Gem Plaza, 66, Infantry Road, Tasker Town, Shivaji Nagar, Bangalore, India

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This restaurant is on the ground floor in one corner of a small shopping mall. Entering through an impressively decorated thick wooden door, you enter a large dining room intended to evoke a sense of the steppes. Assorted murals of Ghengis Khan decorate the walls, there is a stone floor, chairs are very low and tables are without tablecloths. On the right as you enter is a window into the kitchen, where chefs can be seen thrusting kebabs into tandoors and tossing bread in the air.

The menu actually appears within a mock newspaper, the drinks menu is the label on a bottle. The decor theme is that of rugged frontier land. Samarkand itself lies in modern Uzbekistan, was Persian for many centuries and was later captured by Mongol warlord Ghengis Khan; it was later known for its key position on the Silk Road, but there is no obvious direct connection in the name to Indian food. I suspect the name may be to hint at the well-known restaurant Bhukara in Delhi, which serves a similar style of food. The food served here is north Indian, with plenty of tandoori dishes on offer, though there are also other dishes, such as biriani (which originates in Hyderabad, some way north of Bangalore).

Tomato shorba was a warm, spicy tomato soup and was very enjoyable, the tomato flavour coming through well and the spices nicely balanced (13/20). Murgh tikka was genuinely good, the chicken marinated before being cooked in a charcoal tandoor: the result was tender meat suffused with spices with a hint of smoky flavour from the tandoor (15/20).

Tandoori prawns were also very good, tender and also with lively spicing (14/20). Chicken biriani was made in the traditional way, the cooking pot being sealed with a layer of pastry, which is then cut open at the table, releasing the aromas of the dish. The rice had excellent texture and was fragrant with spice, the chicken cooked on the bone and tender. The chicken itself was not of the highest quality, a common problem in India according to local chefs I have spoken to, but this was a skilfully made dish (easily 14/20). We also enjoyed a vegetable side dish of potatoes and peas in gravy, the potatoes cooked a bit longer than I would've liked, but the spices were vibrant (13/20).

There were a great many waiters to attend to customer needs, and the large premises was entirely full on the evening that we visited, our table being turned immediately on our vacating it. The bill was 2900 INR for two all in i.e. about £18 per head for more food than a sane man could contemplate eating. The main clientele was Indian families, and the very large portion sizes are more fitting for a family than for a couple. This was a very enjoyable experience, and fair value for what we ate.


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