From fire to plate

Ricardo’s Fast Food, Beau Bassin, Mauritius

Not much beats deeply marinated chicken that’s served up within seconds of leaving the tandoor oven. Especially if you’ve got a nan bread dripping in butter and it’s one in the morning.

Ricardo’s is hardly on the beaten track for tourists visiting Mauritius, but lucky for us we’ve got a couple of friends in the know. We’d been planning to visit the place for days so it’s fair to say I had Malai Tikka on the brain by time we’d arrived. The tandoor chef certainly knew his stuff and it was a delight to watch him work his magic as he slid an array of meats onto large skewers – Sheek Kebabs (Rs 125), Haryali Kebabs (Rs 100) and, of course, Malai Kebabs (Rs 100) – and then plunged them into the over furnace. The breads were next and it didn’t take long for one of the tastiest street food snacks to emerge.

The tandoor menu is short and to the point – kebabs, nans (Rs 25 to Rs 50) and nan rolls (Rs 150 to Rs 200). There are a few other things on the menu like chips and sausages but frankly why would you bother when there is a super skilled tandoor chef waiting for your order? Just find a perch in the bustle of this ramshackle takeaway joint and watch the locals come and go as they fill up with late-night snacks.

Ricardo’s, Beau Bassin, Mauritius. Tel: 5759 2043. Open: till late.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 9
Decor 2
Service and friendliness 9
Vibe 9 (late night Friday)
Value 10

 

 

 

 

 

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Southern spice

Spice, Wexford, Ireland

Good. Indian. Restaurant. Wexford. These are not four words you’re likely to see in the same sentence too often. But here it is: Spice, a beautiful restaurant buzzing with diners enjoying excellent Indian dishes. Well, well, what a find this is.

Wexford, a small, pretty town with a population of just 20,000, sits on the east coast of Ireland, about 90 miles from Dublin. What would the Vikings, who founded the town in about 800AD make of this spicy food one wonders.

The decor in Spice is smart and classy with modern sharp lines and thoughtful lighting creating a relaxed and atmosphere. It belies the exterior, which doesn’t promise much.

The chefs are from South India (Kerala) and the menu reveals their regional influences. There is a section of traditional South Indian curries (Lamb €12.50, Vegetable €9.50), a Fish Curry from Goa, the neighbouring region to Kerala (€12.95), and interestingly Kolhapuri, a delicious dish you’d struggle to find on the menus of many restaurants in London, let alone Dublin. Kolhapuri originates from the town of Kolhapur, in Maharashtra to the north of Goa.

Following a generous portion of a delicious squid starter (€9), it was time for a Lamb Madras (€12.50). Madras is, of course, the colonial name for the town of Chennai in south India, but although this is a well-known and popular dish it certainly doesn’t originate from that part of India. In fact, Madras was a name coined in the restaurants of the UK for a curry of a certain heat level (think Curry to Madras to Vindaloo to Phaal). Nevertheless it is a delicious dish and cooked excellently in Spice.

Fresh cream was used to achieve a nice, thick consistency (other restaurants use yoghurt or coconut cream for the same effect) and there was not a trace of oiliness. Those curry lovers who don’t like that film of oil on the top of their dishes will be pleased to know the only thing floating on the top was black mustard seeds.

Finally, worth a mention, is the clever way the menu provides info for people with allergies. Every dish contains a few letters next to it and there is a key at the back (PN = peanuts, S = soya, G = gluten, etc). It’s clever, helpful, and unobtrusive.

* The exchange rate at the time of the visit was £1 = €1.15

Spice, Monck Street, Wexford, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)53 912-2011. E-mail: info@spicerestaurant.net. Open: Sun–Thurs 5.30pm to 11pm, Fri–Sat 5pm to 11pm.

Scores on the Tandoors
Food 8.5
Decor 9
Service and friendliness 7
Vibe (Saturday night) 7.5
Value 7.5

Light up the BBQ

Dera, Dublin, Ireland

Lovers of the famed Lahore and Tayaabs restaurants in London should know there is a welcome bedfellow across the Irish Sea. The Dublin curry scene is generally not that good and over-priced but Dera is one that hits the mark.

Smarter and smaller than its London-Pakistan counterparts, Dera offers all the usual curries (Dhansak, Jalfrazi, Balti etc) and a good vegetarian selection (Shahi Paneer, Channa Masala, Mushroom Bhunna etc) but as when visiting its more famous friends there is only one way to go – the BBQ meats.

For anyone who has had a lamb chop or Sheehk Kebab (probably as a starter) in another restaurant, please wipe your memory. Most are just pale imitations of the Pakistani-run restaurants.

The Sheehk Kebabs (€9.99) are large and meaty, and are delicious with a bit of the creamy mint sauce smothered over them. The Lamb Chops (€9,99) are so beautifully marinated that they require little more than the odd mouthful of the crunchy salad and a tear of naan. And the Chicken Tikka (€9.99) will have you wondering exactly what it is that you’ve been eating up until now. All of these dishes are served with either pilau rice, naan or chips so are meals in themselves. Especially as the popadoms and pickles are complimentary.

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Lamb Chops and Chicken Tikka. Skip the curry with the usual sauce and get stuck in.

Frankly, you should look no further, at least on the first couple of visits. However, if you are one of those people who insists that “a night out for curry” is not a curry without that tomato/onion sauce over your food then there are are starter portions of these same dishes before you tuck into the old-school favourites. Better, would be to get a group of friends together, order a couple of the meaty platters to share and add in one or two curries or side dishes. I usually go for vegetable options like Paneer Karahi (€9.99) or Bindi Bhaji (€7.99) when I go down this route, to ensure there is plenty of room for the meat. If you are really in the communal spirit there is a raised area in Dera by the entrance where you can eat cross-legged or lounge against cushions while you swap dishes.

The restaurant does not serve alcohol but the Sweet or Salt Lassi (€2) or Afghani Green Tea (€2) makes a nice change until your drift back into the Dublin air and its 1001 pubs.

Dera, 138 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)1 5388-800 or (0)1 5388-900. Open: daily 1pm till late.

Scores on the Tandoors
Food 9
Service and friendliness 7
Decor 8
Vibe 6 (Tuesday night)
Value 9

Spice panorama

 The Vista, Nairobi, Kenya

There are great views of the Kenyan capital from this seventh floor restaurant in the vibey area of Westlands. Large glass panels offer diners about 180 degree span of the city as they enjoy their curry.

As the Vista serves as the Hotel Emerald’s restaurant and bar there are different cuisines on the menu, but strictly speaking this is a curry restaurant and it welcomes a lot of locals and visitors who aren’t staying at the hotel.

Considering the chefs do have to cater for different tastes there is decent line up in the Indian section, with no less than 20 starters and 34 main dishes, not to mention naans and rice. Vegetarians are particularly well catered for, with a host of tasty sounding dishes, including the lively looking Dynamite Paneer Pops (Ksh600).

If in doubt keep it simple, so I opted for a Chicken Malai Kebab (Ksh800), a butter naan (Ksh100) and pickles. The chicken was tender and as the juice oozed out of delicately charing you you could taste the tandoor at work, while the coriander and crunchy salad provided the perfect fresh complement. Wrapped up in soft naan and topped off with some spicy pickle it makes for a great lunch.

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Chicken Malai Kebab with butter naan.

The Vista (at the Hotel Emerald), 7th Floor, Krishna Centre, Woodvale Grove, Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: +254 (0)716 228 302. Open: daily noon–3pm and 6pm–10.30pm.

The exchange rate at the time of the visit was £1 = Ksh153, $1 = Ksh100.

The scores on the tandoors

Food 8

Decor 6

Vibe 3 (Saturday lunchtime)

Service and friendliness 8

Value 9

Rub a zub zub

Zub Express, Flic en Flac, Mauritus (Takeaway)

Granted, poor old Zub Express had a tough ask when I ordered the Chicken Kolapuri (Rps190) because the best curry I have ever had was when I ordered the same dish in India. But while this kolapuri wasn’t quite up to those dizzy heights, the chef gave it a great go. There was that tasty, creamy, yet spicy sauce, with large chunks of well-marinated chicken and slices of onion that had been added late (ala many Chinese dishes) to provide a nice crunch. The restaurant advertises itself as a fusion of Indian and Chinese so maybe this was their fusion.

Although there are many Chinese dishes on the menu this place exudes ‘curry house’. Nicely decorated inside, it sits alone, away from the buzz of the other bars and restaurants in this resort, but en route to the main tourist hotels. Many diners choose to sit outside at one of the tables and look out across the beach, a naan’s throw away.

The kolapuri was served with some of the best, and freshest rotis (Rps30 each) I have ever had – fluffy yet firm, and perfect to scoop up this tasty dish. It’s a no brainer that I will soon be eating, not throwing, the naans (from Rps35) and trying the Aloo Ka Pharata (Rps40) soon.

As well as a good selection of the classic curry dishes, and, of course, this being Mauritius, a range of briyanis, there are also special seafood dishes to tempt, including King Prawn and Coconut (Rps750) and a Lobster Butter Massala (Rps950), which I’d imagine get more than a few tourist takers.

Strangely there is an extra charge for takeaways (Rps10.50 for each item). When I first commented that this was unusual, I was met with the service classic, “I don’t know why, I just work here.” I’m told by another takeaway regular to Zub that it’s to pay for the takeaway pots. Look after the pots and the pounds will look after themselves my old grandad used to say.

Parking: car park by the beach opposite.

Specials (or should that be non-specials): each takeaway item is charged Rps10.50 extra, so it’s cheaper to eat in than take food away.

Beer while you’re waiting: no alcohol is served at the restaurant and there are no bars nearby. Your only option would be a bottle while sitting on the fence by the beach.

Zub Express, 286 Coastal Road, Flic en Flac, Mauritius. Tel: +230 453 8867/68. Hotline: 5777 6655 or 5757 9355 or 5860. E-mail: zubexpress06@gmail.com. Web: www.zub-express.com. Open: Friday–Wednesday 10am–9.30pm, Thursday 5pm–10pm.

The exchange rate at the time of visit was £1 = Rps50 and $1 = Rps35.

The scores on the tandoors

Food 7.5

Waiting area 6 (no dedicated area so you must stand at the service bar or grab one of the outside tables if there is one free).

Service and friendliness 8

Value 8

Would you Adam and Eve it

Adam’s Curries, Baku, Azerbaijan
(Review by Neil Beard, Greenwich resident and International Curry Correspondent).

Adam curries pic

After spending two long, hot and busy months in Azerbaijan and at the request of Curry Bard Dan, I finally managed to get around to visiting Adam’s Curries in Baku for the first time, just four days before I return to the Royal Borough, warm beer and the rain.

My three dining colleagues for the evening were, along with myself, working on the 1st European Games. However, I imagine that their roles in catering services would, perhaps, make them slightly more critical of any dining out experience, especially as one of them is the former head chef at Asia Da Cuba St. Martins Lane, London. Adam’s was my recommendation so the pressure was on!

We hit Adam’s (which also doubles as a Thai on some nights) at eight, after beers at the Clansman pub. It was relatively busy and the aroma of spices was prominent on the street before we entered. Our reserved table was already occupied but the kind gentleman was politely asked to move to make way for four hungry men on a curry mission. Strategically placed next to the buffet, we couldn’t wait to get started.

The buffet was already pre-selected in everyone’s mind before we arrived but seeing the excellent choices, and our lack of a decent spicy meal for months, the decision was quickly re-affirmed. The Saturday evening buffet is 15 AZN per person (approx £8) with the local Xirdelan beer at 4 AZN (approx £2).

We tucked into delicious Chicken Tikka pieces, not just coloured chicken but really tender, and tasting like it had been baked in a traditional tandoor. Freshly cooked naan bread with mint raita, yogurt, and just for good measure a chili spice dip, were all available. Delicious.

There was no bhajis on offer but a selection of other starters including samosas and pakoras were available but as with all buffet food timing is everything. We quickly turned to the main event

The main courses included, among others, a Beef Madras, Chick Pea Curry and a Chicken Jalfrezi.

Each curry was individual, clearly all home made using fresh spices, which was a real surprise to us all and we commented on the authentic taste of each dish in turn. Fluffy basmati rice (a genuine art) complemented each mouthful, and quietness descended upon the table – always the best indication of a quality meal. Seconds, and even thirds, were consumed

I wish I had visited Adam’s before so I could have tried other dishes on the menu, in particular the Goan Fish Curry, which I’m sure would have been amazing as a specialty dish

Our hosts, curry meisters Narayan Pawar and his team, were incredibly friendly and polite. Adam’s is clearly a favourite among the ex-pats and oil-working community and long may it continue.

Adam’s Curries, 12 Tarlan Aliyarbeyov Street, Baku, Azerbaijan. Tel: +99455-348-1857. E-mail: adamscurries@gmail.com. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adams-Curries/123673817720175?sk=info&tab=page_info

 

Fresh versus tinned

Spicy Village, Torreblanca, Spain
Ganga, Torreblanca, Spain

Just when I was about to decry that all Indian restaurants in Spain seem to churn out pretty poor, generic curries after eating at Spicy Village, along comes a saviour in the form of Ganga.

The two curry houses are both relatively new and are vying for business in the resort of Torreblanca along the Costa del Sol. But it’s pretty obvious which one will come out on top.

Spicy Village has a great location facing the sea and although it is housed in a pretty uninspiring brick-faced building, the covered outside area has been nicely decorated with large photos of spices and impressive buildings from the Sub-continent.

The food is a let down though. The Chicken Dopiaza (€7.50) was ok-ish, with a decent amount of onions giving the sauce a sweetish taste. But it just felt so generic, like a standard sauce that would go with almost anything. Now, as most of us know, restaurants use the same base sauce for most tomato based curries, but there was a feeling here that not a lot else had been added to the base to make the Dopiaza any different any of the other curries on the menus. The way the Garlic Nan (€2.50) had been made reinforced the disappointment – this was just a standard nan with a few chunks of garlic pressed into the top. Where was the great infusion of taste these breads usually deliver?

But it was the Vegetable Madras (€7.95) where things really fell apart. Here was a bowl of base sauce and can of tinned vegetables, with those perfectly chopped cubes of carrots and all. Not acceptable, especially when Spain boasts such tasty and cheap vegetables.

Spicy Village, Paseo Maritimo Torreblanca No 110, Edif Nautico Local, Fuengirola, Spain. Tel: +34 951 50 52 77 or +34 647 12 83 65. Open: daily 1pm–midnight.

Scores on the Tandoors

Food 5.5

Décor 6

Service and friendliness 6

Atmosphere (Saturday night) 8

Value 6

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But there was complete turnaround on the visit to the spacious Ganga. The waiter looked almost bemused when asked if the chef used fresh vegetables. Of course, of course. The chef/owner, I was told, worked and even trained others in New Delhi’s famous Taj Hotel. He certainly knows how to cook, that’s for sure.

The fresh veg feast included a generous portion of Palak Paneer (€5.50) and a delicious Paneer Jalfrezi (€6.95), and although it might be a bit saucy for some Jalfrezi purists, it had plenty of fresh tomatoes, onions and peppers in a smooth base that verged on the creamy but delivered a nice kick. Made on site, the paneer is soft with a slight bite to it, but it has none of the rubberiness you can get from some pre-bought cheese. It’s among the best I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. And fresh was the order of the day with the Aloo Gobi (€5) with nice chunks of perfectly cooked potato (amazing how many places can get this wrong) and florets of cauliflower coated in a dryish sauce.

Paneer Jalfrezi (left) and Aloo Gobi, with a tomato and onion salad and a nan bread (Ganga)
Paneer Jalfrezi (left) and Aloo Gobi, with a Tomato and Onion Salad and a nan bread (Ganga)

And just to show it’s not only veg that is cooked so well, the Chicken Tikka Masala (€8) was spot on. You know the chef’s got this classic right when you end up scraping the dish at the end of the meal even though you are full to the brim already.

The table was finished off with a large serving of Pilau rice (€2.75), a Cheese, Onion and Chilli Nan (€3.50) and my new favourite accompaniment, an Onion and Tomato Salad (€2). I find the freshness of the salad cuts through the spiciness of the curries beautifully, acting like a mid-meal and setting me up for the next dish. And you’ll want plenty more dishes at Ganga, that’s for sure.

Ganga, Plaza de Torreblana, 7 (Av Torreblanca), Torreblanca 29640, Fuengirola, Spain. Tel: +34 952 661 749 or +34 652 240 902. Open: 6pm–midnight (later in season).

Scores on the Tandoors

Food 9

Décor 9

Service and friendliness 8.5

Atmosphere (early Sunday night) 6

Value 9