There is a little part along Victoria Road in Swindon that can lay claim to being Little India, with a string of spice restaurants along a tiny stretch. It would seem the Khyber was the place to kick it all off. The restaurant proudly declares itself as Wiltshire’s First and last year celebrated 50 years, the year when it was named the south west’s Caterer of the Year by the BCA. It has been in the same venue all along.
One thing that has certainly changed in that time is the decor. The long, narrow space is designed smartly in a contemporary style, with the mostly muted creams and whites offset with dashes of red and brown colour used on some of the seating. It works well and certainly looks a ‘night out’ place for couples.
So why after 50 years (plus one now, of course) haven’t they got the food right? The Chicken Patia (£5.95) was sweet but not sour. Or was it the other way around. Oh, I can’t remember, it was just a curry without any distinction. Which, as readers of the previous review of Jack Spice will note, is becoming a bit of theme in this town. The King Prawn Madras (£7.95) had decent-sized shellfish but was the most insipid madras I have ever had. Neither spice, nor kick, just a curry again.
This came with a tiny bowl of pilau rice (£2.35) and even the waiter chuckled when I asked which of the seven dwarves was joining us for dinner. The keema nan (£2.60) was decent enough but, again, fairytale sized. If you want to see a decent nan then check out the elephant ear.
Sometimes I can forgive a bog-standard curry when I’m hungry, especially if its good value but here the bottled Cobra is priced at £5.25 (they have draught beer at less eye-watering prices we discovered after the fact) and the popadom tax was 75p a pop.
The Khyber, 5-6 Victoria Road, Swindon, SN1 3AJ. Tel: 01793 523992. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.