - must have heard we were there! A small dining room, bamboo shoots growing out the walls, sits above a downstairs hosting music on Thursdays and weekends.

    Staff appear Nepali or Thai or...yet the food with a few tantalising exceptions (Rose scented Lamb, Mint Chicken Tikka, Nepalese Curry) is really typical Indo-British. Portions are fit for Buddha himself, Poppadoms are complimentary and the Mango Lassi was the fruitiest, most vibrant I've enjoyed.

    We shared starters of Fish Tikka - succulent, oily, white fish in delicious charcoal sour coating - and Momo, less slippery than usual, but stuffed with gorgeous herby, fatty lamb. The adjoining table had the mixed grill, enough meat for a week. We followed up appetisers with Rose scented Lamb and Chicken Chilli Masala, fresh and positively bursting with flavour, a piquant spice blend, tart lemon rind, juicy spring onions, sundried tomatoes and plenty of fire from smarting green chillies. A big bowl of perfectly done steamed rice, slightly audente and not remotely sticky proved more than adequate accompaniment.

    Great local for lucky Sloanes!

    FOOD (& DRINK): 4
    SERVICE: 4
    VALUE: 4

    Willp2328score: 8/10

    Sunday 25 January 2009

    Bombay Spice - Guildford

    If I had the choice of cohabiting in a mud hut up North, waking up to ice in the sink in mid summer and subsisting off tea and parkin or living in a modernist Guildford apartment, it would be hard to decide.

    Day trips to the traffic infested, shopping maul, so hip with jeenagers are as much as I can stand, although, beer and curry, as well as the company of my oldest mate (we go way back -veterans of the Boer War indeed) make it a perfectly acceptable location for a Sunday lunch.

    For a popular place Guildford hasn't got a lot to offer on the food front beyond TGI Friday's ecetera ecetera, as a consequence, Bombay Spice must be a contender for best restaurant. It's pretty good and close to the station!

    Sat in the window, Graham and I enjoyed a chutney tray with great lime and green chilli pickle and an inarresting raita, Poppadoms crisp and warm, as well as decent starters; mine, Chicken Tikka, firm morsels, coated in a spicy paste redolent of sour chilli, earthy tumeric and lemon. The main event, Lamb Rogan was well presented and delicious - dense, protein rich red meat, thick reddish brown gravy, heady coriander and fennel (nice kashiri touch!). Mouthfuls of aromatic pilau and chick peas in an onion tomato sauce also passed my lips.

    No Beer, that followed later.


    FOOD (& DRINK): 4/5
    VALUE: 4/5
    SERVICE: 3/5
    AMBIENCE: 3/5

    Willp2328score: 7/10

    Tuesday 20 January 2009

    January report - Paradise Balti, Petersfield (Wed 14th)

    Paradise Balti welcomed us warmly (both ourselves and our taste buds) for our 2009 kick-off meeting. Fourteen members attended - a good turn-out, and in fact a majority of these had been at the Petersfield Rugby Club's annual Vice Presidents' lunch on the preceding Saturday. This may be evidence that Curry Club members have outstanding stamina, or at least great powers of recovery, or just can't be kept away from good food and drink!

    The food, chosen by the restaurant, was a great selection of tasty choices. Starters included chicken and lamb tikka, and prawn butterfly. Mains included a beautifully-flavoured but not scorching hot chicken vindaloo, lamb padina, mixed korai, chicken balti, gamchi (can't read my own writing - garlic chilli?) chicken, prawn dhansak, lamb tikka dupiaza, and a sizzling and delicious chicken tikka straight from the tandoor. The restaurant chose well and it was a good decision to offer just eight - if I counted correctly - varieties of main dish, compared to about 16 last time. Much easier to compare and contrast the tastes.

    So we enjoyed a convivial evening, and decided that in February we will venture out of Petersfield. Shahanaz in Haslemere has an excellent reputation and is due for a visit, as we didn't make it there in 2008. Please note that this is a change from the previously-announced plan to go to Madhuban.

    Monday 5 January 2009

    Spice Bazaar, Rupert Street, Soho

    In London to see Bill Bailey's Tinselworm show at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, we needed somewhere to eat beforehand. Samurai Sushi, a few Chinese places, and Spice Bazaar were the contenders. We chose Spice Bazaar because we were able to be seated immediately. They met one other criterion - we were fed in time to have a drink at the theatre before the performance.

    My chicken madras was watery - it had no onion! The chicken 'rogan' had double onion, and the meat for both dishes seemed to have met the sauce about 3 seconds before it came to the table. These two dishes, one naan, one rice, three papadums, plus one large and one small Cobra, came to over £33 before tip. They should do better for this money - you certainly can!

    By the way, Bill Bailey was great - during the final sequence I laughed so much that tears came to my eyes. 'Hallelujah' will never seem the same again. Nice chap too - he signed the front of the programme for Ruth in the pub. Fantastic evening despite the meal.

    Thursday 1 January 2009

    Karim's - Brighton

    There are a plethora of restaurants in Brighton and though many are over rated and over priced, there is something to suit every bad taste - now I‘m being unfair, perhaps this isn‘t strictly true.

    Among several Indian’s is Karim’s. Bar and reception at street level, dining room in the basement, stylish, but in a mid-nineties way, before true restaurant chic had washed up on the south coast.

    We were served by every member of staff on view, starting with lassi’s, regulation poppadoms and chutney tray, (extra points for capsaicin green chilli chutney), then ok starters of sweetish barbecue sauce flavoured chicken tikka and salmon fish cakes, before Methi Chicken with a really good pervasive savouriness, runner beans in a lovely thick, nutty and spicy cream, as well as multi coloured rice and a sadly mild, pineapple juicy Patia.

    Overall the place is certainly better than average and it has a good reputation in the area even if it is simultaneously devoid of atmosphere and a not particularly cheap.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5
    VALUE: 3
    SERVICE: 3

    Willp2328score: 6.5/10