A heavily pregnant friend was going stir crazy. She desperately wanted out of the house and suggested going for a curry. I don’t know about you, but I am happier watching Call The Midwife than trying to re-enact it, so I didn’t exactly leap at the offer of dangerously spicy food. But she told me not to worry. She wanted something mild, so there wouldn’t be any need for towels and hot water just yet.
We didn’t stray too far from home, just headed to her local Indian. But none the less we thought we would try to ring the changes. I always tend to order the same thing, but this time I vowed to actually look at the menu and ask the waiters’ advice. I know, I know, ker-azy thinking, wasn’t it?
"That said, there was no way I was going to miss out on the customary poppadoms and relishes – chopped onion with coriander, mango chutney and lime pickle."
That said, there was no way I was going to miss out on the customary poppadoms and relishes – chopped onion with coriander, mango chutney and lime pickle. The wonderfully fresh and crisp poppadoms highlight the difference between having a takeaway and eating in. Here the mango chutney was tooth-scorchingly sweet with that slight chemical overtone that preserved mango can have.
The lime pickle was patently not homemade, but was none the worse for that. It was a good blend of sour and sharp flavours that got the juices flowing perfectly for the feast ahead. Whereas the onion came unadorned with herbs and spices – just a large, chopped up onion, in fact.
Taking our first bit of advice from the waiters, we went for Akabari Bhindi Gosht (bhuna lamb with baby okra). This is adapted from an original Hyderabad recipe made with mutton and okra (£9.25). Here it was made with lamb rather than mutton.
The small chunks of meat were succulent and easy enough to scoop up with the naan bread. For a dish that described itself as medium hot, I found it rather tame. Not in a bad way – the taste of tamarind was strong without being overpowering and the okra was still beautifully crunchy – but it quite literally wasn’t setting my world alight.
Our next choice was the King Prawn Rushmi – king-sized prawns cooked with garlic and a flavoured balti sauce (£13.95) – and it was the stand-out dish. There can be a tendency to make a balti dish from mainly tomatoes and chilli powder, but this had real depth and the flavours of turmeric, garlic and mustard seed remained delicate and distinctive. The prawns were big, juicy and plentiful.
Reshmi Chicken Chasnidar was the choice of my pregnant companion. It’s a South Indian dish of lightly steamed pieces of chicken in coconut milk with a mixture of original madras spices (£8.95). It was billed as a medium to mild dish, but gave a hint of the exotic with the “original madras spices” bit. I can’t pretend; it was like a thick, sweetened coconut soup with some chicken floating in it, and that makes it sound much more appealing than it actually was. One taste was more than enough for me. But my pregnant dining companion absolutely loved it. I can only put it down to hormones – her taste buds are obviously seriously affected.
Our side dishes of Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower, £4.25) and Sag Aloo (spinach and potato, £4.25) were great accompaniments – mild without being bland and flavoursome without overpowering the main dishes. We also had some garlic and plain naan breads (£2.95 each). These were fluffy and buttery, and the garlic ones had none of the sharpness that comes all too often when the kitchen has just thrown raw, chopped garlic at the breads rather than cooking the harshness out.
There was a fabulous selection of ices and sorbets, but it wasn’t just the pregnant one who was fit to bursting – and rather than stay for tea or coffee, we decided to call it a night.
As we left, we passed another heavily expectant mother heading into the restaurant with her other half. It made me wonder whether Indian waiters have to have some kind of basic obstetrics training as part of the job – well, they’ve already got all the hot towels that they might need.
ALSO ON THE MENU
We had decided to forgo starters, but the Mach Puri (£4.25) was calling to me. The dish consists of sardines cooked with fresh herbs and spices wrapped in a light, puffy puri fried in mustard oil with garlic and onion and served with fresh green salad. It will certainly be my choice on my next visit. While the restaurant does have a licence, it is also a BYO with no corkage, which can dramatically cut down on the cost of your evening out. Even if you are only drinking Appletiser.
Main courses £7.95-£11.50