With their toes in the sand and the smell of BBQ in the air as trays of fresh fish – red snapper, pomfret, tiger prawns and shark – are ferried to the hot coals, Solitude is where Home Counties girls with plummy accents come to be at one with nature. As long as there is a good wi-fi connection. It is here they can chat to friends on Skype as they relax to the sounds of crashing waves and chilled jazz.
Solitude is one of the larger shacks along this small beach that has an almost exclusive feel to it and it’s a fun place to watch people connect with themselves. Darling.
Hey mum, it’s me. Can you hear me mum?
But the food is damn good so you’ll have to take a rest from people watching. When the waiter’s eyes light up at your order of Alu Ghobi (Rps 130) you know you are in action. In England it’s almost unheard of to order a dish like this as a main, but the thick, spicy gravy and fresh chunks of potato and cauliflower make it irresistible, especially with a chilli cheese nan (Rps 80). A cracking alternative is a Vegetable Curry and Rice (Rps 180).
* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.
Solitude beach shack, Patnem Beach, Goa, India. Tel: 0942 115 2153 or 083 9022 0005. E-mail: Nil7134@gmail.com. Open: from morning to about midnight in season.
There are a lot of fish that go by the name of Kingfish. The one you will find in Goa is the Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel. Found in a large area around south-east Asia and the Indian Ocean, this is one of the popular fishes on offer to diners at the casual beach huts. You can, of course, select your fish and get it barbecued, put in the tandoori, or even smoother it in masala sauce. I choose a local favourite, the Goan Fish Fry (Rps 180 or Rps 220 with salad).
It is sliced into neat fillets, with the skin on the fish and a a bone up the middle of each piece. It then coated in spices and dry fried. The coating is crispy but it is so thin that you immediately bite into the firmness of the kingfish without crunching away unnecessarily. Delicious with a bit of lime squeezed on top.
* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.
Paradise (beach shack), Patnem Beach, Goa, India. Open: approx 8am-11pm in season.
Quite why the Bharat Bar is so popular is a bit of a mystery. It sits on a noisy corner between a main road (Baga Road) and the entrance to party world (Tito’s Lane). It’s noisy (toot toot), dusty, and none too clean if we’re being honest. Yet it is decidedly cheap booze-wise and its location is ideal for people watching and catching friends who pass by en route from the beach to the glut of nearby guest houses so it’s always busy.
I’ve never considered it a place to eat (noise, dust, general mayhem with your meal anyone?) although plenty of people do. It can’t be for the Chicken Tikka (Rps 220). The snack was a smallish portion (maybe a tad bigger than you’d get as a starter in an English restaurant), a bit dry, and certainly not worth the dust etc.
* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.
Bharat Bar, Cnr Baga Road/Tito’s Lane, Goa, India. Open: till late.
Pink Chilli is a classy new restaurant situated inside the grounds of Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, a few minutes inland from the popular beach resorts and opposite the site of the Anjuna Saturday night market.
It’s been set up by the team that runs the Karma Café on Baga Beach, so you’ll find the same chilled atmosphere and super friendly welcome, just without the sand. It is one of the few places in Goa that is able to attract everyone – locals, holidaying Indians, Brits and Russians.
The Tandoori Lamb (Rps 400 a head) has to be ordered 48 hours in advance so it can be marinated. And, wow, how it is marinated. A thick tasty coating certainly penetrates the meat deeply after so many hours. Lamb (or sometimes mutton on menus) in Goa usually means goat, although the lamb here is imported from Maharashtra and once went ‘baa’ not ‘nanny’. Most of us curry lovers have seen this ‘order in advance’ dish on menus (it’s sometimes called Lamb Raan, which refers to the actual cut of lamb used) but few of us get round to ordering it. It’s worth it. Never have I seen a group of diners anticipating a meal such as this. From the cooking in the tandoor (cameras at the ready everyone) to the carving of the meat onto the trays, this really was an eating event.
To keep the anticipation to bearable levels, starters such as Chicken Chilli Fry (Rps 120), Prawn Chill Fry (Rps 140) and Masala Papads (popadoms loaded up with chopped onion, tomato, and chillies) provided a good selection to share around.
The couple who own this open-air restaurant – he from near Delhi, she from Liverpool – have created a beautifully styled venue. Pink is used on the walls, the place settings, the napkins and the menus (handmade with crushed paper), although the dark wood of the tables means the colour is not overpowering. Classic Indian posters have been framed and cover the walls, and the smart wooden carved chairs go well with the tables that have been converted from old Singer sewing machine frames. Coming soon, I’m told, will be a Tuk Tuk at the top of the stairs, where people can chill and enjoy a drink (and sure to be a hit among children and photographers). It will, of course, be painted in the restaurant’s trademark bright pink. Beep beep.
* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.
Pink Chilli, Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Arpora 403518, Goa, India. Open: daily.
This is it. This is the best curry I have ever tastest.
From left: Chicken Kolhapuri, Mushroom rice, Vegetable Kolhapuri, roti, washed down with a Kingfisher beer
The narrow-fronted McCain’s can be found wedged between bars and shops in the busy Tito’s Lane in Baga, north Goa. It’s so unassuming it would be easy to miss (one person who’s been visiting the area for years and was staying within metres of McCain’s had never heard of it). It’s a simple fast-food style joint with benches and stools along both walls, while at the back, behind a glass screen, hang skewers of bright red, marinated tandoori, while other staff beaver away over the tawas. It’s always packed.
Service is superb and no matter how full it seems to be a bit of space and seats appear magically as soon as the staff see you enter. Why a swankier restaurant has not snapped up the staff, some of whom have been here a fair while, is a mystery.
Kolhapuri is a dish that comes from the city of Kolhapur to the north of Goa in Maharashtra, so it’s not a local dish, but it’s certainly a favourite in this tiny Indian state. Most recipes include coconut and there is often a giant chilli glistening away in the sauce. It’s a rich, hot and vibrantly coloured dish that is hard to stop eating, even when your stomach has had enough.
The Chicken Kolhapuri (Rs 120) certainly can’t be faulted, with the perfectly cooked chunks of off-the-bone meat, but this is really best as a vegetable dish. People of a certain age would text their friends ‘OMG’ at the first mouthful. As hot as a Vindaloo, as moreish as Tikka Masala, and as fresh as a Balti, the Vegetable Kolhapuri (Rs 100) is a dish that has it all. Packed with potato, cauliflower, carrots, beans and paneer, I was soon piling up huge spoonfuls of the tasty, onion and tomato gravy onto the Mushroom rice (Rs 100) and tucking in. If you’re a mopper-upper type of eater then rotis come in at Rs 10. Either way, you will eat it and want more.
* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.
McCain’s Fast Food, Tito’s Lane, Baga, Goa 403 516, India. Tel: +91 9823 196848. Open: till 7am in season.
Adam’s Curry House on Alosvat Guliyev Street is the only dedicated curry house in Baku. There are a few pubs that offer a weekly curry night, but Adam’s is the only seven-day operation in town. This family run establishment has been operating in the capital of Azerbaijan for 15 years, so if they can’t get the ingredients then no one can. Coriander, however, is available on, more or less, every street corner. This staple of the curry world is straddled alongside imported cigarettes and pomegranates on many a hand cart or Del Boy-style cardboard box.
The decor of Adam’s Curry House is very yellow; the walls, ceiling, tables are all yellow, plus the numerous collages of ex-customers, of the expat variety, that adorn the walls are various shades of yellow, dependant on age. The menu has many of the old favourites of the chicken or lamb variety, with the addition of ‘Adam’s specials’ that seem to be either from Goa or Northern India. The Goan fish curry first caught my attention. This is a family favourite, or as the menu explains, ‘Mom’s Goan fish curry’, priced at 16 Azeri manat (£12.60), but I chose a dish that I’d not tried before, the Malvan chicken curry. ( 15 Azeri manat/£11.80) A curry in this town is not cheap! Oil wealth has a way of inflating prices, especially when you’re attracting a mainly expat community.
The menu says this curry is from the Malvan region of Maharashtra. The ingredients are dried red chillies, coriander seeds, cloves, black pepper corns, fennel and cumin seeds, masala ilaichi (black/brown cardamom ), cinnamon stick, dagad phool (a type of dried lichen mostly found in mountainous regions, a most unusual ingredient in a curry) and negkasar with black mustard seeds, dried turmeric root, badal phool, (star anise) whole asafoetida stones and two whole nutmeg. All of these are roasted and ground to create the masala sauce that is hot and has a slightly bitter taste. The dish was served with a plain rice ( 7 Azeri manat/£ 5.50 ) that mediated the slightly bitter after taste, to pull the balance of the dish back.
This was accompanied by onion bhajii (6 Azeri manat/£ 4.70) that were homemade, light and crispy. I think we have unfortunately become used to a big tennis ball type of bhajii full of oil and barely cooked in the centre, rather than these delicate, flavoursome starters. It’s a shame that many of our curry houses have adopted this approach rather than going back to the original idea of the bhaji as a light street food snack.
The whole meal was washed down with two bottles of local beer (4 Azeri manat /£ 3.14 ) Xirdalan, a sweet tasting, light pilsner which compliments a curry quite well. Although this is brewed by Carlsburg via their Baltika Baku enterprise, I’m surprised they haven’t latched on to the curry market. I’m sure they would love to take on the giants of curry lagers, Kingfisher and Cobra. The rise of the Nepalese beer Gurkha, one of my favourites, proves that there is such a market. So come on Carlsberg…
Overall, the meal was very tasty and filling, the service came with a smile from one sister, while the other sister had a face like someone had just slapped her with a fresh herring. It was a confusing double act. So, was it worth it for roughly £28 for one person? Probably not. However, they have a captive audience and an expat community that loves a curry.
You deserve a good curry if you can find Papadum. People who regularly visit this small Spanish resort are likely to go years without knowing Centro Commercial even exists. Up a steepish hill, but only a 10-minute walk from the main centre, this small cluster of bars, restaurants and shops serves the many ex-pats who can do without the walk up and down for beers and food.
The restaurant is neat, tidy and modern but has a slightly empty feeling which was not helped by the lack of music. Who would have thought you’d ever miss that piped Indian music, eh? Once the bulk of customers had left, though, this was the first time I have ever heard football commentary broadcast in a curry house (Europa Cup Final between Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao).
The Tandoori Chicken Salad (€5.50) was something new. Slices of cold, marinated chicken on top of a crunchy salad of lettuce, onion and tomato that had been smothered in a spicy chaat masala sauce. Fresh and delicious.
I plumped for a rare forage into the vegetable mains and the Vegetable Jhal Fraize (€6) was just right, thick with sauce and a variety of veg and spicy to the core. It’s a shame a lot of us overlook veg so often as they really do absorb Indian spices so well. Add a generous portion of pilau rice (€3) – the waiter was honest enough to say they used tinned mushrooms in the mushroom pilau, which was the first rice choice – and a Lamb Bhuna (€9), coated in thick tasty sauce oozing with the meat’s sweetness for a decent Costa curry.
Papadum, Calle Acuario, Centro Comercial Las Terrazas de Miraflores Golf Local No 11, Riveria del Sol, Mijas Costa, Spain. Tel: +34 951 273 032. Open:5.30pm–late.
Lunch specials are sometimes a bit hit and miss. For a limited menu you get good value, but not necessarily great portions or quality. So it seems with Zaika, a pleasant curry house facing out to sea in the busy Spanish holiday resort of Fuengirola.
The special, offering a starter (Pakora, Onion Bhaji or popadoms), a main (Chicken Curry, Madras, Bhuna or Korma) and rice or nan. Not bad for €8.95, especially washed down with a large San Miguel.
But I always get suspicious when I see the chicken in a curry has been in the tandoor. I know it’s a bonus to some people but when the dish doesn’t normally include marinated meat I can’t help but think it’s just a way of using up unsold tikka from the night before.
Suspicions aside, the Chicken Bhuna was perfect in consistency, thick with tomatoes, onion and fresh coriander, but plenty of tasty ghee (ideal for me but maybe bit greasy for some) and the rice and nan fresh. But the Chicken Madras flopped, with the sauce some sort of spicy tikka masala, which would have been fine for a lunch curry fix had it not been for a bitter taste of uncooked ground spices.
But there are worse places to have a curry lunch, with a number of outside tables offering views of the sea (albeit across a road) and a large, nicely set out interior that deserves an evening try.
When the lunch special ends at 4pm, by the way, the evening special kicks in. Add €2 to the price and your selection of dishes rockets, and includes a number of lamb and tikka masala dishes. Don’t mind marinated meat in that one, thanks.
Zaika, Paseo Maritimo Rey de Espana, 18, Fuengirola, Spain. Tel: +34 952 462 695. Open: daily 1pm–1am (lunch menu 1pm–4pm)
It’s nice to see a familiar face. Just a couple of days after visiting Indian Zaffran it was time to head down to ‘The Strip’ to check out sister restaurant Indian Aroma. And there was the waiter who served me before. “Hello again, I’m helping out down here today.”
Aroma is in the New Town (the Strip is where all the action is) whereas Zaffran is in the Old Town. The food, as you’d expect, is on a par but they haven’t just replicated the place and the decor is more contemporary. Aroma has got the benefit of a sea view and sun on the pavement tables outside.
I suppose it should be fish right by the sea but this is all about finding something hot. No messing about then: Chicken Vindaloo (€7.50 plus 5% tax) and Lamb Chilli Masala (€10.75 plus 5% tax) both in a especially thick, rich and dark sauce. Both dishes were, as you’d expect, hot to trot, although for some reason they sound even hotter when described in Spanish.
So for the record it was Un Plato de Goa Famosa por ser Picante (€7.50) and Hecho con Pimiento Verde y Salasa Picante (€10.75). Not really worth saying anything else after that is there?
Indian Aroma, Avenida de las Playas 14, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, tel: +928 528 405 (reservations) or +928 512 747 (deliveries). Open: daily noon–3pm, 6.30pm–11.30pm. email@example.com
Originally recommended by the Morrocan kebab shop owner (Mister Kebab does a good kebab by the way), this seems to be the universally accepted ‘best curry house in area’ when you talk to the locals. This includes an ex-pat I meet when checking out the Indian Zaffron, who was celebrating his daughter passing her driving test. “There are others,” he said. “But this is the best,”
I’d had a little takeaway taster here before and the Chicken Dansak (€6.95 plus 5% tax) was pretty much one of the best I’ve tasted, the thick, dark sauce enhanced by the use of yellow chana lentils instead of the usual split red ones. But better still, this was a decent value Canary Island curry when compared to inflated prices found on Tenerife. Does it really cost that much more to get spices to this neighbouring island?
So intrigued was I to see all my favourite dishes in Spanish (strange that in Spain, eh?) that I ordered a Torta Crujiente de Lentejas (that’s a papadom to you and me €0.99 each plus tax), which in itself is strange. Still, it gave me just enough to find the dish I’d never knew even existed: a Chandigarh Sizzler, a lamb curry cooked in a whisky infused sauce (€12.90 plus tax).
I have extolled the virtues of whisky and curry on this site before and have created whisky-curry pairing menus so know this drink works beautifully with Indian food but I have yet to find a dish that uses it. But I’m glad I have
Cooked with Ballantines apparently, the whisky gave the dish a real richness, although wasn’t overpowering with the taste of whisky (more of an aroma) once it had been cooked through. I was impressed and think the choice of lamb is certainly the right meat as it absorbs the subtle flavours beautifully.
And to top it off there was a nice pilau rice (€2.25 plus tax) in the multi-coloured 1980s style of Brit curry houses. yes, I know it doesn’t taste any different with all the colouring but it looks nice. And it was going to take more than that to knock me off my stride once I’d found my whisky curry.
Indian Zaffran, C/Juan Carlos I, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, tel: +928 528 405 (reservations) or +928 512 747 (deliveries). Open: daily noon–3pm, 6.30pm–11.30pm. firstname.lastname@example.org
Part One of the search for Tenerife’s Best Curry was a tad disappointing to say the least. So hip, hip, hurrah for Bombay Babu(part two) which was the original choice for part one if only we could have found it through the car park, along the alleyway, down the steps etc. But after a couple of days in Tenerife it ain’t so tough to find. And thank goodness for that.
Chirpy chap waiter from Gillingham will keep you amused even if you don’t like the earthy decor with whicker-style chairs and sharp white linen against brown tables with a backdrop of pics of famous Indian sites such as the Mumbai’s Gateway of India.
But forget Gillingham waiters and decor discussion because the Punjabi chef knows his stuff. Herein, through the car park, along the alleyway and down the steps etc lies the greatest Bombay Aloo (€5 plus tax) you are likely to taste. How’s he do it I know not; after all, how can a bit of pepper, tomato and spice added to a few chunks of potato be that different to thousands of other? But, it can. Taste this Bombay Potato please.
The Chicken Dhansak (€8.50 plus tax), Lamb Madras (€8 plus tax) and Mushroom rice (€4 plus tax) were top draw as was the Dhal Mukhni (€5.90 plus tax) the current favourite of lentils with garlic, ginger and coriander and butter, with which the chef shared some ‘how to do it properly’ secrets.
Stupidly I never asked how he did that potato.
Bombay Babu, CC La Niña, Planta 3 Local 62, Torviscas Playa Costa Adeje, Tenerife. Tel: +34 922 719 463. Open: Tues–Sun 2pm-midnight.
Whispering Palms Beach Resort, Goa
(Review by Laughing M)
Well, it’s only the second day of this Goan adventure and acclimatising to the heat is still the watch word of the day. Yesterday proved that the 30 degrees of searing heat, a dozen Kingfishers plus a brace of G&Ts (purely for their medicinal power of keeping the mosquitoes at bay you’ll understand) make for a heady mix.
I’m convinced that the bartender can’t count, but at the end of the night neither could I. The only recollection I have is that his uncle runs a taxi firm and his mate has the best and cheapest restaurant in town (which I’ll have to find). All travellers will recognise this situation and take it with a pinch of salt. I would suggest that the above estimation be taken the same way, or consider the question coming from your doctor, “How much do you drink?” So I’m claiming the fifth and the above estimation is merely for the record.
The point of my story? Well, the result of this exuberance was a sore head and a missed breakfast at the Whispering Palms Beach Resort. It would turn out that apart from the sore head, this was more than a mistake on my part, as when, I did make it to breakfast the next day, it was superb.
For the curry lovers among us there was a revelation of Goan curry dishes and condiments. I started with plain rice, to this was added a fish curry using a Goan favourite Kingfish, a plain white fish. This was in a sauce that was not hot but very tasty; I suppose I’d say it was a type of korma.
Okra (lady’s fingers) has never been a dish I’ve enjoyed. However, this breakfast was to force me to reconsider this vegetable again. It was presented as Bhindi Bhaji, with the okra cut into small pieces, (10cm) along with green pepper and red onion, again both cut into small pieces, then fried with garlic and fennel seeds. There seemed to be little oil in this dish so I’d try this more as a dry fry, adding just a little oil at a time.
The most revealing vegetable has been the cauliflower. If I was looking for a national vegetable of India, then apart from the red onion, this would have to be it. It seems to appear in so many dishes; one was deep-fried with a batter of mustard seeds with a taste of cardamom and chopped coriander in there. The Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potato) seems to be available at every meal.
Another vegetable to come to the fore is the humble pea. Vatanyachi Bhaji (Green Peas Curry) has quickly become a favourite dish; the textures and taste of the bhaji of peas, potato, green chillis and coriander are truly amazing. I would recommend looking this one up one the internet and having a bash at this if you like those surprising little peas.
The aim is now to taste as many dishes as possible and where possible to learn how to recreate the menu and add to the repertoire of my curry cooking. So look out Greenwich Curry Club, you might all become guinea pigs in the next few months…
The Whispering Palms Beach Resort, Sinquerim Beach, Candolim Bardez, 403505, Goa. Tel: +91 832 6651515
When on holiday I’m all for trying the local food (in the case of Tenerife this appears to be English breakfasts and bangers and mash). But after a couple of days it’s time for some proper food. And so begins the search for a decent Tenerife curry (Part One).
Sadly, it’s not a good start. The Garden of India overlooks a sandy beach at Puerto Colon in the south but inside it seems we’ve stumbled on laundry day, with tablecloths drying on chairs against the psychedelic coloured walls. It’s a scene from Widow Twankie’s living room.
“Behind you!” we shout to the waiter, who, to be fair, is very friendly and helpful. We feel we should get into the panto spirit as we are the only customers. Given the pretty decent music, not quite Bhangra but better than the usual lift variety, we could have quite a party if there was anyone else here.
But the party must wait as the food arrives. Despite the decent value of food on the island, not only the Brit’s abroad variety but also tapas, Italian and Chinese, spice lovers must pay over the odds. The Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi (€11 plus 5% tax) has tasty meat but the sauce is way too watery so needs mopping up with Mutter Pillau (€5 plus tax). Considering the normal Pillau rice is €2.75 the cost of peas must be soaring in the Canaries.
Moghali Chicken (€8 plus tax) offers something different for explorers. With the consistency of tuna, the dish is shredded chicken cooked with egg and cream to bind it together. Add a very decent and fresh naan bread (€2.50 plus tax).
Then return to the Tenerife curry quest.
Garden of India, Puerto Colon Las Americas, Tenerife. Tel +34 922 719 684. Open: daily noon-3pm, 6pm-midnight.
My friend has lived in Canada for two years and says he has yet to find a decent curry house (think he means one that serves food like curry houses in England). Well, now he’s found one.
I beg to differ with my friend; there are some decent curries to be had in Canada, but admittedly Masala Bay‘sfood is good. On a ‘sharing, let’s all dip in’ table there has to be one tikka masala butter type thing doesn’t there? It’s a rule. Masala Bay offers three choices of everybody’s favourite dish which is unusual as I doubt if many of us could say what the difference is anyway. So it’s Murg Tikka Makhani (Butter Chicken), Murg Tikka Lababdor or Murg Tikka Masala (all $15.99 plus taxes) depending on what you prefer.
The butter chicken was thick and not as sloppily buttery as you find in some places thank goodness. To complement this butter there was a nice tang in the Murgh Achari ($15.99 plus taxes), a very large portion of Aloo ki Chat ($6.99 plus taxes), Reshmi Kebab ($7.99 plus taxes), a pricey mix pickle ($2.99 plus taxes) and Tandoori Rotis ($1.99 plus taxes each).
Down a side street just off the main drag between Waterloo and Kitchener, there’s a nice outside area (strictly for summer dining, it gets mighty cold here in winter) while inside the bright and breezy decor is fun.
No decent curries in Canada indeed.
Masala Bay, 3B Regina Street North, Waterloo, ON N2J 2J7, Canada. Open: Mon-Thur 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm, Fri 11am-2pm and 5pm-10.30pm, Sat 11.30am-2pm and 5pm-10.30pm, Sun 5pm-9pm. Tel: +1 519 747 2763.
I knew I’d find one in Canada sooner or later. As soon as I tasted the food in India Palace I knew it. The Sylhet area in Bangladesh provides to bulk of chefs in British ‘Indian’ restaurants, and here in the heart of Toronto, the waiter confirms, is another one of the excellent chefs.
Canadian diners and vistors will be only too aware that being a curry lover is an expensive affair here, so the lunchtime buffet, offering a couple of main meat dishes, dhal, vegetables, chicken tikka, rice and bread, is excellent value at $11.95 (plus 13% tax). Eat later off the a la carte menu and you’ll pay just that for one of the main cheicken dishes.
Grab a window seat and watch Tornto pass by on the busy Queen Street West, chat to the waiter about your favourite dishes, but best of all tuck into good value food from a classic Sylheti chef.
India Palace, 257 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5V 1Z4, Canada. Tel: +1 416 593 7272. Open: daily 11.30am–11pm. email: email@example.com
Although little more than a takeaway place with a few basic tables, Gandhi Cuisine seems to be the place to be for rotis in Toronto judging by the comments around me as I ate.
Set in a Bohemian part of town among tattoo parlours, bars, inexpensive restaurants and a mishmash of shops, Gandhis attracted a steady stream of students and travellers, and businessmen ringing their wives asking how hot the roti should be (they come in a choice of mild, medium or hot). More than one of these roti lovers proudly told their friend about the place’s reputation for good rotis.
If you’re after value, you should know the rotis are huge (nearly everyone walked out with a leftovers box) and the most popular is the Butter chicken roti ($11.95 plus tax). Just what you wanted to know? My pleasure.
Watching the chefs chopping and rolling away in the open kitchen, hearing the sizzle of the oil and breathing in that great smell of spice all adds to the nice buzz in Gandhis.
So it seems rotis are good. But what of the other dishes. The menu is fairly limited but if you like it hot then go for the Chicken Vindaloo with rice ($11.95 plus tax) washed down with a can of cold Coke ($1.50). My request for a ‘hot’ version prompted raised eyebrows and a ‘are you sure?’ And I soon knew why. With its thick tomato base, this was seriously one of the hottest vindys I have ever tasted. Thank goodness for the large portion of plain rice and the sour mixed pickles.
Hot. Very Hot.
In line with the basic nature of the place, everything is served on a tray in a metallic container and must be eaten with a plastic fork. But this place is all about the food. And very good it is too.
Let me tell you, turnip tastes good curried. Sliced and cooked in a Jalfriezi-style with turmeric, onions and green peppers, it’s time to take a bow Empress of India chef.
And taking a bow for food at the end of a buffet shift takes some doing. Buffet food never usually scores, let’s be honest, but it works for me if it’s Indian and I have plenty of time to try ‘just a little bit’ of everything. Getting there with ten minutes to spare, ain’t so good.
You could argue the food should be as good at the end as it is at the start or you could argue getting there late is my own silly fault.
I blame the long King Road (in all its East, West, South and North guises) that links Kitchener and Waterloo, which meant me getting off the bus way past the Empress and heading into a bar (purely for directions you’ll understand).
Ten minutes before buffet closing means dried-out looking food, no restocking and almost no desserts left, and curry in a hurry. So it’s to the chef’s credit the food was still pretty decent.
Following on from the turnip was a tasty Chicken Korma, even though it was actually a Chicken Curry (the waitress admitted ‘this is supposed to be a korma’) and good, moist pillau rice.
And even though time was pushed there was still enough for nicely marinated Chicken Tandoori thighs, a crunchy Vegetable Curry, curried chick peas and slices of nan to mop it all up. Only the bony Lamb Curry didn’t appeal. Good work chef.
The lunchtime buffet (Mon-Fri) comes in at $11.99, but by time you’ve added a Kingfisher ($4.85), taxes and tip that’s flown over $20.
Empress of India, 103 King Street North, Waterloo, Ontario, N2J 2X5, Canada. Tel: +1 519 883 1314. Open: Mon-Sat 11.30am-2pm and 5pm -10pm (10.30pm Fri-Sat), Sun 4pm-9pm.
Buy a Niagara Falls fridge magnet, get your pic taken with Tiger Woods (wax version) then it's time for the curry
In this place of both beauty (the Falls are stunning) and utter tat (Clifton Hill seems to have been designed to distract the child with the world’s shortest-ever attention span) you will find the Guru.
The unassuming lattice wood and brown decor in the Guru could be seen as plain elsewhere, but in a town where you bombarded with the bright lights of casinos, the Hard Rock Café, the Haunted House, ten-pin bowling, Guinness World Records (need I go on?) this is a calm before the spicy storm.
Politely staffed, the pink-fronted Guru is wedged between Louis Tussard’s Waxworks and Super Souvenirs, just a nan’s thrown from the madness of Clifton Hill. Serving seriously decent food, it’s been here eight years.
Soothing decor and a thick Lamb Vindaloo
Chicken Haryali Tikka ($13) is a tasty green dish cooked with mint and coriander and served up on a bed of lettuce with slices of raw onion. And the tender Lamb Vindaloo ($14) comes with a think dark sauce (made thicker with added coconut) although it’s not the hottest Vindy you’ll ever find. Add some spicy Achar ($1), Basmati Rice ($3) and Cheetah beers (see next post) for a great meal.
The Guru, Victory House, 5705 Victoria Ave, Cnr Clifton Hill and Victoria Ave. Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2G 3L5, Canada. Tel: +1 905 354 3444.
Few curry houses in the world can offer diners such a beautiful walk to their spice fix as the Indian Jewel. Although the actual restaurant entrance is low key, to get there you have to walk through the famed Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) towards the fairy tale Tyn Church with its twin Gothic towers and cluster of spires. Pass through an archway to the side, along a narrow cobbled path, past numerous local restaurants tempting you with their local specialities and then you will reach a large courtyard area where you will find your curry reward. Your reward comes in a restaurant that is simply but tastefully laid out.
Greeted by a Bengali and served by a Czech, advice was quickly offered for descriptions of the dishes on the menu. It’s a fairly limited menu but the dishes are plentiful and well spiced, if a little pricey at around £15 a main dish.
Decor is simple yet attractive. Dhingri Mattar (centre left) and Chicken Vindaloo
The Chicken Vindaloo (360 Kč) had a decent amount of potato in it – it’s amazing how many restaurants hardly bother with what is an essential ingredient of this famous Goan dish. It had a slow burn to it, rather than the kick in the face some vindys deliver. The decent portion of Zafrani Pullao (100 Kč) delivered its delicate saffron taste perfectly, while the Chicken Sag (375 Kč) also got the thumbs up.
The four vegetable dishes are offered as main meals but half portions are offered if you want it as side dish. Dhingri Mattar (90 Kč half portion) was thick and juicy and didn’t hold back on the peas or the mushrooms.
After a quick bit of tourist information as we wrapped up the last bits of chicken and rice it was time to… and you know what’s coming don’t you?… you’ve got it, order the Czech. Boom, boom.
Indian Jewel, Tyn 6, 110 00, Prague 1 – Staré Město, Czech Republic. Tel: +420 222 310 156 or +420 725 107 059. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Run by friendly Punjabi Sikhs, Little India has a reputation for being one of the best Indians in this popular coastal area which attracts a lot of ex-pats and tourists who often go looking for a spice fix when it’s time to take a break from the beach and the umpteen bars.
Based along a road that is more commonly known as The Strip, which offers a plentiful supply of restaurants and bars, it uses the catchy slogan, ‘You’ve tried the cowboys, now try the Indians.’
One Brit, who’s been in Spain 14 years and run an Indian restaurant here himself, declares this a ‘seriously decent curry,’ and this in an area where he tells me ‘most curry houses aren’t really worth bothering with.’
Bold colours and intricate carving work give Little India a striking look
The décor is striking and distinctive, with orange plates, bright, large, red (and comfortable) chairs and plenty of intricately carved arches. The bar, in particular, is worth checking out, for this alone.
Popadums were complimentary, while top of the dishes on the table was the tasty Chicken Patiala (€9; although note that seven per cent tax is added to the bill at the end), served in a large earthenware pot. The Lamb Madras (€9) also got the thumbs up, not only because it was ‘as hot as it should be’ but also because there was a decent amount of lamb despite fears of a small serving because of the cost of the meat in Spain.
A decent, if pricey, Bombay Aloo (€6), a generous double serving of Pulao Rice (€2.50 per serving), and tangy lime pickle (complimentary) completed a decent curry night. Only the Roti (€2), which was more like a half-leavened nan, fell short of the mark.
Little India, Conj. Buena Vista L-21/22, Avenida de España, Calahonda. Tel: +34 (0)952 93 18 29. Open: daily from 4pm.
Little India snapshot
Food ① ② ③
Decor ① ② ③ ④
Value ① ② ③
Atmosphere (late on Monday night, out of season) ① ②