Liss, Hampshire (Madhuban)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Madhuban, Liss, Hampshire


Ok, where’s this place?
It’s a village of about 6,000 people, about 20 miles north of Portsmouth.

What’s its Indian restaurant like?
It’s actually got two but Madhuban is the famous one.

Absolutely, people travel from far and wide to eat here and the curry guru Pat Chapman raves about the place. He even named it as one of the top restaurants in the country in his Cobra Good Curry Guide.

Have you been here before?
Been here before? I came here the year it opened in 1987 and have been coming here whenever I’m in the area ever since.

Wow you must have seen some changes?
You bet. It was a 30-seater restaurant when it started and now it has 130 covers. It’s well designed, with a modern bar and waiting area and side-lit carvings of classical dancers (Bharat Natyam) and plants in the wall recesses. It was even packed on my last visit on a Wednesday night. It felt like everyone turned up at the same time which meant the service was a bit slow but it was still as friendly and warm as the first day I visited the restaurant.

And so to the food then?
The Railway Chicken and Egg Curry is a nod to the famous food found on the Indian railways. I’ve had it a few times. It’s thick with meat, vegetables and sauce, with a boiled egg in the middle. Rustic, just as it should be. The Chicken Tikka Darjeeling Masala is also highly recommended, with green tikka a great change (and very fresh tasting). According to the menu, the dish is in tribute to the garden in the Bangladeshi home of Lodue, the man behind the Madhuban. The Achari Chicken and Kashmiri Pilao (with lychees) was also devoured, as was the Madhuban Special Chicken, which  is a combination of the flavours of Bhoona, Korma and Tikka Masala.

What else is on the menu?
Maybe you should ask what isn’t on the menu! It’s one of the biggest menus I’ve every seen – and I don’t mean just the printed menu, which is a large-format eight-page masterpiece of information on dishes and spices. There are something like 150 menu options (I gave up counting after page three) and a promise to try to make anything that’s not on the menu if you ask!

The chefs must be superhuman.
They certainly do a top job with all those options. Everything on our table of eight was very good. The bill, including drinks, came to just over £160.

What’s the damage?
Drinks: Cobra (draught) £3.95 (large bottle) £4.75, white wine (large glass) £5, Lemonade (pint) £3.50, Diet Coke or Lime and soda (small) £2.50
Popadoms: 60p each and 60p each for pickles
Starter: didn’t have any
Mains: Zeera Prawn Masala £11.50, Chicken Tikka Darjeeling Masala, Achari Chicken, Railway Chicken and Egg Curry £10.95, Madhuban Special Chicken £10.50, Jungli Maas Chicken £9.95, Rogon Chicken £9.50
Sides: Sag Paneer, Bombay Aloo £3.95
Rice: Mushroom Rice, Kashmiri Pilao £3.50, Pilao Rice £2.95
Nan: Keema Nan £3.95, Peshwari Nan £2.95

Madhuban, 94 Station Road, Liss, Hampshire, GU33 7AQ.
Tel: +44 1730 893363 or +44 1730 894372.

Monday to Thursday: 5.30pm–10.30pm.
Friday: 5.30pm–11.30pm.
Saturday: noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–11.30pm.
Sunday: noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–10.30pm.

Nu Delhi Lounge (Belfast)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Nu Delhi Lounge, Belfast


From top left: Chicken Chilli Garlic, Punjabi Lamb Masala, Garlic Nan, Mushroom Rice.



Tandoori King Prawn.

Where is this restaurant then?
It’s right in the heart of Belfast.

Isn’t that the place responsible for sinking the Titanic?
Well, not exactly, that was an iceberg, but this is where they built the ship. At the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.

Shouldn’t that be infamous, considering the Titanic sank on its first trip?
Yes, the city does have a strange attraction to this sinking ship; there is even a Titanic Quarter in the city, although I think that’s the tourist office at work.

Did the prices at Nu Delhi sink you?
Very good. Yes, they were maybe a notch about the average for an Indian (or Punjabi, as the venue says) but certainly not too outrageous. The bill came to just over £55 for a shared starter, two mains, rice, nan and drinks.

I like a drink. What did you have?
A mango lassi and pint of draught Asahi.

Isn’t that Japanese?
You’re right. I was a little surprised because it’s the first time I’ve come across it on draught in an Indian restaurant, but it is clean and sharp and pairs very well with spicy food.

Make sense. It would be nice to have it at the bar before the meal.
It would indeed, especially as it’s such an attractive bar, with the red and white strip lighting and hanging globes adding a touch of Bollywood glitz. The decor overall is smart and modern, with dark wood tables, lots of reeds in pots and back-lit wall panels.

I suppose I should ask about the food?
About time, that’s what we there for, after all. The prawns in the Tandoori King Prawn starter really deserve the title of king because they were plump and deliciously spiced. No extra sauce needed there. The Chicken Chilli Garlic is certainly one for the garlic lovers and on reflection the Garlic Nan was a clove too far for the table. The nan itself was top notch and some of the freshest I’ve enjoyed outside of India. I was a bit surprised that the chicken came in a reddish, creamy sauce, not something I’ve come across with this dish before, but it worked well. What I really liked was that the texture of the other main, the Punjabi Lamb Masala, was different, as the chef used chopped rather than pureed onions. Too many restaurants use a one-fits-all sauce, so all the curries end up a bit samey.

Is that a word?
Probably not, but you know what I mean. Lots of restaurants have a big, long menu but when the curries come out they look and taste the same. Certainly not the case here.

Sounds as if you like Nu Delhi then?
I do indeed. It’s smart but you don’t feel as if you are on parade and it’s a lot better than your average High Street curry house but doesn’t whack the pocket for your pleasure.

What’s the damage?
Drinks: Asahi £4.75, Mango Lassi £3.50
Starter: King Prawn Tandoori £9.95
Mains: Chicken Chilli Garlicn £12.95, Punjabi Lamb Masala £12.95
Rice: Mushroom Rice £2.70
Nan: Garlic Nan £2.60

Nu Delhi Lounge, 25 Bruce Street, Belfast. Tel: +44 28 90244 747. Open Mon to Fri, noon–2pm and 5pm–11pm, Sat to Sun 5pm–11pm.

The Riz (Margate, Kent)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

The Riz, Margate

If you love a good old British-style seaside resort and you love a good curry may I direct you to the Riz in Margate?

The smartly dressed owner directed proceedings and gave us all the information we were after when it came to what was and what wasn’t in certain dishes. It’s always good to gauge different dishes and if the owner or staff are happy to help out then they’ve found the right man for a chat.

The decor is as smart as the owner. This is a real little gem, albeit not in the smartest of streets. And it looks like the locals know it too as there was a gaggle of girls getting stuck into and a couple of families enjoying the food.

My previous experience of trying to get a curry in this street had not gone well (yawn! Is it ever coming?) but my Margate friend assured us that this was the place to try. He was right.

The Riz serves superb dishes and they are as fresh as they come. This is the place to dip into South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes. So where to start? How about Nethli Meen Varuval (£4.50), spiced anchovies which are then deep fried. A pretty lively taste of Kerala I’d say. Or Fish Cutlet (£2.50), Sri Lankan traditional fish dumplings, crumb fried and served with hot spicy sauce perhaps?

House specials are parathas, iddapams and puttus, which all use eggs. A chicken paratha, scrambled with eggs and cooked with minced parathas is £6.95. But it’s got to be fish for me so the recommendation is Monkfish Curry with Mango (£8), a Keralan dish made with mango, coconut milk and ginger.

The Riz, 49 Northdown Road, Margate. Tel: 01843 293698.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 9
Decor 8
Service and friendliness 8
Atmosphere 7 (Tuesday evening)
Value for money 8

Bengal Lounge (Wrecclesham, Surrey)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Bengal Lounge, Wrecclesham, Surrey

What a great find this restaurant is. Unless you live in this village or nearby, of course, in which case you’ll know all about it.

Housed in a former pub, and retaining all the interior nooks and crannies and split levels that make (or made in this case) country pubs so appealing, the Bengal Lounge is a gem with some great food. Smart and modern, and, so the owner told me, operating for umpteen years, this is clearly a popular place among locals. It’s got a bit of that local feel to it as if everyone knows each other (as perhaps they did when it was a pub) so expect a few of those “who are they?” looks.

You can also enjoy a huge car park and one of those huge menus too (something for everyone). I must say I’m usually a little suspicious of those (huge menus not huge car parks) with the obvious thought being that can a place really cook all those dishes really well? But on that front I was wrong (at least with the dishes we tried but I’ll report back when I’ve worked through the rest of the 158 items listed on the menu).

The Chicken Dhansak (£6.95) was declared as good as the best from the Dhansak lovers, the Lamb Shashlick (£8.50) was succulent and fresh, as this kebab should be, and the Mishti Kodhu Bhaji  (sweet butternut, £3.50) a delight of a side dish. Based on the experience of the latter two dishes mentioned the Lamb Mishti Khodu (£9.95) is a must try next time.

The service was friendly, if a bit random at time (loads of waiters, so you never know who is supposed to be doing what). But, hey, we’re not locals yet so I’m sure we’ll work this little thing out.

Bengal Lounge, 1 The Street, Wrecclesham, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 4PP. Tel: 01252 713222. Open: daily noon–2pm and 5.30pm–11pm (10.30pm Sundays).

Scores on the Tandoors
Food 8.5
Service 7
Decor 8.5
Vibe (early Saturday night) 7
Value 8

Johney Gurkha (Aldershot, Hampshire)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Johney Gurkha, Aldershot

The first time I went to Johney Gurkha was many years ago after a recommendation from a Gurkha friend of mine who lives in Aldershot, home of the British army and now home to many thousands from the Nepalese community.

“Straight up Victoria Road,” he advised. “It’s not called Johney Gurkha anymore, it’s called, er, er, something else. But just ask anyone, that’s what everyone still calls it.”

So my first visit to the famous Johney Gurkha was actually to Gurkha Raj Doot. But nobody ever called it that – even the legendary curry man Pat Chapman queried the strange name change a few years back in his Good Curry Guide – so I’m delighted that the owners have seen sense and reverted the name back.

Johney Gurkhas 16-04-2017, 09 37 20 copy  Johney Gurkhas 16-04-2017, 09 38 32 copy

Frankly, though, the name is about the only thing that has changed in this legendary place for years. It’s stuck in time – and all the better for it.

The restaurant is downstairs and apart from a few bits and pieces in the upstairs area as you enter – notably an imposing kukri on the wall – you could be forgiven for wondering where the welcome is. I’m sure that more than a few people have wandered out at this stage without even venturing downstairs. Not those in the know.

The decor is basic, the service functional and the portions are large and tasty. It’s always packed.

You might have to wait for a table at busy times (although the turnaround is usually pretty quick) and you might have to wait a bit for your food sometimes. But, then, that’s what Gurkha beer (from West Sussex) is for.

Now, I know Chicken Tikka Masala is popular but I have never seen three versions on the menu: a classic version (£7.25), a Kathmandu Style version (£7.95) and a Johney Gurkha version (£7.95). Well, after all this stuff about the name it had to be the latter, which tasted, well, like Chicken Tikka Masala. Sticking with the name theme we added a Gurkhali Lamb Chilli (£7.95), and the darker, thick sauce was a good addition to the table to go with the creamy masala. Sadly there was no rice with a Johney or Gurkha prefix so it was a good old pilau rice (£2.35) and an extremely large raita (£2.90) to complete the line-up.

The food was as hearty and tasty as it always is and it certainly looked like everyone around us agreed in what was clearly just another successful night downstairs in Victoria Road. Some things should never change. And certainly not the name.

Johney Gurkhas 16-04-2017, 09 39 36 copy

Johney Gurkha, 186 Victoria Road, Aldershot, GU11 1JZ. Tel: 01252 328773. Open: Mon to Sun 5.30pm – 11pm.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7.5
Service 7
Decor 5
Vibe (Saturday night) 9
Value 8

Mother India’s Café (Edinburgh and Glasgow)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Mother India’s Café, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Class. There’s no other word for Mother India’s Café. One night we were in Edinburgh eating delicious food and the next night we were in Glasgow eating delicious food. The main difference is that there is a special view from the Glasgow restaurant on to the splendid Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Mother India Glasgow 3.jpeg

Curry with a view. From Mother India’s Café, Glasgow

Mother India’s Cafés are Scottish institutions. The Glasgow one has smartened up a bit since I first ate here a few years ago but that sense of no-frills table settings, simple presentation and superb food remains. The cafés have a real vibe, and there’s a constant buzz of energy around the tables, without it impinging on the enjoyment of the diners. Some places get it wrong with the staff taking centre stage in that awful attempt to create a “restaurant theatre”. Here, there is life, but the food is centre stage and the only theatre is on the plate.

Mother India was first given its  breath of life in the 1980s by owner Mohammed Monir, a born and bred Glasweigan of Punjabi roots, and it was reinvigorated in 1993 after the first venture had to close. But spice diners all over are thankful he bounced back.

Monir was hooked with the restaurant industry when he started working at his brother’s restaurant at weekends while still at school. A couple of failed attempts with his own venues – the first at just 18 – honed his business skills. And cooking for his parents in Pakistan honed his cooking skills and gave him an insight into how to create a winning menu. This is a man who grew up enjoying chips, deep-fried pizza and jam butties as much as his mum’s curries so it’s no wonder he doesn’t just churn out old-school favourites.

Both cafés use a tapas style menu – smaller dishes in the Spanish style so you can enjoy a nice range of tastes on the table. With prices for each dish about £4-6, this is the place to tuck in.

So in Edinburgh’s it’s a rich Methi Keema Mutter (£5.55), a super tangy Chicken Achari (£5.45), a classic and creamy Sag Paneer (£4.45), fried rice (£2.25), chapati (95p) and mixed pickle (95p), while in Glasgow it’s an on-the-bone chicken Staff Curry (£5.95), an amazing and unusual Smoked Chicken with Peas (£5.80), another Sag Paneer (£4.60), a garlic nan (£1.85), boiled rice (£1.85) and some mixed picked (95p). It all sounds pretty straightforward but these are two of the best curries I have ever had. The mix of tastes, the joy of a shared experience with a friend as you swap thoughts on the merits of each dish (the Smoked Chicken was declared king of the tables) and the constant background buzz of happy curry diners adds up to great meals.

Mother India Glasgow 1.jpeg

Simply presented, simply delicious

This tapas approach has to be the way forward for other restaurants (the above, even with a couple of Kingfishers, came to only £27.45 and £29 respectively) as curry houses battle to find their niché among today’s diners.

Mother India’s Cafe, 3-5 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LT.
Tel: 0131 524 9801. Open: Sun to Thurs noon–10pm, Fri to Sat noon–10.30pm.

Mother India’s Cafe, 3-5 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LT. Tel: 0131 524 9801. Open: Mon to Weds noon–2pm and 5pm to 10.30pm (last orders), Thurs noon–10.30pm (last orders), Fri to Sat noon–11pm (last orders), Sun noon–10pm (last orders).

Scores on the tandoors
Food 9.5
Service 8.5
Decor 8
Vibe 9.5 (Friday night and Saturday night)
Value 10




Smoked Aubergine and Fenugreek Pie or Beetroot and Egg Salad

Chilli Nights (Haslemere, Surrey)

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Chilli Nights, Haslemere, Surrey

They always go through the menu ritual even though they know what they want. It would be odd not to I suppose. They know what they are ordering, I know what they are ordering, Charlie the owner knows what they are ordering, but he presents the menus nonetheless.

Let’s go through the process of removing reading glasses from pockets to read the fairly extensive menu. And, let’s even ask questions about other dishes. What’s this? What’s in that? Mmm that sounds good.

That’ll be two Chicken Dhansaks (£6.25) please, they say, and the waiter collects the menus with a knowing smile. The Dhansak couple have been coming here for years and say this is the best Dhansak they have ever found. I’m not surprised, the chef at Chilli Nights must have had enough practice by now.

So it’s left to me to order something a bit more unusual to hold our table’s end up. Maybe an Ayre Sizzler (£11.95)? Maybe a Chicken Manchuria (£7.95)?

But the truth is I fancy a Dopiaza or a Rogan. You’d think no restaurant can go wrong with old school classics but many still mess it up. Not Chilli Nights. The classics still hit the spot over and over. Chicken Rogan (£6.25) wins the day. I order a Batak Tikka (£4.85) starter just so the chefs don’t think we are stuck in the 1980s, but as I demolish the last chunks of the Rogan I think to hell with it and go for a Lemon Sorbet.

Sometimes you know what you want and if you are in a restaurant that always delivers then why not? Just ask the Dhansak couple.

Chilli Nights, 64 Weyhill, Haslemere, Surrey, GU27 1HN. Tel: 01428 644 288.

Scores on the Tandoors
Food 9
Decor 8
Service and friendliness 9
Vibe 8 (Friday night)
Value 9


Where is Ralph?

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Shezan, Oxford

In the glory days of Oxford the Cowley Road was rammed with Indian restaurants. Indian restaurant, Indian restaurant, pub, Indian restaurant, that’s how it went. Which was perfect for us.

I should explain. The glory days were the late 1980s when we were students in this fine scholarly city. Us is four friends who used to live together in those glory days who have met for a reunion. It’s 30 years on.

We meet in the New Inn, at least that’s still there. Blimey, the prices have gone up Roger. The Indians have been invaded by Mesopotamian skewers and forced from their land. And then, as if to plant a warning flag to any counter invasion the Mesopotamians have inserted huge chunks of lamb and chicken in the windows, continuously dripping fat and spice from their bulky masses.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a kebab as much as the next half-drunk person who is wildly hungry at 11.30pm. Don’t diss a kebab, it does the trick. But Turkish food, eaten with friends as you stumble along the pavement dribbling into the pita as you search for another bit of sliced meat while dodging people looking at their phones,  doesn’t do much for a shared dining experience.

Indian food does, however. It’s all sharey is Indian food. The saddest Indian casualty along the Cowley Road, says Jon, is the Jomuna. He’s right. The Jomuna was our second home in the late 1980s. We must have eaten there three times a week at least. Ralph was the wonderful manager. We once turned up with a (very small) handful of change as the pubs were shutting and asked, “what can we get for this?” He picked up the change without counting it and replied: “whatever you want boys.” He worked for Oxford council in the day and in the restaurant at night and, if my memory serves me right, was studying part-time as well. For someone who thought getting up for an afternoon lecture was commendable I was in awe of the man. That night, out of respect for Ralph and being well brought up young men we opted for a basic curry and rice despite him repeating the all-in-offer.

But what we really wanted was a Chicken Tikka Masala. This glorious dish had just been invented (although we didn’t know that at the time) and the Jomuna had it on its menu. My goodness it was wonderful. But as it was a couple of quid more than the other dishes it was most certainly only ordered on special occasions, such as birthdays or when we’d found a pound note (yes, it was that long ago) on the pavement.

The only other time we had a Chicken Tikka Masala was when Rob (you’ve met all of Us now) returned home from a weekend triumphantly waving a £50 that his grandad had given him above his head. “Beers and a Jomuna?” he asked.

We eked out a couple of games of pool at the Bricklayer’s Arms and Britannia and squeezed in a pint at the White Horse, but frankly there was nothing else on our minds other than visiting Ralph.

Chicken Tikka Masala was better in those days. And I know it is not my memory playing nostalgic tricks with me because I still make it using a recipe from Pat Chapman’s iconic book, Favourite Restaurant Curries, which was first published in 1988. It was before the phrase British Indian Restaurant (BIR) curries had taken hold, but this book was exactly that: curries how the Brits liked them. The recipe in the book is an amalgam from the Oakham Tandoori in Leicester, Dilruba in Rugby, and Koh-i-noor, in Newport. This is how Ralph’s Chicken Tikka Masala tasted and if you want to know what this and other 1980s curries were like then this is the book for you.

But Jomuna is gone so we head across Magdalen Bridge and up the High Street to the Shezan. They look somewhat surprised to see us, even though it has just passed 10.30pm. That’s another thing that has changed: Indian restaurants are much more respectable now and a lot don’t even bother with the after-pub crowd. Leave that to the Mesopotamians.

But we are just in time to order says the young waiter, who is friendly enough but wasn’t even born when they were inventing Chicken Tikka Masala. The decor is all contemporary Mogul style and the snappily dressed owner Salim has the story of the place. This superbly located restaurant has been a dining room since 1915 and he has been here since 1978, when he started out as a pot washer and general this-that-and-the-other type helper. He’s a nice guy and advises me to have Lemon rice (£3.95) with my main, which is a winning recommendation.

Tonight we are also ordering Paneer Tikka (£5.95) starters, Goan Chicken (£10.95) mains, Peshwari nans (£3.95). But, I am delighted to say, there is still one Chicken Tikka Masala (£9.95) on the table.

It’s lovely to know that not everything has changed.

img_7427 img_7425
Goan Chicken Curry (very good with Lemon rice) and Paneer Tikka.

Shezan, Ist Floor, 135 High Street, Oxford, OX4 1DN. Tel: 01865 251600. Open: Mon–Thurs noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–late. Fri–Sun noon–3pm and 5.30pm–late.

Scores on the tandoors

Food 8
Decor 8
Service and friendliness 7.5
Vibe (late Friday night) 5
Value 7.5

Not royalty but decent

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Royal Tandoori, Lincoln

The Royal Tandoori is what I’d imagine curry houses looked like in the 1960s and ’70s. – the days when the food itself was still a novelty and the décor could be an afterthought. Things have moved on since then for sure, but not it seems in this specific corner of Lincoln. I say ‘specific’ because over the road a curry competitor, The Modern, is all shiny knobs and clean cut wood.

There are usually two ways you can approach things when you see a restaurant that thinks cork tablemats, plastic pepper pots and chairs with springs poking up the bums of guests are appealing. The first is that the food will be so good the décor doesn’t matter (after all a shiny table setting is no guarantee of quality food) and the second is that the food is as awful as the badly framed prints on the wall.

The Royal Tandoori is closer to the former, and although the food is not sensational by any means, it was certainly up to the task for four men who had just been to a football match.

When it came to ordering I blame the dithering. Starter or no starter? Popadoms? No I don’t fancy them. Lamb? Only if you order a chicken dish I can share. And not too hot. Side dishes? We won’t eat it all. But I want one. Dither, dither, dither. And so it came to be that, to avoid any more dithering we ordered a set meal, something I assumed belonged to the realm of Chinese food. Always seems like a good idea when you read it out loud but rarely is.

But here we go, headlong into a set meal. At least it included popadoms, which meant the pickle tax was absorbed (80p per person for the pickle tray indeed). So, and it really does sound good when you read it out loud, there are starters of Sheehk Kebab and Onion Bhaji, mains of Chicken Tikka Bhoona, Rogan Josh, Prawn Bhoona, and Chicken Korma, plus sides of Sag Aloo, Mixed Vegetable Curry, Pilau rice, Special rice and two naans. All for £42.95. Not bad indeed.


My reticence over set meals is that the nature of appealing to a group means the dishes have to be pretty middle of the road (see above). The second is that the dishes are mini portions.

But the dishes certainly were not mini, or if they were then the other people in the restaurant were getting huge portions. Certainly no complaints there. So how about the quality? Our friend Billy Broadbent, who knows a thing or two about curry, reckons it’s decent but probably not royalty.

Royal Tandoori, 118 High Street, Lincoln, LN5 7PR. Tel: 01522 514222 or 576736. Open: daily noon–2pm and 5.50pm–midnight.

The Scores on the Tandoors
 Food 6
Décor 3
Vibe (Saturday night) 4
Service and friendliness 6
Value 7

Lightly spiced

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Lee Raj, Blackpool

There are so many food options in Blackpool town centre and along the Golden Mile that when a local recommends somewhere beyond the lights it’s worth taking note.

Lee Raj is only just beyond the lights in fact, only a short walk from Starrs Gate, the last tram stop on the south shore. It’s quite disconcerting leaving the flashing lights behind after a couple of days, like you’re heading into no-man’s land, but it’s a welcome relief too, to get back to some sort of normality.

This is a neighbourhood restaurant serving locals very good food. It’s under new management  and the service is efficient and very friendly. It’s got a long and comprehensive list of choices, many of which were new to me so the waiter received more than the usual amount of queries about how dishes are cooked and their origins. It’s Bangladeshi run so there are some nice specialities from there, such as Biran Mas (£8.50) a dish of lightly spiced fish, but there is food from many regions, including Sri Lanka, which is forgotten on many menus.

Shatkora is a citrus fruit that is used in Bangladeshi cooking. If you like lime pickle you’ll like this, although it has a sharper and cleaner bite on the tongue than the pickle tray favourite.  Shathkora Torkar (chicken at £7.40) it was then. Fantastically sharp, the chef  used nice big chunks in the dish. Other times I’ve tried this dish chefs seemed a bit afraid of the fruit and its taste was hard to discern. I was delighted that this chef pushed the use of the fruit to the limit. If you order something you want to taste it, not go searching about in the sauce.

Because of the distinctive taste of shathkora I went for plain pilau rice (£2.30) to avoid a taste clash, but a couple of chapatis (£1.30 each) or a plain nan (£2.30) would work equally as well.

Lee Raj, 23 Squires gate, Blackpool, FY4 1SN. Tel: 01253 401800/406300

Scores on the tandoors

Food 9

Decor 8

Service and friendliness 9

Atmosphere 7 (Friday evening)

Value 8

Great name, great food

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Biplob, Swindon

It’s hard enough for me to walk past an Indian restaurant at the best of times but when one is called Biplob, with the tag “The art of Tandoori dining” I’m afraid there is no chance I won’t be looking for a table.

This smart and well-designed restaurant said it could do tandoori so it was ordered.  Shaslik Chicken (£8.95) followed a couple of popadoms, that were served with huge quantities of pickles and mint sauce. The pickle pots are certainly big down this way.

The Shashlik was spot on, with huge chunks of nicely marinated chicken and decent pieces of green pepper and a bed of onion as well as the usual chunks. I could have have done with a bit more tomato although the bits on the skewer were spot on. My friend, surprisingly, had never tried a Shashlik, and this is a man who likes his curries, so it was pleasing to see his thumbs up. I think we forget there are other options to the usual tomato and onion based curries we oh so often go for.

But a nice bit of sauce never hurt anyone so we also ordered a Garlic Chilli Masala Paneer (£7.95), which was decent enough but a bit thin in texture. I prefer a thicker sauce coating larger chunks of the cheese, although in this instance, because of the drier chicken dish it went well on the table. Pilau rice at £2.95 finished a decent curry at a decent price.

Biplob, 12-14 Wood Street, Old Town, Swindon, Wiltshire SN1 4AB. Tel: 01793 490265/431416. Open: daily noon–2pm and 5.30pm–midnight (1am Friday and Saturday).

Scores on the tandoors

Food 8
Decor 8
Service 8
Value for money 8

It takes all sauce

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Ribble Tandoori, Clitheroe, Lancashire

As one of only a handful of curry houses serving the market town of Clitheroe, as well as the large surrounding area of villages and farms, the Ribble Tandoori needs to be good. And as it is the nearest Indian to my friend’s cottage, requiring a good 40-minute round trip, I am delighted to report that it is, which is no surprise as it’s been operating since 1993. A post-pub curry in these parts need a certain amount of planning if you live in one of the Forest of Bowland villages, so disappointment isn’t really an option.

The sauces for both the South Indian Hot Garlic Keema (£5.45) and the Rogan Josh (£5.45) were thick and tasty, using finely chopped onions instead of the oft mulched-in-blender method for the base. This found an immediate fan, not least because I have adopted this approach in my own cooking in the last couple of years. Self-validation and all that. It does take a bit longer to soften up the onions but it draws out their sweetness better and the reward in the texture is well worth it, as anyone who has dished up a curry that makes them think of baby food will agree.

The garlic in South Indian Hot Garlic Keema was similarly noticeable and its taste prominent, as indeed it should be if you order a dish with garlic in its name. It was refreshing to see this dish on the menu, and indeed there were many others that don’t appear on too many others, including Lonka Garlic Masala, Lonka Piaja, Jai Puri, Zafranai, and Hathkora. I could have stayed for ages discussing the ways these dishes are created with the friendly guy serving and watching the chefs at work in the open kitchen, but alas it was necessary for me to go and find out the bit below for where to have a beer while you are waiting.

And the curries were indeed worth the wait. We added Lemon rice (£1,95) and a nan (£1.50).

Parking: on the Waddington Road or one of the nearby side streets.

Delivery: yes, but the menu doesn’t specify a distance or a minimum. Because it serves a rural area it will depend how far away you are ordering from.

Beer while you’re waiting: the Wagon and Horses is a two-minute walk up Pimlico Road and the Royal Oak, in Waterloo Road, is four minutes.

Ribble Tandoori Takeaway, 19 Waddington Road, Clitheroe, BB7 2HJ. Tel: 1200 443368. Open: daily 5pm-11.30pm. Sunday 4pm – 10.30pm.

The scores on the tandoors

Food 8

Waiting area: 5

Value 9

Service and friendliness 8

A fine lunch

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Charcoals, Glasgow, Scotland

Lunchtime curries are always a bit of a treat and it certainly is a treat at Charcoals. This smallish curry house doesn’t look much from the outside but the food is cracking. It’s also just around the corner from The Horseshoe, one of Glasgow’s best known pubs, so you can have a nice post-curry pint if you plump for an early executive lunch.

At just £6.95 it’s particularly good value, although once you’ve added a during-curry pint (£3.60 for draught Tennent’s), some pickle (95p) and a tip it’ll be double that.

The food is exceptional and the Chicken Desi Karahi one of the best curries I’ve ever had. The first mouthful simply exploded in flavours. The sauce was sweetish, but spicy, and full of onion, peppers and juicy bits of meat. I had it with two chappatis but you can also chooose boiled rice or a naan if you prefer.

The deal also comes with a starter (you can choose from a small range) and the Chana Poori was nearly up there with the main in the flavour stakes. Super tastes all wrapped up in puffy, flaky bread.

There’s a small hatch near the door, which the chefs use to let out the heat, and as I was the table nearest this it was fascinating to watch them at work. I’d love to show you a pic of these great chefs but unfortunately I was told that taking a pic is “against the law, against company policy” by the slightly grumpy waiter. The hatch door was promptly shut and steamed up. Mmm.

Instead I will show you a pic of the fine lunch  this unassuming but quality little place dished up. If you don’t hear from me again it’s because the curry police have taken my camera and I’m hiding in the oven.


Tasty karahi, pickles, chappati and a beer. A fine lunch…

Charcoals, 26a Renfield Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 1LU. Tel 0141 258 6482. Open: noon–late.

Scores on the tandoors

Food 9

Decor 6

Service and friendliness 6

Atmosphere 6 (Wednesday lunchtime)

Value 9


Charcoals on Urbanspoon

Style in the city

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Assam’s, Glasgow, Scotland

I’m thinking the relaxed style of the service in Assam’s is the way forward for curry houses. British people, after all, don’t really do “receiving service” very well. False, American-type “have a nice day” service makes us cringe, Snooty “I need to give you a look that makes you feel that we don’t want you here” service irritates us, while bowing and scraping “I’ll do anything for you sir and madam” makes us feel decidedly uncomfortable.

The latter two, of course, are peas from the same pod as we search for egalitarianism as we sit down to eat. We don’t want people to treat us as if we are not good enough for anywhere (our grandfathers told us about this sort of thing), and we don’t want anyone else to act subservient just because they are serving us (as our grandfathers wouldn’t accept that either). We are not “under” anyone and we are not “above” anyone either. Ah, the dilemmas of a class system.

And so the poor old people that serve us have to walk a tightrope of being efficient but not too attentive, friendly but not too friendly, fast but not too fast and on the list goes. An impossible job. Yet the two young lads at Assam’s seem to have got it just right, mixing up banter with efficiency. A job in training awaits you.


Modern decor in an elegant setting


Tandoori Chapati, ideal for scooping up tasty curry

Assam’s, situated in an elegant building in West Regent Street, in the centre of Glasgow, has been operating since 2009. The high ceilings, large windows and gold picture frames sit comfortably alongside the clean, contemporary lines of the modern furniture and smart bar. It’s a pretty cool place.

The menu is not huge (although the chef will cook other curries if you ask) so presumably they stick to what they know best. The Garlic Chilli Chicken (£9.95) was full of soft, whole garlic cloves, peppers and chilli, with the thick, sweet sauce coating the tender small chunks of chicken. The Tandoori Chapati (£1.20) was the size of London naan and the wafer-thin bread had been popped and singed by the searing oven heat in all the right places. It was ideal (after a quick chat with our waiters about how it was cooked) for scooping up the curry topped with a dab of homemade pickle (65p).

Sadly the Vegetable Curry (£8.50) did not receive such high praise from The Vegetarian despite the large chunks of fresh broccoli and cauliflower. The vegetables were declared too soft and the dish itself described as “more lightly spiced veg than veg curry.”

Elsewhere on the menu Spiced Haddock (£5.95) and Aubergine Fritters (£3.20) from the starters stood out, while the Karahi Garlic Lemon (£6.95 for lamb) has my mouth watering for a return visit.

Assam’s 57 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 2AE, Scotland. Tel: 0141 331 1980.

Scores on the tandoors

Food 7.5

Decor 9

Service and friendliness 9

Atmosphere 6 (late Monday night)

Value 7

Assam's on Urbanspoon

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Waiting for spice

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Shah Manzil, Liss, Hampshire (Takeaway)

The Shah Manzil is the new name for the Saaki (previously reviewed here, also following a takeaway). The new owners took over about a year ago and from what I have seen not a lot has changed except the sign. It’s a decent enough restaurant, tucked away off the ‘main’ road of the village, but it takes a brave businessman to take on the illustrious Madhuban just up the road.

But the new owner seems to be making a good bash at it. There was a steady flow of takeaway trade when we visited and he has (thankfully) left the nice little waiting area for those of us who like to collect our takeaways. It’s an ideal little nook for a cold pint of Cobra and a couple of popadoms while you wait for the spice clock to tick down. Some waiting areas in restaurants really are naff (I suppose because they don’t want to waste space they can use for diners) so well done on keeping this as it was.

The food selection certainly did the job, and you get 10 per cent off the listed price if you collect, so you can have that waiting beer guilt-free. The Jhinga Zaffrani (£10.95 before discount) was my stand-out dish from the selection we choose. Nice plump prawns coated in ginger, garlic, chilli and yoghurt, then topped with an aubergine terrine and served with pilau rice. Shame I had to share really.

The Vegetable Naga Mirchi (£6.25) was mind-blowingly hot but still had everyone tucking in for “just a little bit more” and was nice when mopped up by the naans (£2.10 for plain and £2.45 for the peshwari and keema versions). The Achari Lamb (£8.95) is a delight for pickle lovers because there really is no holding back from the kitchen if you like the taste of lime and mango in your sauce.

The only disappointment was the Chicken Tikka Masala (£8.95) with the chef drifting down the route a lot of restaurants seem to be – too nutty and not creamy and luxurious enough, This dish is going to be knocked off Britain’s favourite-dish list if they keep going that way.

Takeaway essentials
on-street parking along Station Road.
Delivery: free within three miles for minimum orders of £15.
Specials: 10% discount on takeaways collected.
Beer while you’re waiting: Shah Manzil is a fully licensed restaurant or the Whistle Stop pub is a short walk away.

Shah Manzil, 73 Station Road, Liss, Hampshire, GU33 7AD. Tel: 01730 895455. Open: daily noon–2.30pm, 5.30pm–11.30pm.

Scores on the tandoors

Food 7

Waiting area  7

Value 7

Service and friendliness 7

In praise of curry and chips

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Saffron, Braintree, Essex

Strange, this one. The decor of Saffron certainly needs a spruce up (bit tired), the place could do with a tidy up (the back of the restaurant was being used to do the laundry), and the food isn’t even all that (bit standard), yet I’d come here again. In fact, if I lived in Braintree, I’d probably come here quite often.

Now, and you’d be partly right, that maybe because this part of Essex is hardly rocking with things to entertain. But it’s also because Saffron feels right. The waiter was very polite and had just the right balance of making you feel as if you are welcome, yet not fawning all over you. The portions are extremely generous, and even though I say the food’s not all that, it’s just right for a “that hits the spot for my spice fix on a weekday”. And best of all there were no eyebrows raised when I ordered a prawn curry (£5.50) and chips (£1.50). That’s right, curry and chips, that guilty little pleasure.


Oh yes, it’s curry and chips

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve ordered that in a restaurant, if fact I can’t even remember if I ever have. A bag of greasy chip shop chips topped with a takeaway curry, oh sure, but it’s not really the restaurant thing. But that’s what I fancied so that’s what I ordered. It was spot on.

Away from such delicacies the menu offers up quite a few alternatives. For an extra pound any dish can have fruit (either mango, banana, pineapple or lychees) add to it. Don’t ask me. Then there is Nawabi Lamb (£7.95), a spicy dish with an omlette, and Moghal Chicken (£8.95), which is cooked in sour cream and egg. More than enough variety to keep you away from the chips.

Saffron, 24–26 Coggeshall Road, Braintree, Essex, CM7 9BY. Tel: 01376 331900/838. E-mail: Open: daily, 5.30pm–midnight.

Scores on the tandoors

Food  5

Decor 4

Atmosphere (Monday night) 4

Service and friendliness 9

Value 8

Saffron on Urbanspoon

Bit of a classic

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Aroma Spice, Macclesfield

Although we were  eating a little bit early on a Saturday night I was surprised this curry house wasn’t a bit busier. Aroma Spice is a good-to-honest curry house that ticks all the boxes: smart interior, friendly enough service and food that hits the mark. All in all this is what all curry houses were like before the contemporary restaurants started appearing.

The restaurant was recommended by a local resident and if I lived in Macclesfield this is the sort of place that I would visit regularly for my curry needs. Restaurants across Britain have been churning out classic starters like Tandoori Chicken (£2.90), Sheek and Shami Kebabs (both £2.50) for years – and the chef here certainly has perfected them in that classic (lots of red and salad) way. They all hit the spot.

The stand-out main dish was the Zinga Garlic Chill (£9.90) with plump prawns coated in a thick, juicy sauce littered with garlic, although there was certainly no complaints about the Chicken Tikka Masala (£7.50) or the Chicken Dupiazia (£6.20). Special Pilau Rice  was £2.80 and a rather good Keema Nan £2.50.


Classic starters: Tandoori Chicken and Shami Kebabs

Aroma Spice, 40 Park Green, Macclesfield, SK11 7NE. Tel: 01625 503374/500927. Open: Sun–Thurs 5.30pm–11.30pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–midnight.

The scores on the tandoors

Food 7

Decor 7

Service and friendliness 7

Atmosphere (Saturday night) 6

Value 8

Aroma Spice on Urbanspoon

When in Bradford…

2. Reviews (Other UK)

Mughals, Bradford

Sweets to tempt you as you enter… and leave Mughals

Sweets to tempt you as you enter… and leave Mughals

When in Bradford, one of the UK’s curry capitals (I don’t want to get into arguments here…) you should head to the busy and long Leeds Road we are told by nearly everyone. Assuming you’re after a curry, of course. Zouk’s Tea Bar and Akbars are two places that are highly recommended. But these were rammed and there were queues so we plumped for a less-assuming place.

Mughals is essentially a takeaway but it has a few of those plastic canteen style tables so you can eat in if you choose. Its fronted by a huge display of colourful sweets and desserts, and many people pass through to do nothing more than pick up a few treats.

But we’ve got our mind on something more spicy. We go for Seekh Kebab (£1.95 each) and Lamb Chops (£4), all mouth-watering and up there with the best tandoori you’ll find anywhere. Then we add a Paya Balti (trotters) at £6.95, to be scooped up with chapattis (35p each). Yes that is 35p each.

To those who don’t like trotters I can only describe this as sucking spicy fat off a bone. You’ll find more meat in the African Chicken Feet recipe that is posted elsewhere on this site. But a man I know who is a big fan of goat’s and cow’s trotters (it’s obviously off-limits to Hindus) says tucking into paya is like “really eating the cow”. And he was licking his lips as he told me. He also told me a nan (£1.60 in Mughals) would be better than the chapattis with a dish he describes as a winter dish or a dish ideal for cold mornings.

• No alcohol is served but you can bring your own and there are shops nearby.

Paya Balti (trotters)

Mughals, 790-792 Leeds Road, Bradford, BD3 9TY. Open: daily 3pm–11pm.

The scores on the tandoors

Food 7⃣

Decor 3⃣

Service and friendliness 8⃣

Atmosphere (Saturday night) 7⃣

Value 9⃣

Mughals on Urbanspoon

Smart curry night

2. Reviews (Other UK)

The Modern, Lincoln


This smart, modern (yes, it really does live up to its name in style) is situated on the High Street as you head away from the historic centre of the city. The subdued lighting, faux leather chairs, minimalist black tables and Art Deco wallpaper give the restaurant a wine bar feel.

However, apart from a couple of unusual sounding house specials (Delight, a dish garnished with thin crispy potatoes, and Phonier, a dish topped with melted cheese) the menu sticks firmly to the traditional side of things. And what in the modern sense comes more traditional than Chicken Tikka Massala (£6.50)? This was declared, as the plate was wiped clean with the remnants of a keema nan (£2.50), to be the “best ever”. Now, while such wild claims needed to be taken with caution from a man who’s a late-night-after-the-pub curry eater, the food really was up there with the best of them.

The Chicken Dopiaza (£5.50) was also given praise, although not such elevated esteem as from the CTM muncher, and although the order of Prawn Balti Bhuna (£6.50) with an accompanying Green Salad (£1.75) raised eyebrows but it was perfect as a light-style curry after a night in the pub.

Modern low-res

A Prawn Balti with Green Salad is an unusual but refreshing choice on curry night

The Modern, 370 High Street, Lincoln, LN5 7RU. Tel: 01522 534202. Open: daily 5.30pm–11pm (11.30pm Fri–Sat).

The scores on the tandoors

Décor 8⃣

Food 8⃣

Service and friendliness 7⃣

Atmosphere (late Saturday night) 5⃣

Value 7⃣

Bread and wine

2. Reviews (Other UK)

The Bay Leaf, Grayshott, Hampshire

The Bay Leaf is a friendly restaurant in the large village of Grayshott, which locals tell me is fast building a good reputation in the area and is often packed on weekends.

It could just be for the Keema nan (£2.20), which not only has spicy mincemeat on the inside but is also coated in it. It makes the bread look like a pizza and the meat on the outside naturally dries out a bit, but it is extremely tasty so much so that I stopped mopping up my curry and ended up eating it on its own.


The double helping of keema with the Bay Leaf’s nan

But you can’t just sit and eat Keema nan now, can you? Madira means ‘alcohol’ in the language of the owners (Nepalese) apparently. The dish, either chicken (£7.95), lamb (£8.25) or king prawn (£12.50) is cooked in red wine and the (ho hum) chef’s special sauce. The red wine, clearly noticeable in the special sauce works nicely with chicken and for curry experimenters this really gives a new taste to your favourite food.

Another dish that caught my eye in the chef’s specials section was Five Spice Sea Bass (£12.95) with fillets of the fish pan-fried the spices and served with spinach and basmati rice.

But for those who like to stick to the good old favourites I can report that the Butter Chicken (£8.95) was just as it should be – creamy with a slight tasty tang and filled with perfectly cooked, juicy chunks of meat. Maybe with a Keema nan?

The Bay Leaf, 2 Crossways Road, Hindhead, Grayshott, GU26 6HJ. Tel: 01428 608030. E-mail: Open: Tue-Sun noon-2.30pm, Mon 6pm-10.30pm, Sun-Thur 5.30pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5.30pm-midnight.

The Bay Leaf snapshot

Food 7⃣

Decor 7⃣

Value 7⃣

Atmosphere (Tuesday night) 5⃣

Service and friendliness 6⃣