Bhaji, London E14 (Takeaway)
Established in 1997, this friendly Isle of Dogs takeaway serves up decent takeaway food from a great menu. Bhaji‘s Chicken Benjal (£4.95) caught my eye straight away. Jalfrezi lovers would enjoy this dish of tomatoes, green peppers, onions and chillies, although a bit more oomph in the heat level would have been welcomed.
The Mushroom rice (£2.25) was generous with its spices and mushrooms, but best of all was very tasty. The Uri Bhaji (£2.65) was slightly soft by the time we’d got it home, but with light spicing and chopped onions, these green beans make an interesting alternative to the usual veg side dishes. All veg dishes can be bumped up to main portions for a pound extra.
Elsewhere there are some very decent offerings on the menu. It’s not difficult to see why this place has been around for 18 years. There is a healthy options sections (such as Salmon Shashlik for £8.95), some Salads and Dips from £2.50, and, unusually for a takeaway, a decent selection of desserts.
There are also some set meals – and not the usual line up most places offer. For instance, the Staff’s Favourite for One includes Dallier Bora, Naga Chicken, Tarka Dal, Rice, Roti, Rice and Mint Sauce (£10.95).
Then there are Indian Style Noodles (from £4.95), a range of Sag Baltis and Naga Baltis (from £5.95) and Shatkora Doner Kebabs (the mind boggles) as well as the usual curry favourites from £4.45.
There will be return visits. I might even have a lassi (yes, they do these as well).
Parking: on-street parking.
Delivery: free within three miles for minimum orders over £10.
Specials: 10% discount on orders over £12 collected. Free bottle of Coke or side dish with orders over £18.
Beer while you’re waiting: The Ship pub is just over the road.
Bhaji, 6 Chapel House Street, London, E14 3AS. Tel: 020 7531 6166/7. Open: Mon–Sat 5.30pm–11.30pm.
Scores on the tandoors
Waiting area 8.5
Service and friendliness 9
It’s that time of year when the Greenwich Curry Club, in association with the Greenwich Visitor announce the 4th annual Greenwich Curry Club Awards. The awards have been gaining in prestige since we launched them in 2011 and it’s nice to see that many restaurants proudly display their certificates on their walls. It has taken a year of solid research of restaurants and takeaways in our area, but members of the curry club are proud to announce the following winners… Best restaurant: Coriander (Westcombe Park) Highly commended: Mountain View Best takeaway: Green chillies Highly commended: Le Popadom Best for service: Mountain View Highly commended: Gurkha’s Inn Best for value: Gurkha’s Inn Highly commended: Taste of Lewisham Best newcomer: Mountain View Highly commended: Kerala Village Best starter: Kerala Village (Hot and sour soup) Highly commended: Gurkha’s Inn (Lamb tikka) Best main: Coriander (Naga chicken) Highly commended: Mountain View (Mixed seafood curry) The classy Coriander has been knocking on the door for a few years but for 2014 we felt the combination of the exceptionally fresh and tasty food, as well as great service and décor, the restaurant is the deserved winner of Best restaurant 2014. The Westcombe Park venue also gobbles up the award for Best Main for the superbly hot and tasty Naga chicken. Eat ’em and weep vindaloo lovers. Congratulations also to Mountain View for being highly commended in the Best restaurant category in just its first year in business. With such a good showing overall it should come as no surprise that the same restaurant should be named as the Best newcomer. Manager Rom and his team also picked up the Best service award and were highly commended for the Mixed seafood curry, a treasure trove for fish lovers. Another newcomer making waves is Kerala Village. A few different owners have tried to make a go of this south Indian–themed restaurant in Trafalgar Road but we reckon the premises has finally found the man to do the job. The new owner provides a superb range of quality dishes, especially for vegetarians, and if you do nothing else try the Hot and sour soup, which wins the Best starter award hands down. Meanwhile, Best takeaway for the second successive year goes to the unassuming Green Chillies, which keeps turning out quality curry from its premises in Blackheath Road. Its neighbour, the ever-reliable Le Popadom, a previous winner of this category, is highly commended. Gurkha’s Inn is no stranger to the Greenwich Curry Club Awards, having picked up nearly every honour over the years. So it’s no surprise to see this family team, who are seasoned curry house pros, feature prominently again by winning the Best for value category and being highly commended for service. Maybe the only surprise is that the mouth-watering Momos don’t feature this year, although their tender, tasty, Lamb tikka gets a thumbs-up in the Best starter category.
Charcoals, Glasgow, Scotland
Lunchtime curries are always a bit of a treat and it certainly is a treat at Charcoals. This smallish curry house doesn’t look much from the outside but the food is cracking. It’s also just around the corner from The Horseshoe, one of Glasgow’s best known pubs, so you can have a nice post-curry pint if you plump for an early executive lunch.
At just £6.95 it’s particularly good value, although once you’ve added a during-curry pint (£3.60 for draught Tennent’s), some pickle (95p) and a tip it’ll be double that.
The food is exceptional and the Chicken Desi Karahi one of the best curries I’ve ever had. The first mouthful simply exploded in flavours. The sauce was sweetish, but spicy, and full of onion, peppers and juicy bits of meat. I had it with two chappatis but you can also chooose boiled rice or a naan if you prefer.
The deal also comes with a starter (you can choose from a small range) and the Chana Poori was nearly up there with the main in the flavour stakes. Super tastes all wrapped up in puffy, flaky bread.
There’s a small hatch near the door, which the chefs use to let out the heat, and as I was the table nearest this it was fascinating to watch them at work. I’d love to show you a pic of these great chefs but unfortunately I was told that taking a pic is “against the law, against company policy” by the slightly grumpy waiter. The hatch door was promptly shut and steamed up. Mmm.
Instead I will show you a pic of the fine lunch this unassuming but quality little place dished up. If you don’t hear from me again it’s because the curry police have taken my camera and I’m hiding in the oven.
Charcoals, 26a Renfield Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 1LU. Tel 0141 258 6482. Open: noon–late.
Scores on the tandoors
Service and friendliness 6
Atmosphere 6 (Wednesday lunchtime)
Assam’s, Glasgow, Scotland
I’m thinking the relaxed style of the service in Assam’s is the way forward for curry houses. British people, after all, don’t really do “receiving service” very well. False, American-type “have a nice day” service makes us cringe, Snooty “I need to give you a look that makes you feel that we don’t want you here” service irritates us, while bowing and scraping “I’ll do anything for you sir and madam” makes us feel decidedly uncomfortable.
The latter two, of course, are peas from the same pod as we search for egalitarianism as we sit down to eat. We don’t want people to treat us as if we are not good enough for anywhere (our grandfathers told us about this sort of thing), and we don’t want anyone else to act subservient just because they are serving us (as our grandfathers wouldn’t accept that either). We are not “under” anyone and we are not “above” anyone either. Ah, the dilemmas of a class system.
And so the poor old people that serve us have to walk a tightrope of being efficient but not too attentive, friendly but not too friendly, fast but not too fast and on the list goes. An impossible job. Yet the two young lads at Assam’s seem to have got it just right, mixing up banter with efficiency. A job in training awaits you.
Assam’s, situated in an elegant building in West Regent Street, in the centre of Glasgow, has been operating since 2009. The high ceilings, large windows and gold picture frames sit comfortably alongside the clean, contemporary lines of the modern furniture and smart bar. It’s a pretty cool place.
The menu is not huge (although the chef will cook other curries if you ask) so presumably they stick to what they know best. The Garlic Chilli Chicken (£9.95) was full of soft, whole garlic cloves, peppers and chilli, with the thick, sweet sauce coating the tender small chunks of chicken. The Tandoori Chapati (£1.20) was the size of London naan and the wafer-thin bread had been popped and singed by the searing oven heat in all the right places. It was ideal (after a quick chat with our waiters about how it was cooked) for scooping up the curry topped with a dab of homemade pickle (65p).
Sadly the Vegetable Curry (£8.50) did not receive such high praise from The Vegetarian despite the large chunks of fresh broccoli and cauliflower. The vegetables were declared too soft and the dish itself described as “more lightly spiced veg than veg curry.”
Elsewhere on the menu Spiced Haddock (£5.95) and Aubergine Fritters (£3.20) from the starters stood out, while the Karahi Garlic Lemon (£6.95 for lamb) has my mouth watering for a return visit.
Assam’s 57 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 2AE, Scotland. Tel: 0141 331 1980.
Scores on the tandoors
Service and friendliness 9
Atmosphere 6 (late Monday night)
Shah Manzil, Liss, Hampshire (Takeaway)
The Shah Manzil is the new name for the Saaki (previously reviewed here, also following a takeaway). The new owners took over about a year ago and from what I have seen not a lot has changed except the sign. It’s a decent enough restaurant, tucked away off the ‘main’ road of the village, but it takes a brave businessman to take on the illustrious Madhuban just up the road.
But the new owner seems to be making a good bash at it. There was a steady flow of takeaway trade when we visited and he has (thankfully) left the nice little waiting area for those of us who like to collect our takeaways. It’s an ideal little nook for a cold pint of Cobra and a couple of popadoms while you wait for the spice clock to tick down. Some waiting areas in restaurants really are naff (I suppose because they don’t want to waste space they can use for diners) so well done on keeping this as it was.
The food selection certainly did the job, and you get 10 per cent off the listed price if you collect, so you can have that waiting beer guilt-free. The Jhinga Zaffrani (£10.95 before discount) was my stand-out dish from the selection we choose. Nice plump prawns coated in ginger, garlic, chilli and yoghurt, then topped with an aubergine terrine and served with pilau rice. Shame I had to share really.
The Vegetable Naga Mirchi (£6.25) was mind-blowingly hot but still had everyone tucking in for “just a little bit more” and was nice when mopped up by the naans (£2.10 for plain and £2.45 for the peshwari and keema versions). The Achari Lamb (£8.95) is a delight for pickle lovers because there really is no holding back from the kitchen if you like the taste of lime and mango in your sauce.
The only disappointment was the Chicken Tikka Masala ((£8.95) with the chef drifting down the route a lot of restaurants seem to be – too nutty and not creamy and luxurious enough, This dish is going to be knocked off Britain’s favourite-dish list if they keep going that way.
Parking: on-street parking along Station Road.
Delivery: free within three miles for minimum orders of £15.
Specials: 10% discount on takeaways collected.
Beer while you’re waiting: Shah Manzil is a fully licensed restaurant or the Whistle Stop pub is a short walk away.
Shah Manzil, 73 Station Road, Liss, Hampshire, GU33 7AD. Tel: 01730 895455. Open: daily noon–2.30pm, 5.30pm–11.30pm.
Scores on the tandoors
Waiting area 7
Service and friendliness 7
Saffron, Braintree, Essex
Strange, this one. The decor of Saffron certainly needs a spruce up (bit tired), the place could do with a tidy up (the back of the restaurant was being used to do the laundry), and the food isn’t even all that (bit standard), yet I’d come here again. In fact, if I lived in Braintree, I’d probably come here quite often.
Now, and you’d be partly right, that maybe because this part of Essex is hardly rocking with things to entertain. But it’s also because Saffron feels right. The waiter was very polite and had just the right balance of making you feel as if you are welcome, yet not fawning all over you. The portions are extremely generous, and even though I say the food’s not all that, it’s just right for a “that hits the spot for my spice fix on a weekday”. And best of all there were no eyebrows raised when I ordered a prawn curry (£5.50) and chips (£1.50). That’s right, curry and chips, that guilty little pleasure.
Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve ordered that in a restaurant, if fact I can’t even remember if I ever have. A bag of greasy chip shop chips topped with a takeaway curry, oh sure, but it’s not really the restaurant thing. But that’s what I fancied so that’s what I ordered. It was spot on.
Away from such delicacies the menu offers up quite a few alternatives. For an extra pound any dish can have fruit (either mango, banana, pineapple or lychees) add to it. Don’t ask me. Then there is Nawabi Lamb (£7.95), a spicy dish with an omlette, and Moghal Chicken (£8.95), which is cooked in sour cream and egg. More than enough variety to keep you away from the chips.
Saffron, 24–26 Coggeshall Road, Braintree, Essex, CM7 9BY. Tel: 01376 331900/838. E-mail: http://www.shanti-braintree.co.uk. Open: daily, 5.30pm–midnight.
Scores on the tandoors
Atmosphere (Monday night) 4
Service and friendliness 9
Moti Mahal is providing a rather civilised way to enjoy London this New Year’s Eve. The classy Indian restaurant in Great Queen Street, just off Drury Lane is offering a four-course spice supper plus wines for £75. There is an earlier sitting for £55 if you really feel the need to battle the crowds outside as the clock strikes twelve.