Crawley – The Downsman Indian Restaurant – an Afternoon of Sheer Indulgence

The Downsman Indian Restaurant (Wakehurst Drive, Southgate, Crawley, RH10 6DH) is how the Menu now describes these premises. Curry Club – no more. Still, it remains a Pub which serves Curry, a feature that is becoming less of a phenomenon in Sussex.

We may have been invited to a BBQ later this evening, that did not stop Lord Clive of Crawley agreeing that Lunch at The Downsman would not be a good idea. It was after 14.00 when we arrived. Quiet for a Saturday afternoon, the few Punters present appeared to be more interested in going – frae ra pub te-ra bookies, then frae ra bookies te-ra pub – than watching Liverpool FC on the TV.

Whilst Clive caught up with a couple of Chaps, I sorted some Lamb Chops (£8.95), two portions. One pays in advance at The Downsman, it is a Pub. Nine Quid feels a lot to pay for Lamb Chops, but look at what comes. Normally one shares, however, the tacit plan was to have a Long Lunch, we could let these digest, then order Curry.

Lamb Chops (two portions)

Six Chops each, ten of twelve were appreciably Larger than those served – anywhere else. It has been a while since I indulged to this degree, long overdue. The Chops were all well fired, cooked through – Durch – as they say in Deutschland. Magnificent Chops, I have a dental appointment next week. David, my Dentist reads Curry-Heute, occasionally.

The Downsman has only three Cask Ales, two typically are an absolute – no-no – Hector always has something – cold, yellow, and fizzy – and Apple based. We were taking our time. Tonight, Septem 8th Day.

At 14.50, Clive went up to order the rest. Clive always apologises for having Chicken Dhansak (£7.95) in my company but persists, he loves his – Lentils. For Hector, it could only be Lamb Methi (£8.95). A couple of recent visits have not been up to standard, I was hoping that given the relative quiet, Chef would have time to – work the magic. Keema Paratha is not on the Menu, but we have secured it here occasionally. Today we made life simpler and ordered Keema Naan (£2.95), twice.

The Bill

£40.75. Quite a Lunch, and this excludes two rounds of rinks.

The Curry arrived at 15.15, a decent wait, encouraging, the Lamb Chops were well digested.

Keema Naan

The Naan was Soft, Delightful, despite being served in Quarters. I forgot to employ my latest – Whole Bread please – request. As is my custom, the Naan was split open to exam the interior – Donner! Well not quite, the Colour was how Keema should be not the horrible Pink, but the individual grains hoped for were not present. This was a new variant, no complaints, this Naan was impressive, and so filling.

Lamb Methi

Coriander and Sybees topped the Richest of Masala. The Oil was collecting around the periphery of the Masala, so unlike yesterday at Tayyabs, I enjoy both styles.

A strip of Naan was dipped, oh yes, the – Big Methi Blast! The Masala was Viscous, Herb-rich, and most certainly more than required. I then considered the possibility of ordering this without Meat, just have Keema Naan and Masala? That could work, satisfaction could be achieved.

Satisfaction? We were here to indulge ourselves. I counted the Meat, ten good-sized pieces of Lamb, the most Tender of Lamb. Meat in the Naan, Meat in the Masala, for once, an Interesting Vegetable would have been – Excessive. The Masala did have Chopped Onions visible in addition to that in the Masala pulp. Seasoning, Spice, Methi, this was as good as Curry gets, yet so different from that which I would order at home. This was not – Mainstream Curry – the – Wow factor – truly present. Hector was sated.

Chicken Dhansak

The Toppings were the same as the Lamb Methi, the Masala was not as Thick, decidedly – Soupy. Lentils the alternative to Methi? Without the Chicken, this could almost tempt The Hector, a Fish Dhansak?

Clive cleared the lot and was able to wipe his bowl clean.

Excellent, as it always is in here. There was a sweetness.

Maybe this is not for Hector after all.

The Aftermath

Clive and Hector were last in the queue at Phil’s Birthday BBQ. Dr. Stan did not let the side down. He also rated the Septem 8th Day very highly. QED.

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London – Whitechapel – Tayyabs – Serving Punjabi Cuisine since 1972

It remains a mystery as to why one can travel by train from Crawley to the Capital and have the freedom of all transport within London for just over £10.00, whereas in Central Scotland…forget it.

Before meeting up with Clive for another bash at the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), Hector had a few ports of call. Bermondsey is a surprising source of my current Favourite Bier – Septem 8th Day, brewed in Greece. The Pink Floyd Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum was well worth the £16.00 entry fee. There had to be Bunkers before supping Ale, a return to Whitechapel was foremost in my thoughts for this week. My own review of Lahore Kebab House confirmed that – Dry Lamb – is available there in the second half of the week, tempting. However, Curryspondent Neil had suggested an alternative Whitechapel venue that I should explore – Tayyabs (83-89 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU).

Walking along Fieldgate, I was not expecting to encounter such a large venue. Established in 1972, it would appear that Tayyabs has encroached into neighbouring premises over the years. As I entered just after 13.00, a large seating area to the right was empty. I was escorted past a secondary seating area which was full to what may have been the original premises.

The Open Kitchen lay to the rear, I was sat at a small table immediately next to two Chaps who were well into their Curry.  I could see twenty plus diners, not bad for a Friday Lunchtime. Bottles of Bier were on many tables, had people brought their own? I saw no Bier List.  I could hardly photograph everything.

Punjabi Cuisine – was engraved on the windows, Hector was at home. A Jug of Water and three Dips were already on the table. A Waiter approached with Poppadoms in one hand, a Modest Salad in the other. He offered the Poppadoms, declined, the Salad was placed on the table. The Menu came in an instant and impressed by its simplicity. On any other day it would have been Lamb Karahi, but there it was – Dry Meat – (£9.50) – Tayyabs lamb signature dish. For a brief moment I considered – Large – at £19.00. No, a Starter. For reasons unknown, Shami Kebab (£1.20) is only served on a Wednesday, Seekh Kebab (£1.20) it would be. A Tandoori Paratha (£3.25) would complete the Order.

Only one? – said the Waiter who took the Order. Who orders one Seekh Kebab?

The wait for the Starter was not long. A Sizzling Iron Platter was presented with the Seekh Kebab atop a generous bed of Onions. Ah, the Paratha was here too. No sooner had I completed my ritual photography when the Karahi of Dry Meat arrived. This was not ideal, I like my Food to be served – Hot – and to be so at the end of consumption. I would conclude that at this time of day, Tayyabs is set up to cater for those who are on their lunch hour.

The Seekh Kebab was decidedly – Small – I should have ordered two. Dry and Herby, it was Well Seasoned with a Moderate Spice Level. Tasty. I should have ordered three.

The Paratha showed Layering with a Flakiness that turned to Crisp. Dark, this was in the category I describe as – Wholemeal. A decent size, this was OK, but far from being the best. I did see Naans pass me by, these looked Lighter and Fluffier, the better option.

Determined not to end up with my Curry on the floor, I carefully manoeuvred the Iron Platter to the far side of the table and placed the Karahi in front of me, a dinner plate was also discarded.

Normally I dip my Bread into the Masala surrounding the Meat, there was none. I then sample the Oil which separates, there was none. This was a Dry Curry. This is what I ask for across the Curry Diaspora, here it was, the definitive – Dry Curry!

The Lemon was squeezed over the Meat, the slice from the Salad also. A Citrus Tang should surely enhance the experience. The Lamb was well into Double Figures, this was a lot of Meat. Tender to Chewy, the Meat was merely – cloaked – with the Thick Masala. The Seasoning slowly came through, the Spice Level was not remarkable. There was a distinctive flavour, Pleasant, but it was not powerful. The Coriander Topping was Minimal, this Curry would have benefited from more Herbs. Way better than the Mainstream, but well short of – Wow.

Inevitably, having sat on the table from the time it took me to eat the Seekh Kebab and Wonderful Onions, the Curry became – Cool – long before its completion. Just as well I did not go – Large.

A solo female Diner was sat beside me where the Chaps had been, she ordered Chicken Karahi. This came in a Soup-like Masala which was not excessive. I was surprised at how Thin the Masala was served.

The Bill

£13.95. One can have no complaints about value for money.  I should have had four…

The Aftermath

I gave the Calling Card to the Waiter who received the cash. He took my phone up to the counter to show the Boss. The Card was studied, as was the Curry-Heute Homepage. When he returned, I was offered a Complimentary Dessert. This was declined. I choose to leave a Curry House with the lingering taste of Curry on the palate, not Sweet.

I went downstairs to use the Facilities and was astonished to find a huge seating area, this I could photograph. As I departed, the seating area at street level which was once empty was now full. Tayyabs is doing Big Business.

And so to Pink Floyd.

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Crawley – Fat Boy’s Joint Afghan Canteen – A Game of Two Halves

Third night of five in Crawley and the first Curry-Heute

It was a close run thing, even Hector suggested Nando’s just to convince Clive and Maggie that they did not have to have Curry on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Fat Boy’s Joint Afghan Canteen (8 The Broadway, Crawley RH10 1DS) was first visited last year with Lord Clive of Crawley and Marg, we were well received, the venue was considered to be decidedly – Expensive – especially if one was ordering more than the – ¼ – Portion (142g). Having had time to review the weight/price ratio, this maintains. Compare with any – Kilo – order at Yadgar (Glasgow).

Fat Boy’s was decidedly empty when we arrived some time after 19.00. How we wished this had continued when a group of ten Student-types entered. Mein Host would do his best to distract them, have them look at their phones, shut them up. It was not his fault, however, the thought of venues which charge a surcharge for groups came to mind. Shouldn’t this mean a 10% discount off everyone else’s bill?

Last time, Hector had one of the two Afghan Lamb Karahi on offer – Nanak Mandai Karahi – (£10.00) for the ¼ portion. This time I had to order the alternative – Nazara Hotel Karahi – (£12.00).

The Menu does not fully explain the difference, however, from experience, I know that they are trying to serve the Best of – Authentic Afghani Cuisine – here, we have to trust them.

Clive reminisced about the – Wrap – he had in my presence; that apparently was only available in the Lunchtime Menu. Romantic Meal, Anniversary, Hector knows better than to make any comment, just to admit that Marg and I have been caught too often making – Grand Plans.

Only Alcohol-frei Bier is served here.

Able to actually read the Menu, Maggie once more went down the Chicken route: Marghuzar Shahi Karahi (£12.00). Wrapped no more, Clive chose the alternative Lamb Karahi: Nanak Mandai Karahi.

Anticipating a – Modest Portion – for the Mains and Hector, being here – To Dine – , announced the intention to have a Starter. I recalled the relatively modest size of the Nanak Mandai Karahi last time, but Marg having announced the arrival of a – Blogger – had alerted Mein Host, Complimentary Dum Pukt came my way too. I did not leave hungry.

Kobeda Kebab (£5.00) promised Coriander. The Quantity, possibly – a half pound – , that’s about 225g in real money, I could eat that and happily pay a fiver. Clive was not to be left out, Lady Maggie is learning that she cannot manage a Starter and a Main, she passed. The Kobeda Kebab is what Clive had as a Wrap last time.

Mein Host had recognised Maggie soon after we had taken our table, not Clive and certainly not Hector. A Waitress brought Salad and Dips, a different Chap came to take the order. As always I was busy taking notes, not helped when people make up their minds at the last minute. I was last to announce my request. Two Garlic Naans (£2.50) were asked for, we were advised to have one Large (£6.00). That must be some Naan. Sparkling Water came in two sizes: £2.00 or £4.00. My Hosts had filled their home with four – two litre bottles of Sparkling Water for my stay, price – less than £2.00 for eight litres. I had better stay – Small. A jug of Tap Water was provided. The Abstemious Wedding Anniversary.

Mein Host was dealing with – The Group of Ten – who wished to eat, and not spend money. I can imagine their reaction to the prices. One Guy kept shouting – Chips. He was louder than everyone else, save those who were louder than him. Mein Host did his best to calm them. The Kebabs came.

Kobeda Kebab

This is 1/2lb of Meat? How many units of measurement does this Restaurant use? Most confusing.

Did the weight refer only to the Chapli Kebab above it in the Menu? It was the same price, same weight expected, Lamb does not cost twice the price of Beef. The Kebap was a – Super Seekh – in many ways. I must start carrying scales, a new phone app? The Kobeda Kebab looked lonely on the plate despite a drizzle of Herb, cue the Salad, the Dips, much better.

Spice came from somewhere, the Kebap, the Dip? When the Seasoning hit, I forgave all, almost. The Coriander, was this referring to the scattered greenery across my plate? There was a big Clove hit. I couldn’t help but enjoy what lay before me, though I think I have asked enough questions.

Namkara Hotel Karahi

A standard metal serving dish was placed before me, not a Karahi. The heart sank, a few pieces of Meat, albeit on-the-bone, swimming in the Thinnest of Shorva. Shorva/Soup appears elsewhere on the Menu to describe the Dishes I chose to avoid. This was far from the Magnificence that was the – Afghani Lamb Karahi – served once upon a time at the Khyber (Glasgow). I counted the Meat, Seven, one piece was a joint, not much meat there. The Portion in no way justified the price, this is not – The West End. Still, what Lamb there was had full on Lamb Flavour. My last review here outlines that they served the Lamb a bit more – Chewy – than the soft pulp that many venues resort to. This was Tender Lamb, a pity there was not more of it. How many would pay £19.00 for a decent portion?

The Garlic Naan

The Waitress brought the Naan on its stand after the three Karahi had been served, we had to wait to start. Clive had to do the honours, tearing strips from the bottom. The Pan handle was at the top, my favourite part, abandoned to the end, when it would be cold. Still, a fine Naan, enough for three as it turned out. £6.00?

(Take a trip to the Alishan (Glasgow) or Omar’s (Bradford). Will the Akash (Helensburgh) ever re-open?

The Bread was dipped in the Thinnest of Masalas. In true Afghani, and sometimes Punjabi fashion, no Onion had been harmed in its preparation, this was the traditional – Tomato, Ginger, Green Chillies.

Not much was happening on the Hector Palate. Clive and I had both asked for – Spicy – not a feature of this meal. The Seasoning was off the bottom end of the scale. I was about record – Bland and Watery – when Maggie described her Chicken Karahi:

Watery.

My Karahi simply lacked – Flavour.

How is it? – asked Mein Host.

I would prefer more Seasoning – was the simplest response.

I’ll get another one for you – was his immediate reaction.

I took the last piece of Naan to deal with what would follow. In passing, moments later, I was promised fresh Naan.

The last time this offer was made to Hector was at Delhi (Berlin). Then having almost finished my Curry, another was not an option, I couldn’t have eaten it. Today I had Clive, his Portion size was identical to mine, I was interested to see what would come.

Marghuzar Shahi Karahi

The Chicken was served on-the-bone in a Masala which was decidedly – Shorva.

Yummy – said Maggie soon after she had expressed her disappointment at the lack of viscosity. I was intrigued, how was a Chicken Karahi more flavoursome than the Lamb?

I sampled some of the Shorva, Interesting.

This had the – Seasoning – the Flavours therefore emerged. There was a greater sense of Spice, though not by much. What was this Flavour which was coming through, this was different? Caramel – came to mind. Maggie suggested – Coconut. I do not associate Afghanistan with Coconut, this is ever-present in South Indian Cuisine and dominates Sri Lankan. We had to ask.

Walnuts – was the given reply. (I had not read this part of the menu.)

Afghanistan is famed for it Dried Fruit – Mein Host informed us.

And Coconut? Apparently so. One is still learning.

Nanak Mandai Karahi

Clive had little, if anything to say about his Karahi. Why spoil his own anniversary? See my previous review of this Dish. Tonight’s was nothing like I was served last year.

Round 2

Another Portion was served, same quantity as before. I shared it with Clive. A Plain Naan accompanied, I gave half to Clive who was surprised since much happens outside his peripheral vision. Whichever of the two Lamb Karahi on offer this was, the Masala appeared much – Richer – in appearance.

The Seasoning was where it should be, the Flavours burst through, much better! The Herb content also seemed more, this Karahi was night and day compared to what came previously, though the Masala was still – Shorva.

Mein Host had been hovering, waiting for our verdict. He described the two Chefs: one as being restrained, the other less so. He also said that he upped the Seasoning even more himself.

Not a case of too many cooks….

With this bonus serving, I now felt as if I had been fed.

Complimentary Green Tea was served whilst we waited to pay. Only in this venue has Hector drunk tea in the last decade – in England.

The Bill

£52.00 Had I departed hungry, a negative comment would appear here.

The Aftermath

There was now recognition of me having been here and reviewed the Restaurant. It makes life easier when the Restaurateur knows what will please. I had to ask about Namkeen Karahi. Mein Host listed the ingredients of a version to Clive and Maggie, then realised I was specifically referring to the – White Karahi. This they make only for themselves. We were instructed that next time we should contact Fat Boy’s in advance and they will prepare it.

Can they do so with a Thick Masala?

The service at Fat Boy’s is Excellent, however, one feels they are still trying to find their way. I still challenge the Portions and Pricing, and even the units of measurement. They cannot charge £12.00 for Soup and expect the business to survive.

I suggest they read my pages on Ambal’s (Aberdeen) who initially aimed at the top end of the market then had to review their target audience. Fat Boy’s uses – Canteen – in its self description. Alcohol is not served, Fat Boy’s is a Cafe. The Prices/Portions should match.

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Glasgow – Karahi Palace – Sunshine on Nelson Street

It is an unbelievable two months and two days since Hector last enjoyed the Magnificent Curry that is served at Karahi Palace (51 – 53 Nelson Street, Glasgow, G5 8DZ). I have been abroad, I have been to Yorkshire, and up North too, some Outstanding Curry has been enjoyed: Pak Taka Tak – in Athens, – Sarina’s – in Yorkshire, Lahore Karahi – in Aberdoom.

Home for just a few days, today was the monthly visit to Staggs/Volunteer arms in Musselburgh (I missed last month). Around 16.00, Mags suggested Karahi Palace, she has not had her Favouritest (sic) Aloo Gosht for some time either, though 7 Spices Balti (Sheffield) impressed. Mags knows – The Rule.

At 20.30 we were back from the far east, the Sun was shining on the front of Karahi Palace. For most of the year the building is in the shade, with the Sun currently so far north, the moment was captured.

Two Chaps were just finishing, another was sat waiting for his Takeaway. Qaiser was sitting on a box waiting to serve, or deliver. He took the three steps necessary to serve us.

It is two months and two days since I was last here.

Qaiser – I have been following you, Greece, all over.

Karahi Gosht – with Extra Methi (£7.90), one Chapatti (£0.70).

Yes that is a – ZERO – before the 70p, we’re not in Aberdoom now.

Aloo Gosht (£6.50). Mags did not ask for a Chapatti, one assumed. One is enough.

Who knows what was on the TV, something was happening that was important, somewhere in the north-west of the Indian Subcontinent. The Spanish Doris brought the Modest Salad. With Raita I might have nibbled, no Raita. Mags nibbled. Sitting with my back to the counter I had not spotted Chef Rashid until moments before serving. We were in for a – real treat. Rashid serves some of – the Best Curry – on the planet. I kid you not.

Aloo Gosht

The Aloo Gosht arrived first and was placed in front of me. For once I did not have to stretch across the table to photograph it. The Masala looked Thin/Oily, however, as Mags ate on so the same Thick Masala as I have come to enjoy in my Karahi was exposed. This was a mass of Curry.

The Lamb was on-the-bone as all Lamb Curry is served at Karahi Palace.

Sucky bone! – exclaimed Mags as she started.

So much better than Sheffield, only the place next door to the Rat and Ratchet (Lahori Taste – Huddersfield) comes close.

Bloody marvellous, still the best!

I believe she enjoyed her Aloo Gosht.

Karahi Gosht

Served – Ultra Hot – there is always plenty of time to take photos before one can even think about commencing. For a brief moment I thought …. I decanted a piece of long green Vegetable to the plate, sliced Green Chilli, no problem. They wouldn’t. There were a lot of Green Chillies below the copious Ginger Strips and Fresh Coriander. I could see a Lamb Chop, Ribs, Boneless Lamb too, I had everything. This was a worthy – welcome home.

The Oil was separating from the Masala Mash as it does. The first dip of the Chapatti was into the Oil – Flavour #1. The Chapattis had been halved. When did they start this?

The Masala Mash was next, rich in Tomato, so well Seasoned, the Kick, the Chillies waiting to add more. Magical Flavours, then the Methi, subtle.

Flavour #2 ….#n.

Hector’s tongue and lips tingled. Every piece of Meat was savoured, the bones assembled on the dinner plate. There was quite a pile in the end, Lamb on-the-bone cannot be beaten.

We counted out our Cash, knowing the prices well, Ayaz asked for more than anticipated.

The Bill

£15.80 The prices have gone up. The anomaly of the Karahi Gosht being cheaper than the Aloo Gosht has also been addressed. Those quoted above are the new ones. Still great value.

The Aftermath

Qaiser: I’ll see you next week then.

Hector: It will not be another two months and two days.

At Bridge St. Subway Station, the Full Moon was shining bright. I have not seen the Moon for ages, I have not seen anything but clouds since Greece… Check the craters, bottom left.

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Aberdeen – Ambal’s Restaurant – Hector does Buffet + Chicken Curry !

It was Marg who suggested we have a Lunchtime Curry. Hector only needed half an excuse to return to Ambal’s Restaurant (4 Bridge St., Aberdeen, AB11 6JJ). On Monday evening of this very week, Mein Host told us of the Lunchtime Buffet which is operated at Ambal’s seven days a week, the cost? £5.99! This I had to see.

Hector tends to avoid – Buffet – with one glorious exception – Ramadan Buffet – at The Village (Glasgow) where a wonderful array of Punjabi Dishes are served for the duration. For – Buffet – in Mainstream Curry Houses, expectations are low, the masses have to be catered for, Dishes tend towards – Bland – and – Chicken –  dominates. The Hector was willing to give Ambal’s a go, purely for – Research Purposes.

Arriving at 14.00, if there had been a Lunchtime rush, we had missed it. Two Other Diners remained, we had seen them from Union St., sitting at the window. A Chap sat us at the window, also facing Union St, window dressing. Tap Water would suffice, I have paid enough for Sparkling Water in Aberdeen this week.

The Buffet is ready – he declared.

The Lunchtime Doris was manning (?) the Curry etc. When the camera appeared, she wanted in on the act, most welcoming. As expected, there was one Lamb Curry – Lamb Karie, the Saag Chana Chat Moter looked inviting. Gobi Manchurian? If this was anywhere near as good as Aloo Tare Ko, first encountered at Patan Mahal, Patan, Rajahstan, then I was on to a winner. (Recipe)

Lunchtime Doris said she would arrange Fresh Naan, however, I had already taken some Pilau Rice. Marg had other ideas.

Poppadoms and Chutney/Dips were at the end of the array, she took Bits from here, Chilli Chicken and Chicken Korma found their way on to her plate also, the antithesis of Hector Curry. The Lamb Karie and Saag Chana made her plate more respectable, Gobi Manchurian too. Marg intended only to have one plateful, aye right.

    

                     Pilau Rice                                          Lamb Karie

Lamb Karie

This had full on Aromatic Flavour, Cloves to the fore. The Masala was Thin, Mainstream Curry. The Kick took me surprise – a bit too Spicy for me – said Marg. Indeed, this was a Worthy Curry, well Seasoned with Tender Lamb. Peas and traces of Green Capsicum were mixed through, a pity about the latter.

                           Saag Chana                                          Sambar

Saag Chana

This too had a decent Kick. There was a slight – Creaminess – to the Spinach and Chickpea Mix, but not to the extent that prevails across Mainland Europe.

                     Gobi Manchurian                                  Chilli Chicken

Gobi Manchurian

There was a – Sweet – Sticky – coating to the Cauliflower, not for me. There are no prizes for guessing that Marg enjoyed this.

Marg spoke well of the Chicken Korma, she was back for more. I could easily have had more of the same but decided that if I was here to review – Buffet – I should cover as many Dishes as possible.

A piece of well-fired Naan was placed over my remaining Pilau. How do I make the font microscopic? Hector then took modest portions of Chicken Madras and Chicken Korma, and one piece of Chilli Chicken. A Soupçon of Saag Chana was added to prove I had maintained my sanity.

It is worth pointing out that both Staff were still very much involved in assuring that all was well.

Chilli Chicken

With Caramelised Onion and more Capsicum on my plate, I carefully took the Meat. The Flavour was from further east in the Orient, not my cup of tea.

Tasty, with a Kick – was Marg’s verdict.

                        Chicken Madras                                  Chicken Korma

Chicken Madras

The was an Earthy Flavour from the Thin Masala. Not bad at all. Then I took some Chicken, nothing. I have written before – There ain’t no such thing as – Chicken Curry.

Chicken Korma

Hector has cooked this on demand for many years. The Curry-Heute Recipe gives the option to add Green Chillies and make the Dish more demanding.

Lovely, sweet, creamy, and coconutty – said Marg after Round #1.

Here we go…

This was – Seriously Sweet – and full of Coconut Flavour, though not as – Gritty – as I would serve.

Baby Food – I said to Marg.

For those who don’t like Curry – was her reply.

This was Marg once upon a time.

I thought we were finished. Some more Lamb Karie had to be savoured in order to leave with a good taste in my mouth. Lunchtime Doris offered Marg – Dessert.

Payallum, is how I read the label. Sago is what came, with Sultanas and Nuts. Sabudana Kheer I find is an alternative moniker.

Sweet, like a rice pudding with a burnt taste – was Marg’s erudite description.

Throughout our visit we were encouraged to help ourselves to as much as we desired. Careful not to waste, all plates were cleared, save…

The Bill

£11.98. Glasgow/Manchester/Bradford Prices. This is more like it.

The Aftermath

The photo in the stairwell.

Five Hours later, the after-taste of Capsicum was overpowering.

Why do people do this to The Hector?

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Aberdeen – Wild Ginger – Some you win, Some you lose

Hector was made aware earlier in the year of a new Curry House in Aberdeen that would have to be visited. Stories of meals being cooked at the table and a connection with the excellent Echt Tandoori sparked an interest. As experienced a couple of weeks ago at 7 Spices Balti (Sheffield), when the final presentation is completed at the table, the food is served as – Hot – as it can be.

Wild Ginger (367 Union St, Aberdeen AB11 6BT) lies on virtually the same block, same side of street, between the 8848 Restaurant and Cumin Tandoori. It is a basement venue and of considerable size. Arriving at 19.20, we were not sure if Sandy and Tracey had booked, it wasn’t a problem, we were led through the lines of tables to the far end of the room. I counted some twenty diners en route. We were relieved of our umbrellas which was quite sensible. When will it stop raining in Scotland?

Menus were provided which gave us a few minutes start. Having looked online, I had not seen many Dishes that were a huge departure from the – Mainstream. The Menu presented in house was extensive, perhaps artificially so, this many – Specials. If they are all really different how is this sustainable? Rajastani Lamb Chops (£10.95) tempted, also two versions of Lamb Kofta (£10.95), with and without Spinach. Lamb Khada Masala (£9.95) – Succulent chunks of lamb, simmered with chopped onion and whole spices in a thick sauce with a hint of ginger – ticked my boxes. The – Offending Vegetable – would be avoided, Green Peppers were specifically mentioned in too many Dishes for Hector’s liking. Actually, even – once – is too often.  Still, so much choice, I could eat here every night.

Sandy and Tracey were escorted to our table, after the welcome hugs, time to start again. I had assumed the – Specials – stopped after a page or so, they went on, and on.

We were – offered – Poppadoms (£1.00). I decided to stay silent, I do not believe these should ever be charged for and refuse to have one when they are not Complimentary. Three Poppadoms were ordered. We had no Drinks Menu, a Large Bottle of Sparkling Water and a pint of Cobra/ Kingfisher (?) Shandy would satisfy the four. This would be supplemented later by another Sparkling Water and a half pint. Check the ice bucket for the Sparkling Water. Perhaps this is how Scottish Water should be treated? … not that we have a shortage of it.

Kalamgi Khyberi Venison (£10.95) – Fillet of venison, delicately spiced and oven roasted, served in an aromatic sauce made from star anise, roasted garam masala and fresh ginger – looked even better than my original choice. The Opperchancity to have a Venison Curry could not be passed over. The Khyber Pass: my appreciation of Afghani/Punjabi Cuisine is well recorded in these pages. Sandy was on board for this also despite having reservations about the – Star Anise. For Sandy an Onion and Cheese Nan ( £3.25), something new, for Hector – Garlic and Coriander Nan (£3.50).

The price of a Plain Naan here is £2.50. One Roti is £2.25! The Man from Bradford was in contact throughout the day expressing his disbelief at the price of Bread in Aberdeen, that makes two of us, at least.

Marg was considering Lamb Relish (£9.95), but as a – relish sauce – could have been anything, even from a jar, she then took my advice and went for Lamb Khada Masala, my original choice. Good girl. I was offering to share Lemon Chilli Fried Rice (£3.75) with Marg. Lemon Rice (£3.75) caught Marg’s eye – Lemon, cashew nut, chickpea and potato and spinach rice – the inclusion of Cashew Nuts was the attraction for Marg, the Aloo for Hector.

Tracey took her time: Bengal Exotica (£10.95) – This favourite Bangla dish is prepared in a rich, thick sauce with an exotic flavour – surprised Hector. Tracey typically goes for something more Soup-like, though she did stick to her usual – Chicken. Served – Medium hot – the Menu stated, Tracey would ask for this to be tempered with an emphasis on – Medium. A Coriander Nan (£2.50) would complete the Food Order.

The Ladies gave their respective requests. I asked for the Kalamgi Khyberi Venison, twice. Our Waiter shook his head, this was not available. We understood that this was not just a case of tonight, but not at all. I asked for another five minutes to start again.

The reliable LG was produced, the Curry-Heute Homepage was summoned, the basement locus slowed this down. Meanwhile Marg started to list – The Hector Curry Requirements: Lamb, Tender, not Tikka, Thick, Minimal Masala, Methi and no Capsicum. I could only access the Excellent Bhuna Gosht served at Ambal’s Restauarant (Aberdeen) two days previously.

This is what I am looking for – I said, showing the Bhuna Gosht on my phone.

The Waiter pointed to – Sizzling Masala Lamb (£10.95) – Tender chunks of lamb extensively prepared with green peppers, onions, cumin seeds, roasted garam masala in a chef’s special tandoori sauce.

I did not want Meat cooked in a Tandoor or Green Peppers. Sizzling – suggested Fried or Tandoori Meat. The Waiter assured me that the Green Peppers could be withheld and I would be having Tender Lamb. Why have Capsicum in the first place? Now for Sandy.

Darziling Korai Lamb (£10.95) – Barbecued meat cooked in a rich textured sauce with garlic and onions, sprinkled with fresh coriander – was the suggestion. Sorted.

Three Poppadoms arrived with the Chutney Tray, Hector took no part but was assured by Sandy that the Lime Pickle was a Standout. It had the appearance of being prepared – in house. With the second Large Bottle of Sparkling Water now placed in the ice bucket, we were ready for the Mains.

In the interim, Sandy marvelled at the copper pipes which ran up to the ceiling, the lack of varnish/paint to reveal how they had been installed. On his last visit here he had asked. I was told. This is not a Carpentry Blog. The décor here was reportedly conceived by the same peeps who designed Echt Tandoori.

Same Owner, Same Designer, Same Curry?

One tries to take the ritual photos as quickly as possible so as not to delay the commencement of the actual process of eating. As the Waiters tried to place our various plates on the table we were clearly struggling for space. Who ordered the third Naan? Hector had noted exactly who had ordered what.

The Four Dishes were all presented with differing garnishes, Ornate, or a waste of Vegetables? If that’s what people desire when they are out – To Dine – then so be it. The presentation of my Mushroom Rice last night at Lahore Karahi on the plate from which I would eat suited me fine. Two Dishes tonight were placed on the hot metal stand, two served on dining plates.

Naan

Three Naans, each served in quarters, why? They were also round, so on/in what had they been cooked? Naans cooked in a Tandoor tend to have the panhandle, my favourite part. The Naans were Soft and all three were – Peely Wally – and could have been fired for longer. The Garlic and Coriander Naan was warm, it might have been – Hot – once upon a time. More on this to come. Three quarters were left on the table at the end, so the overall  size must have been more than adequate.

Quite subtle – was Sandy’s take on the Onion and Cheese Nan.

Lemon Rice

Marg took very little when she observed how small the portion was. Frequently I comment on portions which would feed three, especially in Europe where incidentally, Rice is usually inclusive in the price of a Main Dish. I took enough to give my plate a semblance of a – Rice Covering – and handed the rest back to Marg. A few Cashew Nuts, Chickpeas, a hint of Spinach, and Yellow Capsicum (!) stared back at me. No Potato! Who decided to substitute Aloo with Ballast? £3.75.

Sizzling Masala Lamb

Presented on an iron platter, there was no – Sizzle. The Dish did have the semblance of something I was going to enjoy: the Masala was indeed – Thick – as described, there did not appear to be an Excess. The Lamb looked plentiful, the pieces were – Large.

I decanted the majority and had counted well into double figures, indeed, plenty of Meat. I used a piece of Naan to mop up some Masala from the iron platter. Very little in the way of – Spice – and woefully Under-seasoned. There was a taste…

Concentrating on the Meat, I noted how Wonderfully Tender the Lamb was. Pieces were halved, the Quantity was impressing more with each passing moment. There was a taste…

There was an unwelcome sense of – Sweetness – coming from somewhere. I studied the Naan looking for Coconut, but saw none. I saw very little Garlic or Coriander either. There was a taste…

I do not know from where this – Alien Blend of Spice – came, but the combination of Flavours was not sitting well on – The Hector Palate. The Rice, the Naan, the Curry were far from – Hot – approaching  – Tepid. I want my food served – Hot! What happened to the tale of – final preparation at the table? On Saturday after the monthly visit to Staggs (Musselburgh), I shall once again visit the Karahi Palace (Glasgow) where the food is served too hot to touch and nobody would consider putting Capsicum in any Dish.

I was probably last to finish, my facial expression no doubt giving away my displeasure. Having dined and then raved about the meals I have previously enjoyed at Echt Tandoori, what was this?

Darziling Korai Lamb

A work of art, the carved Vegetables set aside, and hopefully the needless Capsicum, Sandy too was left with a Thick Masala. The Echt Tandoori influence was evident, large strands of Onion though the Masala. Sandy managed about three quarters of his meal before calling a halt. Again, the Portion Size impressed.

I liked the dry texture, the flavour. It could have been slightly more spiced … as you say, a little more seasoning.

On the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Bengal Exotica

Nouvelle Cuisine, Indian-style? The plate was a hoot. Once more there was a welcomed – Thick Masala – with pieces of Chicken protruding. Tracey remarked almost immediately:

This is the driest I have ever had, Tandoori aside.

This was so unlike anything I had seen Tracey order before. Would she be converted to – Dry & Minimal? Time will tell, if she ever agrees to have Curry with me again.  Is there a – Gillian – waiting in the wings?

Good flavour, on the hot side of medium for me.

Lamb Khada Masala

As with my choice, there was less garnish. Is this because both were going on the hot metal stand? Once the surface was broken, I noted that the Masala was considerably thinner than elsewhere on the table. This was approaching a – Mainstream Curry, however, here too was the telltale long strands of Onion. Marg insists she likes Onion when it is cooked, either way, she always ends up with – Dopiaza variants. Large Bay Leaves were left in the bowl after Marg decanted. That Marg was offering samples around the table latterly confirms that she too had a – Large Portion.

I dipped some Naan in the Masala. The Flavour was not as – full on – as my Dish. I couldn’t taste much at all, except…

Hector was clearly out on a limb this evening, Marg too was pleased with her choice:

I loved it, very tasty, tender meat, and the extra bits in the rice added to the flavour.

Marg and I had shared the Lemon Rice and the Garlic and Coriander Naan. I conclude therefore that it was the Curry that was not to my liking, but I did eat two Quarters of Naan to Marg’s one.

Now imagine I had been given – Kalamgi Khyberi Venison – as originally asked for.

The Bill

£78.75. The first thing I noticed was that we had been charged for – Four – Poppadoms.

We’ll take £1.00 off the tip – I suggested. There was no charge for the Chutney (£0.00) was recorded.

The Drinks

£4.50 a pint, £2.75 a half pint. This is not how I divide by two. Then there was the Sparkling Water:

£5.50 per litre bottle. We had two bottles! To paraphrase – The Man from Bradford:

Dick Turpin would be proud.

The Aftermath

The Calling Card was on the table, but I knew not to whom I should present it having sat with my back to the room all evening. I could tell by the volume of noise behind me (especially the screaming wean who was also hindering the attempted enjoyment of my meal) that Wild Ginger had become very busy. I now estimated double the crowd. As we took the long walk back towards the door, I gave my Calling Card to the most mature Chap on the staff. I mentioned I had been to Echt Tandoori and reviewed it (thrice). I was then invited to take more photos and was shown – The Grill – which was not in use this evening.

Back out in the pouring rain, we headed for a taxi. CuminTandoori was empty. What does that tell us?

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Aberdeen – Lahore Karahi – Punjabi Cuisine at its Finest

Curry three nights in a row was not – The Plan – but sometimes one just has to get on with it. A rendezvous was made with Graeme at Lahore Karahi (145 King St, Aberdeen, AB24 5AE) for 18.30. At 16.30, the opening time, Hector phoned in his order – Lamb Karahi on-the-bone (£9.95). The Restaurant requires advance notice, this Dish is not served straight from – The Curry Pot.

A few tables were occupied when I entered, at the time of leaving there was only one free table. A Tuesday night? This is impressive.

Graeme was punctual, I revealed that my Order was already in. The same again could well have been secured, however, Graeme saw the logic in ordering something else. Bhindi Gosht (£8.50) was his selection. We both opted for Mushroom Pilau (£3.00). I had considered Bread as an accompaniment as one should for a Lamb Karahi, but given recent disappointments at other venues, I was not spoiling this meal.

One can use the BYOB system here at Lahore Karahi, what would happen if I brought my own Sparkling Water? Tap Water it was.

I made it clear to the Waiter that no Capsicum should come anywhere near me. Capsicum, Green Pepper, Bell Pepper, did he not know what these are? Having taken the Order, the Waiter returned momentarily to confirm Graeme wanted – Lamb. He had ordered – Gosht – come on. I couldn’t help recall the – useless girly – who served us on our first visit here. The Chaps should be more on the ball.

Graeme was amused by the dumb waiter, is it really operated by hand? Whatever, it is quaint.

Two plates brimming with Mushroom Rice were set before us. The Fresh Coriander Topping was a good touch. The Earthy Colour is reminiscent of the Vegetable Rice served in the halcyon days of The Village (Glasgow). This could have been a Meal in itself. With Bread, one Portion would have easily been enough to share.

The two pots of Curry arrived immediately afterwards, a second Waiter now involved. Look at these…

Lamb Karahi on-the-bone

Had I been transported back to Glasgow? This was near identical to that served at The Village / Cafe Salma. All fear of the Stir-Fry with large slices of Onion and the Dreaded Green Ballast were set aside. The Chef at Lahore Karahi knows what a Lamb Karahi is, not many do. This was indeed Classic Punjabi Cuisine.

Decanting the Meat, I was well into double figures, decent sized pieces too. Sucky Bones were visible, the extra Flavour from the Bone Marrow is what makes the difference. The Puréed Masala was enough to cover the Tender Lamb, no more, no Excess, perfectly judged. The Masala soaked into the Rice, which is probably why Bread usually accompanies. Here we go…

I was anticipating a – Blast of Citrus – as variants of this Dish would have had in Glasgow, not to be, Chef had stuck to the script. The Lamb was Something Special, there was a feeling of belonging, not the usual Meat meets the Masala moments before serving. The Spice Level, never discussed, was Fine, the Seasoning was perhaps a tad under, but after the full blown well-seasoned Bhuna at Ambal’s Restaurant last night, the Hector Palate was adapting.

Cloves and Peppercorns presented as I made progress, full of Flavour, this was an oh-so-familiar, Excellent Karahi, and there was lots of it.

Some Rice had to be left. I had but three bones, two Sucky, at the end. But what a difference they made. I shall be having this again, but will ask for some refinements. Wonderful as this was, Extra Methi and some Lemon would have put this Karahi Gosht into the Stratosphere, but then it would be something else.

Bhindi Gosht

Graeme had to tolerate the rhapsody from across the table. I was keen to establish the texture of the Okra. Too often it is served as – Mush – especially at Hector’s House. I was assured that it was properly presented:

Well cooked Okra and Tender Lamb.

The Masala here also soaked into the Mushroom Pilau:

This looks like Biryani – remarked Graeme.

Graeme too was defeated by the volume of Rice. I knew he was enjoying his Curry but was not expecting what followed:

… could be the best cooked Lamb I’ve had in Aberdeen.

We were two Happy Diners.

Our Waiter offered Dessert, we had other plans.

We came, we ate, we’re leaving.

I don’t think the Waiter was ever on my wavelength.

The Bill

£24.45. The prices at Lahore Karahi are very competitive. Even the Bread is not Extortionate.

The Aftermath

I had not been aware of how busy the Restaurant had become. Long may they continue serving this Quality of Curry.

A first visit to Wild Ginger tomorrow.

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Aberdeen – Ambal’s Restaurant – Open for Business

Towards the end of 2016, news reached Hector that Ambal’s Restaurant (4 Bridge St., Aberdeen, AB11 6JJ) had closed. This was a major disappointment, Ambal’s had been offering – Something Different – away from the Mainstream. The Waiters/Chef were always willing to accommodate personal tweaks as outlined in this Blog’s – Curry-Heute Campaign.

On 14th May, 2017, I received a text from Brother-in-law Graeme who had also been championing their Fayre since our first visit, to state that Ambal’s Restaurant had re-opened; as far as he could tell, with the same staff.

Arriving in Aberdeen this afternoon on – The Golden Coach – Marg collected me from as near the Bus Station as she could manage. There is nowhere to drop off / pick up allegedly, there’s a Money-making Opperchancity. I was informed that Claire, who had her first ever Curry at Assam’s (Glasgow) with us back in 2011, would be joining us at Ambal’s.

Marg and Hector arrived just after 19.30 having spent a few minutes negotiating a parking meter outside a former favourite – Jewel in the Crown – whose scaffolding has finally disappeared. In Aberdoom (sic), one pays until 20.00, our ticket would expire at 19.58. Risky.

Only two other Diners were present this Monday evening, we were shown to a table well away from them, the temptation to use us as window dressing eschewed. Ambal’s is not at street level which must make it difficult to attract passing trade. They do have a large poster advertising their opening hours, also one detailing a Lunchtime Buffet (£5.95) which is operated every day. Interesting.

As we took our seats I asked the Waiter what had happened.

Renovations and and a leaking roof – were mentioned.

Claire arrived moments after us, Menus were provided, Drinks sorted. Tap Water and a Large Bottle of Sparkling Water (£4.00). Marg and Hector have still not recovered from the – Jewel in the Crown– charging us £6.00, – or was it even more? – for Sparkling Water a decade ago.

Despite my abhorrence at paying for Poppadoms, the Ladies declared they would each order a – Papadum – (£0.90) and the Chutney Tray (£1.10). A Vegetable Pakora (£3.99) was also mooted. Hector was having no part of this, unless I have starved myself all day, Starters and Mains do not work.

Claire was avoiding – Curry – despite being in an Indian Restaurant. She found Chicken Tikka (£4.99) but I pointed out she was looking in the Starters section. There had to be a Main Course equivalent, the Starter would no doubt suffice otherwise.

Marg announced Rogan Josh (£9.50) early in the proceedings. In 2015, Lamb Rogan Josh at Ambal’s cost £11.95, I would have to get to the bottom of this. Marg and Claire would share a Coconut Rice (£4.50). Marg then went totally OTT and considered a Chapatti. Chapattis are not on the Bread List, Rotis are. Marg is not a fan of Rotis, they turn to Crisp too quickly. Hector is not a fan of Aberdeen Bread Prices, at Ambal’s one Roti costs £2.95, same as 2015!

Having photographed and read as much of the Menu as I could, I had spotted some of the Dishes which made Ambal’s Restaurant stand out from the rest. It looked as if they now had more – Standards. Bhuna Gosht (£9.95) is the Dish which impressed me from my first visit, a Seriously Dry Curry. Marg and Sandy both found it it to be – Too Dry – for their palates last visit. A Kerala Parata (£2.95) would accompany.

The Waiter was new to us, having checked the photo of the two Main Chaps from my first visit, I could see neither this evening. The Chicken Tikka as a Main Course was accepted. I asked for – Extra Methi – on the Bhuna Gosht as I have in the past. I had to let my feelings about the price of a Roti be known. The Waiter said he did not set the prices, nor was he familiar with – The Bradford Norm – of up to four inclusive Chapattis with every Main Course, or Rice, or Naan. Why does Bradford win – Curry Capital of the UK – every year? The pricing structure is pitched so that people go often.

Three Poppadoms were presented along with the Chutney Tray: Soupçons of Mango Chutney Sauce, Spiced Onion and a Mint Raita. I had noted £2.49 for Raita at the end of the Menu, some bizarre pricing this evening. I took about a fifth of a Poppadom just to sample the Chutney Sauce and Spiced Onions.

I had forgotten about the Vegetable Pakora. Three Large Balls, Bhaji-like. Marg realised the Ladies were faced with too much Food, one Pakora remained untouched. That which was eaten was thoroughly enjoyed. I had but a – Smidgen – well Seasoned and Spicy.

After a suitable gap, the Mains started to arrive. The Chicken Tikka as a Main Course would overwhelm Claire who counts every calorie. The presentation was – Wow! Claire enthused about the Quality of the Chicken and that the Spice Level was not too much for her. We were not expecting an accompanying Portion of Pilau Rice, a Karahi full of Masala would also arrive. Perhaps the Waiter should have mentioned this when he took the Order?

You’re The Blogger – said a new Chap who helped bring the array.

When you asked for Extra Methi on the Bhuna Gosht, I knew it was you.

I hadn’t recognised Mein Host. We would speak at length, later. Meanwhile Marg’s Lamb Rogan Josh did appear to be a more Modest Dish than served previously. The Coconut Rice was more than enough for two, then there was the – Roti. Had I ordered it, I would have sent it back and told them to keep it. £2.95 for this?

Chicken Tikka (Main Course)

The assembly of Meat was impressive, this was quite a pile. I know of an erstwhile – Curry Lover of the Year – and who allegedly does not order – Curry – who would appreciate this Quantity of reportedly Succulent Chicken. Some of the accompanying Pilau Rice was taken, the Coconut Rice was a major success, though only about a third was consumed between Marg and Claire. Served with Peas and Cashew Nuts, Claire remarked on the variety of Textures. For those with a sweet tooth, this sounds – The Business.

The Roti, Marg knew she had far too much. Two thirds remained at the end of the Meal. My displeasure was made known simply by taking another photo. £2.00 worth in Aberdeen, sod all anywhere else.

*

Lamb Rogan Josh

Indeed, a more Modest Portion compared to previous times. This Interpretation had neither the abundance of Tomatoes which was popular in the 1980s or the Creamy Texture which became the Norm thereafter. It had the appearance of a Worthy Curry. Topped with Sybees and Ginger Strips, the Puréed Masala looked most inviting. I could see no uninvited inclusions, nor large wedges of Onion. This Curry suited Marg well.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this – said Marg from the off. Really good Meat.

Bhuna Gosht (with Extra Methi)

What a Presentation! Maybe not the – work of art – shown above, however, as Dark, Thick Masalas go, this had me won. The half cooked Tomato Wedges made me wonder momentarily if this was the Rogan Josh. Marg was not having this!

From Seasoning comes the Melange of Flavours contained in – Curry. Chef was Brave, this was right at the top end of the scale, yet in no way Excessive. And so the Flavours emerged, first Clove then Anise. The Single Large Green Chilli was there, just in case the Spice Level needed a boost. The Spice Level was Moderate, once again, there had been no discussion about this at the time of ordering. There is no need for Curry to be – Super Spicy – there is a need for – Seasoning.

I counted the Meat, twice. We were in double figures, many pieces could have been halved. This was Quality Lamb, so Soft, far from Pulp, and well marinaded. Magnificent Flavours, Unique.

The Paratha was served – Quartered – so much for my new regime of demanding them – Whole. Next time. The Layering was there, the hoped for Flakiness was not. It was OK, far from being – The Best. Maybe Rice is the better option at Ambal’s for all Dishes?

The Ladies had been sated, Hector was still eating. This Bhuna Gosht was – Huge – served this way to all, I hope. I have sung the praises of this Curry before, it is worth coming to Ambal’s for this experience.

A Doggy Bag was arranged for Clair, Pakora, Chicken Tikka and Loadsa’ Rice.

Peppermint Tea

By now, Mein Host was part of the conversation. Peppermint Tea was made freshly for Marg and Claire, it was time to establish what had happened in the last year at Ambal’s Restaurant.

The Bill

£54.14. The Chicken Tikka (Main Course) was £12.95.  Three Poppadoms were provided, we were charged for two. I might have eaten a whole one had I known. (emoji understood)

The Aftermath

Renovations had been mentioned already, I cannot say I have sufficient photographic coverage from previous visits to pinpoint any changes. However, by adding Ambal’s Restaurant most deservedly to my List of Recommended Curry Houses, the present décor is posted there for all to appreciate.

Mein Host admitted that the downturn of trade in Aberdeen had affected them hard. They had to accept that their Menu was a bit – Highbrow. They were not getting the required number of customers to be sustainable. The co-Host I met on my first visit now works at Shri Bheema’s (Belmont St.). Hector has championed their Bridge of Don premises in recent times.

Mein Host worked elsewhere out of necessity before he could get Ambal’s going once more. The Menu continues to feature their – Specials – but has more Mainstream Dishes with lower prices as I had already observed. There is a straightforward pricing system for these, Lamb at £9.50 being a bit dearer than the Chicken equivalent.

The Lunchtime Buffet is proving to be a great success. I wondered how they could maintain this. With Four Curry Dishes one cannot expect the Quality of a la carte, however, people are aware of the good value and that a Curry for Lunch is affordable on a regular basis. I described the Curry Cafes of Manchester’s Northern Quarter (e.g. Kabana) where – Rice and Three – has people queueing out the door. For a Fiver, one can secure a decent Portion of Rice topped with up to Three Different Curry Dishes. All are ready to be served, fast, efficient and popular. There is a Market for Curry at Lunchtime.

Claire suggested they tone down their Music at the entrance donwstairs.  She complimented the level in the Restaurant, but said she found the blaring music there to be off-putting. Something to consider.

I was asked about my Bhuna Gosht. Mein Host admitted that he had read my Blog as soon as he heard Bhuna Gosht with Extra Methi being ordered and had made sure it was – fit for Hector. I forgave, almost, the one small piece of Red Capsicum that had been part of the Presentation. Hopefully I have convinced Mein Host that Bell Peppers have no part to play in Indian Cuisine. I asked for my compliments to the Chef to be passed on, instead he was presented and thanked in person.

There had to be a group photo, Mein Host recalled how last time he had to search for a tie. He went off to find one again, then we were ready for Paparazzo Marg to complete her task.

It may well be the end of the year before I have the Opperchancity of returning to Ambal’s Restaurant, I hope all continues to go well. They serve the Classic Dishes, their – Specials – truly are.

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Glasgow – Little Curry House – Still has Potential

It has been a while since Hector and Dr. Stan conducted our Saturday Curry Ritual, in Glasgow. Only two Glasgow Curry Posts in July, my Favourite Places must be wondering what has happened. What has happened: in the last month since The (Glasgow) Herald mentioned this Curry Blog in their Saturday Eat Out and Drink column, traffic to this site has increased significantly. However, as is written at the top of every page, this is – More than just a Glasgow Curry Blog. Hector is back in Blighty, Dr. Stan suggested we try the Little Curry House (41 Byres Rd., Glasgow G11 5RG Scotland) instead of our Usual Places. It is two years since Hector last visited this Independent Curry House. After my last visit there was a bit of toing and froing acknowledging my visit and not identifying who had served me. I did not expect to be recognised and so decided to remain anonymous, no Calling Card either. In all its incarnations, the Curry served at this venue has typically been better than the Mainstream, so expectations were high.

Dodging the near continuous showers on this archetypal Scottish Saturday afternoon, Hector entered the Little Curry House at 14.50, ten minutes ahead of our agreed rendezvous. The Waiter hollerred up to the balcony and established there was a table for two available. All street level tables were unoccupied. I was led upstairs and was sat at the smallest of tables right beside a couple of Ladies. All the smaller tables were soon occupied leaving two tables seating four and six respectively. In theory, twenty two could be accommodated up here. Why the squeeze? Little Curry House, the clue is in the name, ideal for enjoying Decent Curry perhaps, not a place – To Dine.

Various Menus were set before me, Drinks, Dessert, the Two Course Lunch (£5.95) available 12.00 until 16.00 on Fridays and Saturdays, plus the Main Menu. The price of Soft Drinks looked a bit steep, I was thinking of asking for Tap Water when I spotted the Sparkling Water at a more reasonable £1.95. My eyes were nipping slightly, the Mezzanine/Balcony is directly above the kitchen, some Spices were airborne.

The Ladies beside me had evidently opted for the Two Course Lunch. My conclusion was based on them being served four pieces of Pakora each. I would verify this later when their Second Course arrived.

Last time I had Ginger Lamb with Mushroom, a Curry that could have been Excellent with a tweak or two. Today it had to be Fish, it is difficult to find Outstanding Fish Curry in Glasgow. Machi Masala (£10.20) is significantly more expensive than the Meat Dishes, why? A Plain Paratha (£2.75) would accompany. I wondered too about the Green Herb Vegetable Pakora (£5.50). A bit pricey for Vegetable Pakora, but – Green Herb – sounded irresistible, perhaps Dr. Stan would share? If not, then I would order a Vegetable Side. It is always pleasing when the Menu makes it clear that Vegetable Main Courses can be served as Side/Small Portions.

Dr. Stan was punctual and was shown to a table downstairs. Both he and the Waiter then realised I was upstairs, up came Dr. Stan.

Dr. Stan ordered Orange and Lemonade (£2.65), a hefty price for a Glass of Soft Drink. In time he announced his choice of Curry: Methi Gosht (£9.50) with two Chapattis (£1.25) to accompany. The share of a Pakora was agreed, and the Order given. I asked for my Paratha to be served – whole. Why has it taken me so long to think of this ploy? It’s all part of the Glasgow Psyche, who serves a Roll in two halves? A Roll halved, unthinkable. A Roll, yes please.

There was no discussion regarding Spice Level which I found strange given that we were ordering a la carte. If we were on the Two Course Lunch then taking what comes may be the norm.

With four now occupying the adjacent table for six, we were well crammed upstairs. Business is good here, I often eat at this time on a Saturday, usually in near Solitude. This is – The West End – I suppose, not my usual Southside haunts.

The Green Herb Vegetable Pakora arrived with two side plates in recognition of the fact it was – to share. Six Pieces. Six Pieces of Vegetable Pakora for £5.50. They’re having a laugh, especially given Four Pieces as part of the Two Course Lunch.

The Pakora Batter was Dark suggesting it had been – double fried. This unfortunately is normal practice in most venues, too messy otherwise? The Pakora was served – Hot – and had a decent Kick. The Seasoning was Perfection which again raised my expectations for the Main Course, Seasoning having been an issue last visit. The Herb content was no more than it would be anywhere else, in fact the interior of this Pakora was identical to that outlined above in – Hector’s Curry Recipes. I hoped for Methi, no Methi Heute. I did encounter a Cumin Seed which gave a new Blast of Flavour on the palate.

The Ladies beside received their Second Course, a Chicken Curry and a Lamb Curry. They did not invite me to take photos, little did they realise that Curry only tastes right after The Hector has photographed it!

The Chicken Curry had three large-ish pieces of Chicken in too Thin a Masala for Hector’s liking. I could not tell if it was served on-the-bone. The Lamb Curry too had Meat lost in Masala, I could not see how many pieces of Meat. The Rice which accompanied was a sensible portion. They took their time and both commented on the fact that there was more than they initially perceived. The Two Course Lunch may well be Good Value if one avoids the over-priced Drinks.

Two hot plates preceded the arrival of our Mains, given that I would eat directly from the Karahi, this was arbitrary.

Machi Masala

The Menu stated that the Fish would be Haddock, and be served with a – touch of fenugreek. I had considered asking for – more Methi – but how do I judge what they serve if I have forced Chef to serve something else?

A most welcome Thick Masala Mash enveloped the Fish. The Fish would flake easily with the fork, this appeared to be – The Business. Hang on…. Sod it, small pieces of the dreaded – Green Mush – poked out, they were few, but they were there. Not listed in the Menu description, why was there Capsicum in my Curry? I picked out a few pieces and no doubt ate some. That’s the after-taste ruined then.

The Spice Level was Moderate, the Seasoning was within the parameters one expects of a Fish Curry. There was plenty of Fish, the Methi content was Minimal, a – touch – indeed. The Overall Flavour was – Pleasant – but well short of having the – Wow – factor. Nine days ago at 7 Spices Balti (Sheffield) a Standard was met. Only Glasgow’s Mother India’s Cafe serves a Machi Masala which occasionally has the – Wow.

The Paratha

The Paratha came whole as asked, not the Quarters as served previously. I enjoy tearing off my own strips. Was this an authentic Paratha? Hari, at the Punjabi Charing Cross (Glasgow) once rhymed off the various – Flours – used to make Chapattis, Puri, Padora and Naan. I expect a Paratha to be – layered and flaky, this was not. Wholemeal – is the term I employ to describe Chapattis of the type which have this Earthy appearance and texture. This Paratha was but a Thick Chapatti.  Last time was much better.

The Chapattis

These looked inviting, perhaps – Fluffy. Dr. Stan devoured both, I daren’t ask for a quote on the Bread, a bridge too far.

Methi Gosht

This was a Dark, Herb-rich Mass, the flash reveals otherwise. One always hopes for Masala with Herbs, not a Saag/Palak which is basically Mustard Leaves, Methi, Spinach et al in a Spicy Mash. I asked the Good Doctor.

Masala with Herb – he assured me. Quite a delicate flavour – he added. No need for this level of verbosity, Dr. Stan.

Like a Saag – he added.

Now I was confused.

Is there sufficient Meat? I asked.

Yeah, oh yeah, very tender.

Are you aware of the Methi?

No.

I would no doubt have gone for the Methi Gosht if the Machi Masala had not been available, I was glad now that I hadn’t.

Dr. Stan concluded:

I’m not convinced it wasn’t a Saag, not full of flavour.

The Bill

£35.05. Three times the cost of the Two Course Lunch, had we been given three times the Pleasure, three times the Quantity? I think not.

The Aftermath

Two Staff were having their Meal as we went downstairs. I want what they’re having – flashed through the mind. Chicken, maybe not.

There is nothing – wrong – with the Curry served at the Little Curry House. As with last time, I simply feel they haven’t got it – quite right.

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Whitby – Passage to India – If the Menu says – Hot – it is

  • Within an hour of arriving in Whitby, Hector found himself inside Passage to India (30-31 Windsor Terrace, Whitby YO21 1ET England). That was two days ago, I established that the Restaurant was open all afternoon and not just evenings as Sources suggest. I also took time to study the Menu and found two Dishes that could be worthy of further investigation:

Lamb Kam (£10.45) – A deliciously unique dish of tender spicy lamb, cooked with fresh green chillies in chef ’s own special sauce, garnished with coriander (very hot).

Raan Ki Juhl (£12.95) – Grilled lamb chops cooked with onions, tamarind and aromatic spices, garnished with coriander and served in a cast iron wok.

An afternoon opening is what normally suits Hector, however, such was the quality of Breakfast served at our B&B I had to wait my time. Kippers for Breakfast, on three consecutive mornings, Mmmm. The Landlady also informed us that Passage to India was closed last year by the Hygiene Inspectors. They have reportedly got their act together and have improved markedly.

Last night Marg and Hector dined across the bay at Indian Moments which impressed. They appeared to be a new offshoot from Passage to India. Somewhere in this saga is a Thai Restaurant which has relocated into the Railway Station opposite Passage to India.

We arrived this evening at 19.40 to find Passage to India stowed, aided perhaps by Indian Moments being closed on Mondays. Many people have decided that Curry might warm them up, summer disappeared from the East Coast of England today. The Waiter greeted us, took our name and asked us to come back in twenty minutes. I suggested thirty, time for a pint, 20.00 was written, so it goes.

After a very swift half at the Station Inn we were back. Same story.

At 20.05 the Waiter said:

Table for two, there will be a wait.

So why tell us to come back in twenty minutes having taken our booking?

The Barmaid became involved, saying they could not guarantee a time. Marg repeated the mantra:

You told us to come back in twenty minutes. The Waiter then realised he had seen us before and promised a table in a few minutes.

The Barmaid then came out from behind the Bar and approached us taking a different track, offering us drinks. We said we would prefer to wait until we were seated, meanwhile the Main Room was full, lots of Lager being consumed.

The same Waiter led us to a table at 20.18 and would be ours until near the end of our stay.

Given how busy the Restaurant was, we decided to share a Starter, it could be a long wait until our Order for Mains bubbled up. A Mixed Kebab (£4.25) should suffice.

The Drinks Order was given, two Small Bottles of Sparkling Water (£1.80). The Waiter asked if we wished Poppadoms.

Are you giving or selling? – I asked.

Selling, I’d love to give.

We were warming to him.

Marg asked for Bhindi Gosht (£9.95) but was told they were out of – Bhindi. Akbari Machi Masala (£10.50) – Steak pieces of lean Bangladeshi fish, cooked with fresh tomato, herb and spices, garnished with coriander – was now her choice, and could possibly have been mine too. I would take advice regarding my alternatives.

I seek Lamb, in a Dry, Thick Masala and no Capsicum.

I was advised that both my Lamb Choices had Capsicum but these could be withheld. The Lamb Kam apparently would have the Thicker Masala. We would share a Special Fried Rice (£3.95) and a Plain Paratha (£2.95).

We settled down for the wait. Sat next to the entrance to the Kitchen, we could see all that passed by. What I deduced to be Balti, looked to have suitably Thick Masala also. A Chap at an adjacent table received what Marg guessed to be Pasanda, a classic Soupy Curry for those who like that sort of thing. Another Chap had Chips to accompany his Curry and Rice. The majority of what I saw impressed, visually at least. Unfortunately, the Breads were all served Quartered and were decidedly – Small.

Mixed Kebab

The service impressed immediately. The Plate of Mixed Kebab was accompanied by a second plate with some Salad, a good touch. Marg divvied up The Bits: Chicken Tikka, Onion Bhajee and Seekh Kebab. Marg liked the Crispiness of the Onion in the Bhaji. The Seekh Kebab was decidedly Small and was served too Dry. The Chicken Tikka was Succulent.

That was lovely – declared Marg.

As anticipated, it was after 21.00 when our Mains arrived. Two Hot Plates were placed before us. A passing Waiter looked at these, yet another Waiter changed them for Larger Plates.

The Special Fried Rice, which had Egg and Peas, was enough to share – just. The Paratha looked inviting, Layered and Flaky, exactly how it should be. The Paratha glistened, a Butter Coating.

*

Lamb Kam

Served on a bed of Lettuce, the Lamb Kam had the hoped for Thick and Minimal Masala. Whole Green Chillies were mixed through. I had to decant and so used the Paratha to mop up the remaining Masala stuck to the Lettuce. The Buttery Paratha gave off huge amounts of Flavour, quite a new Taste Experience. Marg found the Paratha to be too Oily for her liking. I would reach another conclusion.

The Lamb looked Dark, shrouded with the Onion-rich Masala, I considered the possibility that this was Lamb Tikka but could see no holes, Grilled? The Lamb Portion was – Huge – well into Double figures, a lot of Meat here. Tender to Chewy was recorded. The Spice Level was very much at the top end of the scale, this Curry had a Kick. There was no need to eat the Green Chillies, the Masala was powerful enough.

Marg was finished long before me, as I ate on, the Level of Spice on the palate kept building. I can cope with this, however, I knew that this Dish only really had – Heat – the dominant Flavour was from the Buttery Paratha, the Curry itself was giving off very little. Spice at the expense of Flavour, this is not how Curry is meant to be. Still, Tikka Lamb was foremost in my mind, or had the Meat been well and truly marinaded?

I enjoyed this, not that anyone asked, but tempering the Spice could have have made it so much better.

Akbari Machi Masala

What looked very much like Dopiaza was served on a Fish-shaped plate. The long strands of Onion and occasional pieces of the Dreaded Ballast meant that once again, Marg had ended up with the Curry she tries to avoid. It just keeps coming her way.

Definitely got a kick, for me – was her opening remark.

I took a sample of the Masala on some Paratha, once again all I could taste was the Bread.

Flaky Fish, and enough of it – Marg continued – I don’t like big chunks of Onion.

Very satisfying, a lovely change.

Marg left the Capsicum. Why was it there in the first place?

When our Waiter came to clear the table I had to say something about the Lamb Kam:

The Menu said it was Hot, it was Hot.

Not for the scared – was his response.

He had looked after us well despite the Restaurnat still being very busy. We asked for The Bill.

The Bill

£39.70. We had been charged £8.50 for our single Mixed Kebab. In noting – (2p) – for our intent to share, whoever did the addition had charged us twice. Another Waiter came to sort this – £35.45.

The Aftermath

The Calling Card was given to to the Waiter who dealt with the cash. He apologised for not offering the best of service given how busy they were and acknowledged that – a man of your Curry knowledge – may not have been given the best they could.

I went out of my way to thank – Our Waiter – as we departed.

I note the staff photo on the website still features Mein Host from Indian Moments.

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