This is not a new restaurant; it has been here since 2001, but seems to have been overlooked in the press, presumably becasue of its out of the way location. It is in a barely converted pub, a fairly large, bright dining room with a plasma screen showing a cricket match to its mainly Indian audience. The decor is basic, with plain wooden tables, mostly white walls and some rather odd, glittery wallpaper on one wall. Service was friendly and good. The food is Punjabi, and indeed seems to have picked up some East African Asian influence e.g. with mogo (cassava) chips for example. Generally it is Punjabi food. Popadoms were made fresh and came with a simple mint chutney and a home made tomato chutney with a sour note and a vibrant chilli bite (11/20).
I started with achari chicken, served on a cast iron hotplate. Achari is a Punjabi/Pakistani recipe which involves a little sourness from vinegar or lemon. In this case chicken pieces were marinaded with chilli, mustard seeds and other spices then cooked. The chicken was very tender and the marinade was really well judged, spicy with a little hint of sourness, lifting the flavour of the chicken (13/20). Onion bhaji is a cliché but can be good, and here was a very respectable version, the filling tasty, the outside cooked well (12/20).
Tandoori king prawns were cooked well but were spoilt by the use of very cheap farmed prawns, which had an unmistakeable hint of chlorine about them (11/20 for the technique only). Methi chicken had a pleasant, rich sauce which tasted of fenugreek, and chicken that was cooked properly but was not very high quality (11/20). I was impressed with bhindi, which most Indian restaurants overcook to a mush; here the okra was light and still had distinct texture (13/20). Garlic naan was well made, as was a paratha (12/20). A sweet lassi was excellent, again a very simple thing but so rarely done to its best (13/20). Plain rice was impressive also, the grains distinct, cooked just right (14/20).
I was impressed by the technique shown by the chef, who learnt his trade in the Taj Group of hotels in India. To be able to cook rice this well, and good bhindi, immediately marks him out as way above the norm. It is a shame about the very cheap ingredients. Portions are almost absurdly large. The waiter said at the end “oh, we could have done half size portions for you” which would have been great but was a bit late by then. Prices are not quite as cheap as you might expect given the area, though bear in mind the vast portions. Starters are mostly £6.95, main course curries generally £7.95 (prawns £12.95) with vegetables dishes also around the £7 mark. Naans were £1.95, paratha £2.45. Pulao rice is £4.25, a raita £1.95.
If you are ever in this area it is worth trying the Zan Zi Bar, which is a couple of notches above the usual high street Indian.