Many nights

Chilli Nights, Haslemere, Surrey

They always go through the menu ritual even though they know what they want. It would be odd not to I suppose. They know what they are ordering, I know what they are ordering, Charlie the owner knows what they are ordering, but he presents the menus nonetheless.

Let’s go through the process of removing reading glasses from pockets to read the fairly extensive menu. And, let’s even ask questions about other dishes. What’s this? What’s in that? Mmm that sounds good.

That’ll be two Chicken Dhansaks (£6.25) please, they say, and the waiter collects the menus with a knowing smile. The Dhansak couple have been coming here for years and say this is the best Dhansak they have ever found. I’m not surprised, the chef at Chilli Nights must have had enough practice by now.

So it’s left to me to order something a bit more unusual to hold our table’s end up. Maybe an Ayre Sizzler (£11.95)? Maybe a Chicken Manchuria (£7.95)?

But the truth is I fancy a Dopiaza or a Rogan. You’d think no restaurant can go wrong with old school classics but many still mess it up. Not Chilli Nights. The classics still hit the spot over and over. Chicken Rogan (£6.25) wins the day. I order a Batak Tikka (£4.85) starter just so the chefs don’t think we are stuck in the 1980s, but as I demolish the last chunks of the Rogan I think to hell with it and go for a Lemon Sorbet.

Sometimes you know what you want and if you are in a restaurant that always delivers then why not? Just ask the Dhansak couple.

Chilli Nights, 64 Weyhill, Haslemere, Surrey, GU27 1HN. Tel: 01428 644 288.

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

 

Settling in to SE3

Chinipan, SE3

Usually, no matter which corner of London you visit you will find a curry house. So why has there not been one in Blackheath Standard for the last umpteen years? Luckily the rain has come to the desert in the form of Chinipan, a smart Bangladeshi-run place in the premises of the old hardware store.It’s only been open a few months and I’m pleased to see it’s going strong.

The name, meaning sweet leaf, is used on a few of the specials on the menu. I tried the Chinipan Fish Curry (£8.95), with tender, large chunks of salmon. The fish is marinated overnight then sealed in the tandoor for a few minutes before joining the spicy, creamy coconut sauce. A touch of smoked tamarind keeps your taste buds alive throughout.The Chicken Tikka starter (£5.50) was tender and moreish, and a fan of Biryani assured me the chicken version (£10.95) they had was excellent too. It certainly disappeared quickly.

Service is friendly but relaxed and there is an attractive lunch deal (£8.99 for two courses, £10.99 for three) which means it is one of the few local curry places where I often see people eating in the day. The decor is smart, if a little sparse, but it looks as if the team is slowly building a good reputation in this part of SE3.

The restaurant is now fully licensed after a spell of BYO when it first opened at the end of 2016

Chinipan, 15 Old Dover Road, Blackheath, London, SE3 7BT. Tel: 020 8853 5800. Open: daily noon – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7.5
Decor 6
Service and friendliness 8
Vibe (early Wednesday night) 6
Value 8

Higher ground

Everest, SE3

The residents of Blackheath are, of course, blessed with plenty of good restaurants, and it’s always nice to visit the classy Everest Inn. Beautiful décor and smooth service underpin the excellent food.

It’s hard to resist the Lamb Momos (£5.95) when there’s a Nepalese kitchen. So I didn’t. They were as tasty as ever and complemented by the Beetroot Paneer Parcels (£5.95) – a superb pairing, with the beetroot’s slight crunch and the pastry really adding something extra to the cheese, as well as adding a glorious dash of colour to the plate.

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But that’s enough veg he cries, we are in a Nepalese after all. Good, hearty meat is called for from this hilly, cold region (Blackheath). Lasun Khursani (£9.95) and Lamb Gurkhali (£10.95) are certainly hearty and both are popular Nepalese dishes.

The Lasun Khursani is a home-style curry cooked with chillies and onions and is up there with a Madras when it comes to heat the menu said, although I’d say the dial was turned down when I tried it. Tasty nonetheless. The Lamb Gurkhali is a similar strength in the hot stakes and also uses chillies. The latter, I’ve noticed is becoming a bit of a favourite as people become more familiar with Nepalese food.

Everest Inn, 41 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0TJ. Tel: 020 8852 7872. Open: Sunday to Thursday: 5.30pm – 11pm. Friday to Saturday 5.30pm – 11.30pm.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 8
Decor 9
Service and friendliness 8
Vibe (early Wednesday night) 8
Value 8

Looking south

Pathiri, SE10

Fed up with identikit Indian restaurants and their identikit menus (same old, same old)? Pathiri in Greenwich’s Trafalgar Road could be just what you are looking for. This unassuming little place specialises in Keralan food, the home region of the friendly owner Kutty – and there are plenty of interesting dishes to try.

First up it has to be a couple of the South Indian dosas, the slightly sweet crispy pancakes (think crepes). The Ghee Roast Dosa (£4.75), with a hint of cheese, is a nice way to test the water or go for the more hearty Masala Dosa (£4.99), which is packed with potato, spinach and Nigella seeds (black cumin). The dosas are very large and come with an array of sauces so I’d advise the latter is shared if you don’t want to completely dent your appetite for the main courses.

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Masala dosa
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Clockwise from top left: Vegetable Korma, Cabbage Thoran, Fish with Cassava, mixing the fish with the sauce, the sauce for the fish, pilau rice.

There is a small choice of old-school dishes (Tandoori Chicken anyone?) if you really must, but fish has to be the way to go. Kappa with Fish Curry (fish mixed with cassava and served with a spicy sauce, £9.99) is a heavy, tasty dish and is recommended along with the Green Mango Fish Curry (£7.25). Both dishes use fresh coconut and have a good kick. Plain pilau rice (£2.50) or a Keralan Paratha (£2.50) are the best accompaniments, and coconut rice (£3.50) an overload of the fairground favourite.

Elsewhere, vegetable lovers will rejoice at the array of choices with dishes of beetroot, okra, eggplant, beans spinach, paneer and eggs all on the menu (from £4.50 as side dishes). But most importantly, Pathiri has a chef who takes his vegetables seriously (the Cabbage Thoran, £4.50, was probably the best cabbage dish I have ever had) and not as an afterthought to sit sadly next to the meat dishes.

Pathiri operates a BYO policy and on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes you can try a range of dishes with their South Indian Thalis (£8.99 veg, £9.99 non-veg).

Pathiri, 119 Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9TX. Tel: 020 8858 1220. E-mail: info@pathiri.co.uk.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7.5
Decor 5
Service and friendliness 8
Atmosphere 6 (Wednesday evening)

Value 8

Chop chop

Lahore, E1

“I pretty much just end up eating plates of chops when I go to Lahore,” I tell my friend, who is heading to this iconic restaurant for the first time.

“What? No curry?” he asks, as if a night without the spicy tomato and onion sauce at least somewhere on the table, would be plain wrong.

A short while later he looks up from a mound of red meat, his hands covered in tasty juices from the plate, and exclaims: “I can see why you eat chops here!”

We’ve ordered two plates of their chops (£9.95 for five) and are tucking in. Lahore really do make the chops in most other places seem like mini offcuts. This large Pakistani restaurant is often referred to as an institution, so engrained is it in the way of life in Whitechapel. There are other restaurants in the same area called Lahore One and Lahore Two, although neither, as far as I am told, are run by the same owners. Lahore is the daddy and chops is the dish of choice. Plate after plate of these mouth-watering chunks of marinated meat head out of the open kitchen, where you can watch flashes of flame bursting from dishes as they are cooked. The spice marinade is rich and the balance between slightly charred edges and the tasty fattiness of the lamb is perfect. A huge plate of fresh salad, which is routinely placed on every table as guests arrive is the ideal mouth cleanser from the grease when fingers are licked clean.

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You can’t book in this canteen-style restaurant and it’s not uncommon to see a queue snaking out into the road. But once in you’ll join the hustle and bustle of a truly working restaurant, with a stream of waiters seamlessly delivery those fresh salads, jugs of water water, glasses for your drinks (it’s a BYO) taking orders and delivering dishes. And all this amid a throng of happy diners. This not a place where people whisper quietly, it’s where they fully embrace the food with gusto. It’s where there was restaurant theatre long before some PR person thought they’d attach the tag to the restaurant of some TV chef’s venue.

One curry club I know refuse to eat anywhere else; every month they meet here and tuck in. To chops no doubt.

But there is way more if you can force yourself from the lamb. Each day there is a special, said to recreate favourites from the streets of Lahore (how about Chicken Haleem, £10, on the weekend?). The Onion Bhaji (£3.50) is so fresh from the oil you’d be advised to wait a while before picking the pieces up unless you have asbestos fingers. And the Chicken Kebab Roll (£3.50) is a nice tandoori break from the lamb.

But if you still yearn for a “curry” they are all there waiting: Karai Gosht (£9.50), Chana Masala (£7), Chicken Biryani (£9.75), even Fish Curry (£9.50). But I must admit, with the meat coursing through my veins after the chops, I usually just overload with a Keema Curry (£9,50) and accept that this was a meat day without any doubt

Lahore, 2 Umberston Street, London E1 1PY. Tel: 020 7481 9737. Open: daily 11.30am – 1am.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 9
Decor 5
Service and friendliness 7.5
Vibe 10 (Tuesday evening)

Value 9

Village spice

Kasturi, SE7

When you read from a food writer (Solange Berchim in the Greenwich Visitor) that the curry she ordered from Kasturi in Charlton was one of the best she had tasted, it is time to take notice.

The Greenwich Curry Club had a mammoth Christmas curry here when it was called the Viceroy, so we clearly needed to check out the venue’s new incarnation. After a couple of warm-up drinks in the friendly White Swan we skipped the starters and headed straight for the mains.

I’m currently on a Vindaloo rush and the chicken one (£6.95) was spot on – well spiced and a decent amount of vinegar. It’s amazing how many restaurants ease up on that ingredient when it’s a core part of the Goan dish.

Elsewhere on the table, the Lal Maas (£9.95 ), a Rajasthani lamb dish, didn’t explode in heat as we expected from the menu’s description, but it disappeared nonetheless, along with a Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani and Mashq-e-Tanjan, the chicken version of the same dish (both £9.95). Considering there were the remnants of a Keema nan (£2.95) and pilau rice (£2.95), an empty bottle of red wine and a few Cobras littering the table, the final tally of under £20 a head was exceptional for this quality.

I particularly like the tight menu, in particular only listing a handful of “speciality” dishes. Now, that is a restaurant that is confident in itself and one where you can be more confident that the chef actually does specialise in those dishes.

Kasturi, 10 The Vilage, Charlton, London, SE7 8UD. Tel: 020 8319 3439. E-mail: info@kasturi-restaurant.com. Open: daily 5.30pm – 11pm.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 8
Decor 7.5
Service and friendliness 8.5
Vibe (early Wednesday night) 7
Value 8