The Curry Room is tucked away within the boutique five star hotel The Old Government House, which is situated in a quiet street on a hill overlooking Saint Peter Port. It is a small restaurant, with barely half a dozen tables arrayed around a bar, The decor is very red and quite old fashioned in a “days of the Raj” style, almost a throwback to 1980s era Indian restaurants. The menu was unconventional, with a three course the only option available. There were no vegetable side dishes, just a few starters and mains to select from, which all come with rice and bread following introductory popadoms and pickles. The meal was for a set price of £38. There is a wine-pairing version at £60, or a short beer menu is offered as an alternative.
Popadoms were crisp, fried rather than grilled and just a touch too greasy. Pickles were an unusual mix: as well as conventional mint in yoghurt, and lime pickle, there was apricot chutney and a little pot of vegetables. A starter of a quartet of potato and black lentil-filled samosas came with a salad of cherry tomatoes, red onion and coriander cress. The samosas were made with filo pastry, small and thin, so having relatively little filling relative to pastry. They were also quite bland, with what little spice there was in the filling being rather tentative (11/20). The cauliflower starter with cumin-braised lentils was just odd, the spinach coconut cream sauce being served separately from the cooked cauliflower rather than integrated into the dish. The cauliflower was cooked all right but was entirely plain, with the sauce next to it. This felt rather strange, with the cauliflower not really benefitting from the spices that would normally be absorbed in the cooking process. A cashew nut brittle added another texture but seemed out of place (10/20).
Prawn curry had properly cooked prawns in a one dimensional tomato sauce that had a slight chilli undertone and a touch of coriander, but none of the complexity of a spice blend that you might expect from an Indian curry (11/20). Butter chicken had rather stringy chicken in a similar tomato and sauce with saffron butter that had a kick of chilli but no other identifiable spices, just a coriander garnish (10/20). Each main course was served with a little pile of rice, which was fine, and also a couple of miniature naan breads. These were quite evidently just bought in and reheated on a grill, not cooked in a tandoor, and were just doughy (8/20). I find this pretty much unacceptable. Buying food in a packet and reheating it is fine if you are at home having a late supper in a hurry, but is not OK if you paying money to eat in a restaurant. It turned out that the kitchen has no tandoor, in which case why not make from scratch one of the many other types of Indian bread that do not require one?
Our waiter was unclear on who the head chef actually was tonight. It seems to have been a lady called Japhia Elleya, from South Africa and due to move on shortly. What is clear is that she seemed to have a fairly limited idea of what Indian food is all about, at least based on what appeared on our plates. Indeed the whole meal felt like something put together by someone who had read about Indian food but not really experienced it. The cooking itself was not bad in basic terms eg the prawns were properly cooked, but Indian food is all about spicing, and the sauces here just possessed a simple heat, not a pleasing blend of flavours from different spices. Buying in bread from a packet and warming it up is no one’s idea of what an authentic Indian restaurant, or indeed any style of restaurant, should be aiming at. With a little beer to drink the bill came to £43 each, which is unacceptably high for the distinctly limited quality of food that was served.