24A Hastings Street, Napier South, Napier, 4110, New Zealand

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This Indian restaurant was set up five wars ago by an Englishman (Paul Anderson) who was apparently missing the curries of the UK. Located just a couple of streets off the seafront, the dining room is a large, high ceilinged affair with a bar along one side. The menu has the usual North Indian staple dishes, and rather disconcertingly has some dishes that appear in some provincial English curry houses but never in India, such as “phaal”, a dish invented in Birmingham designed to allow young men to show off their bravery in the face of a chilli onslaught. When taking your order the waiters ask how spicy you want the dishes, which is a somewhat quaint habit that I haven't seen in London for decades. To be fair, Indian food is probably a lot rarer in New Zealand than the UK, so they presumably have to cater to their tourist clientele.

Curiously for such a place, the beverage selection went well beyond lager. There was an extensive whisky selection and a genuinely excellent wine list, with over a hundred and fifty choices. Sample labels included Ashwell Sauvignon Blanc 2014 at NZ$38 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for NZ$23, Bouby-Legouge Brut NV at NZ$80 compared to its retail price of NZ$50, and William Murdoch The Guardsman 2010 at NZ$110 for a wine that will set you back NZ$94 in a shop. We actually indulged with one of the best wines on the list given its more than reasonable level of markup, the lovely Craggy Range Aroha B Pinot Noir 2011 at NZ$145 compared to its retail price of NZ $137. As can be seen, the markup levels, especially on the better bottles, are minimal - a wine lover’s dream. 

Sadly the fish tikka was seriously dried out, and this was particularly a shame since the fish used was kingfish, which is a high quality product with excellent flavour, so was a real waste (9/20). My starter of tandoori lamb chops was much better, the meat a little overcooked but having good flavour and quite lively spicing (11/20 despite the slight overcooking).

Paneer biryani was just weird, the rice cooked all right but tasting distinctly sweet, which was disconcerting (9/20). My chicken biryani was better. It would not be winning any awards in Hyderabad such as the glorious version at Adaa, but the meat at least avoided drying out, though the rice was not particularly fragrant (11/20). The best dish was a genuinely good aloo gobi, the cauliflower and potatoes having retained their texture nicely, the spicing lively. It was as if this had been transported in from another, altogether more competent, kitchen (13/20). A carrot halwa was more of a lurid a rice pudding with carrot added, and was excessively sweet (10/20).

Service was well meaning but shambolic. When we entered we were told we would be seated at a table that was just being cleared, but after that the manageress just wandered off, and eventually we just walked over and sat down. The two wine glasses that appeared for our bottle did not match, requested water did not appear and we had to ask for cutlery for our main course. When we explained why we had barely touched a couple of the dishes the manageress explained that this was the way they cooked things here, which I suppose was one way of looking at things. The bill came to NZ$128 (£68) but this was due to the excellent wine. If you ordered a modest bottle or drank beer then a typical cost per head might come to around NZ$75 (£40) or so. I would come back here to sample more of their lovely and kindly priced wine list, but it is hard to recommend the food or service.

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