After The Ribat at Monastir, today’s visit to Carthage was always going to be one of the highlights of our two weeks in Tunisia, It is Written. That a Curry-Heute Experience was scheduled potentially could give it The Edge. Having paid homage to the PFJ at the Roman Theatre, Carthage, and given a first class welcome at the Hilltop Restaurant – Les Bon Vieux Temps – in Sidi Bou Said where we were Ice Creamed and Watered, it was then time for Curry. Or so we hoped.
A Taxi dropped us in the Complex that is The Golden Tulip Hotel, it costs nothing to look at their website, but the room rates are outwith our bracket.
The attraction was the Calcutta Restaurant Indien (Golden Tulip Hotel, Avenue de la Promenade, La Marsa, Carthage, Tunisia). Not much is written about Curry in Tunisia but those who have bothered have all had positive things to say about this venue. Standards and Expectations vary, this would most likely be the last chance to find Quality Curry on this Trip.
Arriving at 16.00, the Restaurant was not yet open. The Concierge in The Hotel advised us that it would open at 19.00. We would have to wait. We did. How does one amuse oneself in a Quality Hotel Complex for three hours?
We entered The Calcutta at 19.10, and were not the first customers. A Charming Waitress, Ms Adb Kareem, asked if we wished a Non-Smoking Table, a Good Start.
The Menu was quite Extensive, Hector narrowed the Choices down to Three – Achari Goasht, Mutton Masala or Goasht Palak. I would take advice. Marg was immediately attracted to the Murg Makhani – Butter Chicken. This could not possibly disappoint as her Meal last evening at Dum Pukht, Marg was back in Familiar Territory. Marg also decided that a Glass of Rose Wine was called for. I would stick to my usual Sparkling Water, they must have it. We would share a Pilao Rice which would contain some Interesting Vegetables.
It was established that the Palak contained Spinach as the only Herbal Additive – Not a challenge – I thought. The Mutton would be Masala-rich, and so Achari Gosht it would be. It was recorded that this should be served – Spicy, and as Dry as the Chef could manage.
I asked The Waitress about the size of the Nans and – Paranthas -, as they called them. She gestured a Modest Size, Marg ordered a Garlic Nan, Hector went slightly overboard and ordered an Aloo Paratha and a Keema Paratha. At a standard 1.5TND (60p) for all Breads, this took the sting out of the £12.00 for a Main Course. An Honourbale Price.
The Solitary Glass of Rose Wine and a Large Bottle of Sparkling Water were secured.
No Nibbles were brought
We missed the delivery of the first Batch of Curry to the smokers ante-room. Marg observed that she could see into the Kitchen through the Glass Wall behind me, a quick photo was captured. The Under-Chef was busy rolling out the Dough for the Breads and nurturing the Tandoor. Meanwhile in the far corner the Chap who was obviously the Chef, judging by his Differentiated Apparel, was busy with his Pots.
The Two Portions of Curry were sat on a shared Plate. The Karahi did not look massive but would prove to be deceptive, they had Depth and hence Volume.
The Pilao Rice would be a perfect quantity for sharing and featured Peas, Green Beans and Carrots. The arrival of Marg’s Garlic Nan meant she could start. Hector waited for the arrival of the Parathas. They shared a Basket. Ritual Photos completed, Time to Eat!
Savour The Moment
The Achari Gosht impressed visually. It was a Dark Brown with the Richest of Thick Masala, exactly how Hector desires his Curry. The Lamb appeared to have the Scorch Marks associated with having met a Tandoori Oven, queue the feeling of disappointment, but wait… The Lamb was Perfect. It was definitely Quality Meat and if it had been slightly – Tikka-ed – then it matched the standard set by SWAGAT in Crawley. The first Dip of the Aloo Paratha into the Masala revealed Spice and an amazing Blast of Flavour. This was impressive. The Combination of Vegetable Rice, Quality Lamb and an amazing Masala already had Hector convinced that this would be a Memorable Curry.
Meanwhile across The Table
At times Marg will have the same as Hector. Her orders tend towards the Antithesis of what Hector desires, today was a classic example. Marg had Dipped my Curry and instantly remarked on its Dry, Earthy Flavours. You will like this! But too Spicy for me.
The Murg Makhani was the Soup-like Curry I fear being served. Rich in Colourings, Yoghurt and who knows what, it sat there with the pieces of Chicken Tikka Cloaked in Masala. One piece of Chicken was described as – Gristly – the rest was Fine. Plenty of Sauce, Creamy, Sweet. I enjoyed it as a contrast to last night’s Biryani. (@Dum Pukht) The Garlic Nan was Soft, a perfect Size for me. It is what I ordered, it was Butter Chicken!
The Waitress approached the table and asked if the Food – Was Good?
No! Was my instant reply. She was taken aback. It’s Wonderful! – was my follow up. Relief.
I was on to my second Paratha, the Keema. As it split naturally, I could see the decent layer of Lamb Mince inside. By now I had spooned all of the Substantial Quantity of Lamb on to my plate. The bottom of the Masala was dipped in the Karahi – Wow! The Strength and Tanginess of the Pickle came to the fore. The overall Earthy Flavour is the very one I have been trying to perfect in my own cooking of late. I suspect Tamarind had to be in there too. This Curry had everything.
Others have written that the Curry served at the Calcutta is the Best in Tunisia. I cannot say, but after three Tunisian Curry Experiences, this is by far My Best.
We were well looked after too. The Bottle of Sparkling Water was placed in an Ice Bucket and our Glasses topped up as required. The Head Waiter also presented himself. When our Charming Waitress came to take away the very Clean and Empty Plates I offered her the Calling Card and asked if I could meet The Chef. Not a problem. Moments later he came out, beaming.
Now Students of Curry-Heute will have observed that Hector, tends to show little emotion when the Ritual Photos are taken. Behold The Hector in a Joyous Moment! The Chef, Mr. Raturi Subhash and Hector exchanged Cards. I asked if he had trained in Glasgow, Bradford or Birmingham? He asked me how I thought he would – do – in these places. This Man can Cook! The Maitre D’ had to be in on the Photo Shoot too, sadly The Waitress was too busy serving the other Customers. The Restaurant was slowly filling up.
Marg reminded me that we had agreed to have Dessert. The Gajjat Ka Halwa, or its equivalent, was presented to Hector at Yadgar quite recently. The same Dessert I had brought Marg back from my last Bradford Trip. She had not been that impressed. This Halwa was served Warm. It was also covered in a layer of Coconut which was the first thing I tasted, before the Carrot kicked in. (Coconut, Dear Ahmed!) Marg loved this.
Why did I not have this Warm before?
89.500TND = £36.00. This included a Glass of Wine £4.00 and Dessert. Given that this Restaurant is located in the Golden Tulip Complex, no complaints about the Price. For the Quality of this Food I would happily have paid more.
I have no hesitation in adding The Calcutta Restaurant Indien to my list of Recommended Curry Houses.
The Rose Wine?
Very Nice! – said Marg.
(Let’s hope this is the first and last time this comment appears in Curry-Heute.)