Chutney & Lager – Great Titchfield Street – W1W 7PQ

10 04 2010

A name that seems to have split opinion.  I remember seeing it for the first time and wondering where they were going with it.  Considering it opened in the place of a Slug & Lettuce and while they were refurbishing the layout of the bar was staying basically the same I could see where this doubt was coming from.  It seemed to take an age for the whitewashed windows to show anything other than a building site despite the almost instantaneous addition of their interesting branding.  A brilliant concept blending two of the greatest pastimes available.  Beer and Curry.  I was eager to see what they ended up with.

The BarThe Restaurant

What you get once you walk in is a large room separated into two distinct sections.  On your right is a largish sports bar complete with bar stools and several big screens.  As you move to the left you’ll see a smart looking yet unremarkable restaurant setting which hosts pleasant looking crisp white tablecloths and large semi frosted windows looking onto the relatively dour looking Great Titchfield Street.  Not the grandest of sights but i’ll not knock them for the vista as I’ve had killer curries served in the shittiest of dumps.  A combination not akin to shagging whichever large breasted page 3 girl is taking your fancy at the time in an unpleasantly fragrant public toilet.  You’re not really going to complain are you but still….

Luckily for Chutney & Lager I’ve been in here several times now and had started writing this review after my first visit a while back.  It wouldn’t have quite stirred the anger bubbles forever coursing my veins in a dormant rage like Connoisseurs had because at least they had put in effort and initiative here, but it certainly wouldn’t have been pretty.  If you would care to check out other reviews of this place online, two things are immediately apparent:  Some people know absolutely fuck all about Indian food and can’t spell (why anyone would choose to comment on any website with a laughable command of the English language is way beyond my feeble mind.  It’s like speaking to an adult in a nappy – fine if you’ve paid for it but otherwise a depressing experience), and some of these people must have a vested interest in Chutney & Lager because the food here is mostly shit.  As things stand right now I can say that with hand on heart.   However, the saving grace here is the bar.  Again not the best but name me one other bar in London where you can grab a beer, watch cricket on big screens and have free poppadoms placed in front of you while you discuss just how much you hate Graeme Smith.  There’s thin competition.

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles – In the bar they’re free which is just about right as they are drenched in oil and unremarkable.   Unbelievably, in the restaurant you actually have to pay for them.  The pickles and chutneys seemed to me to be made from a long treasured and reverently handed down grandmothers recipe, none of this crap from a jar for these guys.  However, this grandma was retarded and should have been kept in a cage somewhere in Uttar Pradesh.  No good.

Beers – Seeing as this is a bar as well as a restaurant you have a good stock of draught lagers although sadly Cobra isn’t one of them.  Present in bottle form though so all is not lost

Sides – One of the highlights here.  I haven’t dipped into too many but the pakora goes down a treat with a few beers.  Huge portions too.

Curries – If I didn’t know any better I would think this place was owned by Kerry Katona because it certainly seems like someone has been to Iceland.  I’m not sure if that would be a bad thing actually as seeing a pissed up northern tart making a nob of herself is a decent notch on your bedpost for any messy evening.   To put it in simpler terms, the food here is really really poor.  If I was feeling a little more verbal I’d tell you how insipid the curries were in glorious technicolour.  However I’m not so you’ll have to settle for this:  Their curries taste of what I imagine cocks to taste like.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – These guys were probably plucked from an Indian YTS scheme.  No good although when working with a supremely ordinary chef it’s not really fair to blame them for the huge mess.  Maybe I’m being unfair.  He certainly carried our plates to us without spilling anything.  Best I can say under the circumstances

Face Towels – None.  I’m depressed even writing this.  Mind you seeing as the curries were milder than a threesome with 2 accountants it hardly matters

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – *Sob*.  I need a hug.  Hold me….

Price – Way way too expensive for what you get.  This place looks so inviting once you’re in but offers so little.  An Indian Venus Fly Trap if you like.  An uninspiring bowl of mini poppadoms, 2 pints of Kingfisher, 1 excellent pakora, 2 of the most average curries you will ever taste and 2 pilau rice comes in somewhere around £50.  On reflection I’d rather buy 30 copies of The Big Issue and tip the vendor a fiver.

Final Score – 6 out of 10.  Mainly for the promise and the brave innovation.  You’d be way better off having a few beers here and then heading a few yards up the road to Shikara.  At least that way you’ll not want to fight a copper come 11pm.

One Sentence Summary – Great bar, shit food, must do better.





Bhatti – Great Queen St – WC2B 5AA

21 10 2009

Stop sniggering at the back there.  It is a relatively common surname that our friends from the sub continent are rather more familiar with than we may be.  Over there it has nothing to do with “The Forbidden Love That Dare Not Rear It’s Ugly Head”.  Just a surname.  Nothing more.

Bhatti

You can’t really see it from this picture but on the receipt it stated the waiters name as Darren.  Not a chance.  Far more a Dinesh than a Darren.  Which is obviously a good thing…

This is yet another curry house that I have visited in Great Queen Street.  Tandoori Nights being the other I have recently visited and much like Tandoori Nights,  Bhatti offers a good clean looking establishment with very little embellishment elsewhere.  On first glance, this is my kind of place.

As seems the case at lunchtimes, this curry house was empty.  As ingrained as curry is to the people of this island, it is generally conceived as an evening meal.  I’ll be honest and say that my opinion was the same up until I started this one man reviewfest of mine.  You just have to change the way you approach your curry and everything suddenly falls into place.  Don’t go mental with the beers and don’t expect to have the same kind of experience you would on a Friday night after getting hammered for the past 4 hours.  This is altogether more civilized.

I have one gripe though that makes me believe this blog serves a greater purpose.  Check out supposed reader reviews for this restaurant on the internet and you will find alternating 10 out of 10 and 0 out of 10 reviews.  I smell a rat.  A curried rat owned by the proprietor of Bhatti.  I shall pin my cape on and give an honest assessment

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles – Fresh crispy poppadoms start the whole show off on the right note.  Three pickles instead of the customary four was a disappointment though especially considering it was the mixed pickle that was missing.

Beers – Cobra 660ml.  Nice and cold.  The simplest of hurdles has been traversed.

Sides – We had the Sag Aloo as we weren’t feeling too adventurous.  Not too shabby in all fairness

Curries – The menu was rather archaic and for once I was looking for something different.  I can’t really complain as I am a caveman where nu curry is concerned.  I had the Methi Gohst which was good but nothing more than that.  Meh.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – Middle of the road.  The nanny state  strikes again.  If I want it hot and ask for it hot I want my mouth to feel like post bomb Nagasaki.  Incidentally, that is why the towels in curry houses are so important for all those who have asked why I have a seemingly severe obsession with them.

Face Towels – Nothing.  Exactly the same amount of compassion as I had for this place after realising we weren’t getting any.

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – If “Darren” had showed me the pimples on his arse as I tucked into my curry I would have been less offended than I was at the chocolate no show. Well, maybe…

Price -2 cobra 660ml, 4 poppadoms, 2 curries, 2 pilau rice and I side dish came in at £48.  Again, a little too much for what we got but not enough to get really enraged.

Final Score – 7 out of 10.  Middle of the road stuff here.  I would come back if all the other curry houses in the vicinity were closed.  I’m not being unfairly harsh here either

One Sentence Summary – Food is ok although this whole place has the overall feeling of a dentists waiting room that serve Cobra.





Cinnamon Spice – Glentworth Street – NW1 5PG

16 08 2009

I’ve recently got a few new clients around Marylebone way and so my first visit to a curry house in this area should be considered reconnaissance.  You know what they say about first impressions.

Cinnamon Spice

Notice the glances I got while taking this picture.  Who takes pictures of a curry house?  I do my friends, I do.

Finding a new curry house in an area you haven’t previously plundered is a tough yet exciting prospect.  As I’ve said before on this blog, there isn’t another online resource for this kind of thing.  Sure there are websites rating premises but they are all too sycophantic for me. I’ve yet to see a decent blog telling you that a specific curry house is shit and their overall efforts are lazy.  They don’t go into detail with the important things.  Rest assured that I do.

One of my original goals with this blog were to eventually get some kind of freebies from my favourite curry houses.  I wanted the proprietor to see me coming, shit himself slightly and then boot out whoever was sitting in their most choice seats and seat me with almost imperceptible deference like a curried version of Don Corleone in The Godfather.

Proprietor: *Cultured Indian accent and looking visibly apprehensive and anxious* “Oh Don Curried Jesus, you do me a great honour by visiting my humble establishment.  Thank you so much for gracing us all with your presence.  Tonight, your curry is on the house”

Me: *Slightly muffled Marlon Brando accent and looking completely magnanimous and in full yet effortless control* “Your curries are excellent.   I’m sure you wouldn’t want to disappoint me with a half hearted Dopiaza would you Mr Prabhakar?”

You get the picture.  Here is another first for you where Cinnamon Spice is concerned.  It is the first curry house that I have received freebies from as a direct result of this blog.  What a superb result!  After only a couple of months effort as well.  As we were being seated, my regular partner in curry made a soft and casual mention to the waiter that I wrote a blog rating curry houses.  I gave a dismissive wave of my hand and ordered the ever present Cobras and poppadoms before I was perfectly settled.  All in all we received extra poppadoms, an extra side dish and brandies all round after the meal was completed.  All as a freebie and as you can imagine, I was chuffed.  I will say this though to keep you all calm.  Regardless of the amount of free stuff I receive from a curry house, if it is shit I will tell you all about it.  No holds barred.  In fact, the only people I will tell this to before all of you will be the waiter.  Obviously, this will happen after we have received all of our food because you never know.  Imagine what the thick fragrant sauce of a decent Jalfrezi could mask the flavour of?

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles – The poppadoms were light and fresh and crispy.  The pickles were different to the usual offerings.  We had a nice sweet fruity pickle although it was a little runny for my taste.  The minty raita was lovely as well and it definitely seemed homemade to me.   Marvellous.  A rather original garlic chutney was refreshing as well.

Beers – Cobra 660ml.  Ice cold.  Brilliant.

Sides – We had the Sag Aloo which was excellent and another great vegetable side dish that I didn’t catch the name of but it was immensely tasty.  Not much help I know.  Apologies

Curries – Top notch.  We had two other guests with us and all four of us agreed that Cinnamon Spice does it very well.  I chose the Gosht Kalia. A new choice for me and I wasn’t disappointed as it really was fantastic.  A deep heat coupled with some really excellent spicing made that a new instant favourite for me.  Really good.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – Cinnamon Spice scores an easy 10 out of 10 here.  When they say they will make it hot, expect pain tomorrow morning.  In fact, as soon as you decide to come to eat here, call your girlfriend or wife and ask them to place a couple of rolls of toilet paper in the freezer right now.  They will need to be cold and if you get ice burn be thankful.  The alternative is too traumatic to fully comprehend.  Ladies won’t need to do this as they shit strawberries.  Or so I am told.

Face Towels – Disappointing to say the least.  Their only apparent downfall.  Pre packed shittily infused face towels.  Such a shame as a fresh cotton face towel would have left me feeling so much better.

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – I have a confession to make.  I came here a few weeks ago now and have completely forgotten their offering here.  I have vague recollections of after eights.  Probably best for them that my memory is so hazy.

Price – Approximately £28 a head to eat very well.  A little pricey for an average visit maybe but I can guarantee you that the food is defintely worth that little extra expense.  I have absolutely no arguments.

Final Score – 8.9 out of 10.  During the meal we had discussions as to whether Cinnamon Spice might be the first curry house to achieve a perfect 10.  I laughed at the suggestion and simply had to mention the name of Gaylord before they all piped down.  This place has undoubtedly great curries but displays none of the magic on offer that my favourite curry house so far has in marked abundance.  No great shame for Cinnamon Spice either.  It’s like coming second in an arm wrestle with God himself.  No shame at all.

One Sentence Summary – Excellent food and excellent service.





The Monsoon – Brick Lane – E1 6RL

4 08 2009

Most of my recent curry based adventures have been in the W1 area.  I kick around those parts and so naturally, those are the curry houses I tend to visit.  Last night I happened to be meeting some friends in Brick Lane for a few beers.  Obviously, after a few we all decided that a curry was in order.  It’s not like you’re gonna go for a burger when you are in Londons curry Mecca.  The only problem is which one do we choose from the multitude of choice which is comparable to walking into an untended hareem with an erection that knows no bounds and which just won’t go down.  Truly marvellous.

monsoon

One of our group suggested “the one with the blue lights in the window” as he had been here before and had enjoyed it.  That was enough for us and off we trotted like Dorothy and her disfunctional friends on the yellow brick road except we were 8 pissed twats in search of curry as opposed to fictional wizards who aren’t actually wizards in the end anyway.  At least we don’t have to fight witches and we all ended up with a marvellous spread in front of us.  Everyone is a winner.

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles – First off they didn’t bring enough poppadoms.  We just asked vaguely for poppadoms without mentioning exact numbers.  A mistake.  I employ a method not dissimilar to that used when deciding how many tea bags to use in a teapot.  One for each drinker and one for the pot.  Subsequently, if there were eight of us we should be getting nine poppadoms at the very least.  Double figures wouldn’t hurt at a push.  That being said, the mixed pickle they served was lovely and hot.  The mango chutney was serviceable, as was the minty raita and the onion salad.  A good solid start

Beers – Our waiter was fantastic.  He had 3 or 4 different beers to offer and even rated them in order of strength for the ladies in our party.  I stopped listening as soon as he told us they had the Cobra 660ml.  No need to listen any further.

Sides – Our party of 8 ordered several sides and all were above average although the Sag Aloo didn’t spoil me for eternity, forever harping back to that wondrous night at The Monsoon.

Curries – I left my choice in the hands of our helpful waiter.  My stipulations were that the curry had to have a thick, deep sauce and had to be hot.  He suggested a lamb something.  I really wish I could remember the exact name as it was a big winner and ticked all my boxes but that is what happens when you have 4 beers and 2 sambucas before you sit down and eat.  Shame on me.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – Another winner where The Monsoon is concerned.  I asked for a hot curry and was told it would be slightly hotter than a madras and guess what?  It was.  As sciences go, this one is remarkably simple which is surprising seeing as so many curry houses cock it up.

Face Towels – Let us say that a hand made egyptian brushed cotton towelling face towel that was heated to ambient temperature with the River Styx and scented subtly with various citrus fruits came in at a 10.  Let us also say that a ripped kitchen towel chucked in your face is a 1.  The Monsoon scores a 3 out of ten for wankily insipid pre wrapped towels that are a step up from the freebies you get at service station cafe.

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – A plate of semi refrigerated after eights.  Lazy stuff

Price – We stuffed our faces and the bill was around £20 a head.  Perfect

Final Score – 8 out of 10.  I would definitely go back at some point which is saying something as there must be in the region of 50 curry houses within walking distance of The Monsoon.  I did find this review of The Monsson online that made me stop and think though.  “DO NOT GO HERE. i was at brick lane for the festival on the weekend. decided to go here for a quiet curry with friends. we noticed a table of guys nearby telling their waiter that he had added their bill up wrong. he started shouting -a bit unreasonable. and then walked off. the guys stayed and waited for him to return. they were obviously willing to pay. then before we knew it the waiter returned with the kitchen staff and the rest of the waiters and started beating these guys up. it was incredibly violent. we watched the whole event. i was disgusted. i will never return here again. i recommend that no one does the same. couldnt tell you about the food. no surprise we didnt stay to find out” I really wish I was there to see that


One Sentence Summary – Never query your fucking bill at The Monsoon unless you want an Indian version of the Royal Rumble on your arse.





Tandoori Nights – Great Queen Street – WC2B 5AA

8 07 2009

I asked a friend who is a big curry lover what his favourite pick was in and around the Covent Garden area.  He told me that “the curry house with the big green awning on Great Queen Street” was a winner.  Great Queen Street is an area I haven’t explored in too much depth but is a mini Mecca where curry houses are concerned.  Four to choose from in a small stretch.  One looks way up its own arse, and that’s just from a quick peek at the menu and through the window.  The other three all looked good although the curry house I was recommended had the worst name.

Tandoori Nights

Tandoori Nights sounds like a shitty film from 80’s Bollywood.  I’m not particularly qualified to comment on the quality of Bollywood movies from any age but the name evokes an Indian Tom Cruise clone with the biggest bouffant hairstyle ever recorded.  His shirt open and sweat glistening from his intensely hairy chest while he holds a scantily clad, swooning Indian beauty with one arm and fighting off a brace of tigers with the other.

As soon as you enter the curry house, a long dining room stretches away from you and a small but well stocked bar sits just inside the entrance with a diligent looking barman in a crisp white shirt, waistcoat and bow tie, polishing glasses as if his life depended on it.  I smiled approvingly and sat down.  Our table had one leg shorter than the other three and wobbled annoyingly and the menu was written for the layman and I don’t understand why.  Many dishes were named not by their Indian name but described in the equivalent English.  We  know about our curries on this island.  The average man on the street could instantly tell you the difference between a Brinjal Bhaji and a Methi Murgh.  The simplification simply isn’t necessary and is certainly unwelcome.

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles – The poppadoms were presented to us within 2 minutes of asking for them.  I was surprised to find them warm, fresh and crisp.  Very nice.  Unfortunately, only three pickles were offered and it was a  real shame when the one missing was the mixed pickle.  My favourite.  The minty raita was insipid yet that is relatively commonplace.  The mango chutney was overly sweet yet tasty and the onion salad was as good as an onion salad could be.  You’re not exactly going to write home about it but I couldn’t find fault.

Beers – Cobra 660ml.  As cold as they should be served.  This is the simplest of all my criteria to fulfil and subsequently the one that drops the most points if not present.  No worries here though.

Sides – The potato and spinach bhaji (Sag Aloo for every single other person in this country who has ever been to a curry house.  Everyone then) was decent enough.  Soft potato with enough spinach and spices to hold your interest.

Curries – When there is nothing new on a menu in front of me, I will always fall back onto the ever faithful Madras.  It was almost perfect here.  The lamb was well cooked and the sauce was deep and rich with enough heat to make itself known without masking everything else.  Very good.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – I don’t like to judge this on a single visit.  All I can say is that I ordered a semi hot curry and got one.  All looks good so far though.

Face Towels – My second curry house in a week without face towels.  I’m not fucking happy.  This restaurant had very little Indian styling, a menu that was written for idiotic foreigners and NO FUCKING FACE TOWELS.  A message to the proprietor of Tandoori Nights (and I will send this review to him/her) : I would kindly point out that many dishes on your ridiculously dumbed down menu are packed with chilli powder.  It is July.  I eat a hot curry in July and there will be some perspiration at some point.  I saw maybe 30 seats in your curry house.  That means the small purchase of 30 face towels would not only not dent your pocket, it would leave your punters leaving feeling refreshed and calm having been part of a near perfect experience.  Your laziness here is noted.

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – After the face towel fiasco, I was keen to see if they could repair some of my despondency with something special here.  A warm after eight mint on a plate.  I purposefully put mine in my mouth, chewed it once and then placed it back on the plate.  A protest.

Final Score – 7 out of 10.  Tandoori Nights is a good restaurant.  The food is way above average which of course is the most important thing but it would be ridiculously easy to get that score up to at least 8.5.  I find that the most annoying thing.  Utterly infuriating.

One Sentence Summary – This is the perfect curry house for take away.





Chowki – Denman Street – W1D 7HA

6 07 2009

Before I start this one I am going to say that I visited Chowki about 6 months ago. I’d never heard of it then but now I seem to hear the name everywhere. Mostly good. I shall revisit at some point in the near future and shall review my words if necessary

Chowki was a surprise when I first came upon it. I’d never heard of it before and while Denman Street is relatively tucked away, it is right in the midst of Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street and Piccadilly so must have plenty of traffic flowing through it. It’s a good location for a curry house.

Chowki

It proudly proclaims that the food is homestyle cooking and it isn’t one of those massive restaurants that you know fucks up quality to pay too much homage to quantity.  All looked good and interesting.

In we went and my first impressions were that it looked like a burger joint inside.  Plastic moulded chairs and long bench style tables lay across the room.  It has a rather high ceiling and was very well lit.  Maybe it was because we were the only customers in there at the time but everything seemed fake and it looked suspiciously like a chain restaurant.  I’m not a fan of chain restaurants.  You need to have your finger on the local pulse to make a great place that people want to visit again and again.  If Chowki has its finger on the pulse, it’s dancing to a foreign beat and it looks just like your dad on the dance floor after a few sherries.  You’re smiling but slightly disappointed.

This is a semi decent attempt at the kind of restaurant that seats you on communal benches and aims to get you fed, watered and out the door within 30 minutes.  Too much plastic everywhere though.  Where are the heavily cushioned boothes surrounded by murals of blue skinned naked Indian goddesses?  Where is the dodgy Indian Muzak playing “Walk Like An Egyptian” on Sitar?  Where are the cheesy smiles behind an abundance of bouffant hair, moustaches and black bow ties?  I think as I get older I welcome change less.  I want this place to be so shit that it goes 360 on the wheel of shite and comes out the other side as the perfect blend of great food, crap décor and slightly sticky carpets…

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles – If McDonald’s ever went into the mass production and sale of curries, this is what their poppadoms would taste like.  The pickles and relishes taste slightly processed yet strangely moreish.

Beers – Cobra 660ml.  Cold and fresh, lending a warm cloak of familiarity to otherwise slightly austere proceedings.

Sides – They try to encompass many flavours of India here without going into too much depth in terms of your selection.  Subsequently many of the dishes lose something.  Nothing really grabbed me on the menu and my choice was so forgettable that I have forgotten it.

Curries – Not bad.  Portions were a little small but yet again you get the feeling that the food is made elsewhere and heated up in a microwave.  I’m sure that’s not the case but I bet the chef isn’t even a native of the sub continent.  If your skin isn’t brown, I don’t want you cooking my curries.  Call me old fashioned if you like but the same goes for dentists and doctors.  If you’re not Indian, I’m not interested.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – I asked for the Lal Mass which looked interesting.  It wasn’t.  I wish I could elaborate a little but I’m reaching for the memory through a foggy sea it would take 100 of the worlds finest psychotherapists several months to pierce.   It was that remarkable.

Face Towels – If I had asked for a platter of golden marbles, carefully placed to form a pyramid 25 layers high, it would have been because I was so incensed at there being no towels that I began to hallucinate.  I feel like an old man reminiscing back through the years into hazy memory when I spy a young lad and tell him warm and wistful stories of gloriously white heavy towelling, draped over your face and infusing your very being with the delightful scent of fresh lemons.  This is the Werthers Originals of my generation.

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – There are these 2 nuns in the bath.  One turns to the other and says

“Where’s the soap?”

And the other nun says

“I haven’t got a clue but do you remember when they used to give you a little sliver of chilled chocolate with your bill back in the old days?”

And gets in reply

“Oh, there it is.  You’ve sat on it and it’s halfway up your sponge”

Shameful.


Price – Prices vary quite wildly on the dishes.  Poppadoms, 2 Cobra 660ml, 2 curries and 1 side came in around £40.

Final Score – 6 out of 10.  I’m going to revisit soon and see if it is still as shit as I remember.

One Sentence Summary – If you love your ipod, your macbook and you have a quirky haircut, you’ll love this place.





Taste of Spice – Berwick Street – W1F 8SX

3 07 2009

I was at a loss today.  Wasn’t really sure where to go to get my fix.  I didn’t want to travel too far, this wasn’t exactly a special occasion and it is too hot to get on a train to get anywhere so it had to be local. I have overlooked Taste of Spice a few times.  Maharani is only a few doors down and is a firm favourite of mine but today I fancied something different.

So Taste of Spice it was.

Taste of Spice

The name speaks of laziness to me.  Far too generic sounding and this is the sort of thing you would expect to see in a suburban town, serving up the kind of food that might be enjoyable enough yet somehow instantly forgettable.  There was a framed certificate from The Good Curry Guide in the window but I’ve had my fingers burnt with that kind of thing in the past.  I haven’t forgiven, and probably never will, Connoisseurs Indian Tandoori for their elegantly framed lies.  I’m like a battered wife who keeps on coming back after having sweet promises whispered in my ear. “They wouldn’t lie to me right?”.

So, draping myself in a cloak of suspiciousness I stepped inside.  Only 5 or 6 tables in a very small dimly lit room that seemed to have a low ceilinged and very close feel to it.  A typically well stocked bar at one end of the room is always a comfort to be greeted with even if you don’t drink.  They seem to know their business and I am willing to suggest that this curry house hasn’t changed much in the last 10 or 20 years.  Surrounded on all sides by establishments who have all speculated to hopefully accumulate.  Be they restaurants, bars, shops or even clubs, this part of London used to have an excitingly seedy feel to it.  4 or 5 streets leading south from Oxford Street that used to be the closest thing us Londoners had to a dodgy Dr Seuss book.  Winding staircases to hidden bars.  Sex shops with bead curtains offering the odd glimpse of massive dildos hanging on the walls and surprised looking inflatable plastic women with vicious looking seams.  Great restaurants and on summer nights you’ll see the pavement thronged with people in a rush to get drunk and look for some fun.  It has changed a lot recently but still retains a certain charm.

Taste of Spice is like a step back in time.  You could easily be forgiven for expecting to see various pretentious nobs leaving the wine bars with their filofaxes and mobile phones that needed a carry along briefcase to house its battery.  I quite like it in an “I’d fucking hate it if I were actually there but its all rather nostalgic” kind of way.

Ratings

Poppadoms and Pickles –  3 of our poppadoms were fresh and crispy.  The 4th was obviously chucked in between them in an obvious ploy to get rid of one of last nights leftovers.  We were offered a fantastic mixed pickle, a fresh onion salad and the usual mango chutney.  No raita.  I usually leave that minty nonsense well alone but this is like the curry house version of the Holy Trinity.  Except with chutneys and poppadoms.  Don’t mess with the beautiful equilibrium.  You want to know what happened to that Air France plane that blew up a few hours after take off from Brazil recently?  That’s right.  They forgot to serve a fourth option and it caused some serious shenanigans with forces I’m not intelligent enough to understand yet am well aware are far more powerful that anything I can comprehend.  Don’t do it kids.

Beers – We asked for 2 large Cobras and were offered 2 small bottles poured into a pint glass.  Same thing I suppose but not really.  I swear a failed mathematician owns this restaurant.  One of my two smaller bottles was not sufficiently chilled as well.  Pissed me right off.  I think I was just unlucky though as all other beers ordered were chillier than a January morning stroll in the highlands of Scotland.

Sides – Sag Aloo was well cooked yet unremarkable.  I’m not knocking them as they did the trick but it wasn’t their stand out dish.

Curries – These were great.  Their menu had many different curries to choose from but I was in a no nonsense mood and so ordered the Madras.  Lovely thick sauce with a heat that crept up on you.  I’m definitely going to come back here again and sample something more adventurous.

Vindictiveness of Waiters – Another one that shall be put to the test on my next visit.  The Madras was supposed to be hot and was.  All good.

Face Towels – Non existent.  I was a little shocked and when asked if they had any face towels the waiter looked a little embarrassed as he told us they didn’t.  That’ll be the failed mathematician at work again.  A small investment in quality white towelling could leave the punters that bit happier.  It put a downer on it all really.  It was the main reason I left writing this until the next day.  It took 24 hours, 3 more beers, 5 whiskies and some toast this morning to get over it.

Complimentary Chocolate With the Bill – A small chilled chocolate square with a silver wrapper emblazoned with the name of the restaurant.  After curry chocolates usually go one of two ways.  Mint or orange.  These were mint and I’m an orange man.  After the disappointment of the face towels I was kind of expecting it.

Price – 4 poppadoms, 6 cobra 330ml, 2 curries, 2 pilau rice 1 Sag Aloo and a Naan bread cost £39.  Very impressed with that as it is 2 small cobras and 1 naan more than we usually order yet it still cost quite a bit less than most other curry houses round here.  Great effort.

Final Score – 8 out of 10.  The price won me round at the end but with the addition of a few minor things, I could see Taste of Spice getting an 8.5.  A very respectful score

One Sentence of Summary – It’s always nice to find a new place that you would be happy to visit again.