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

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.


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)
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

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

Willp2328 score: 7.5/10