West End curry

Strand Tandoori, London, WC2E

The only thing wrong with the West End (apart from the high prices, the tourists blocking the pavements etc) is that curry houses are thin on the ground. First you have to search for your curry fix, then you get ripped off with the prices, then the food is naff because they don’t need to try because of where they are. Luckily there is the Strand Tandoori.

Okay, you have to accept that a place so close to Covent Garden is going to be a bit more more expensive than your local on the corner of your road. In fact there will be a few dishes you will probably avoid due to the prices (Tandoori Chicken at £15.50 and King Prawn Biryani at £15.95 for instance) but generally it’s not toooo bad on the wallet.

The Chicken Dopiaza (£8.25) was probably the best I have ever tasted, with a delicious slightly creamy sauce that had me scraping the serving dish and thinking there must have been a bit of yoghurt added (the waiter’s raised eyebrows told me “no” when I asked). Great sauce, crunchy onions and perfectly cooked chicken. The Lamb Sag (£8.75) also delivered with an excellent consistency and no shortage of spinach (i’ve been in a kitchen where a sag dish was bulked up with the basic masala sauce to keep costs down). Add pilau rice (£2.95) and an extremely fresh nan (£2.25).

Strand Tandoori, 45 Bedford Street, London Wc2E 9HA. Tel: 020 7240 1333. E-mail: strand tandoori@live.co.uk

Strand Tandoori snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Decor ① ② ③

Value ① ② ③

Atmosphere (late on Monday night) ① ②

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④

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Create your own Balti

We’ve all heard about creating your own pizza (bit of this, bit of that) but how about creating your own Balti? Well, that’s an option at  Sartaj in London’s West End. It’s a popular pre-theatre place and offers lunch and a theatre-goer special (before 7.30pm) at just £7.50, including unlimited nan bread. Can’t be bad.

So this is how it goes. Choose your base (various choices such as chicken or lamb for £5.50, fish for £6.50 or mixed vegetable for £4.95). You add your sauce for a pound (masala, dupiaza, korma, take your pick). Then vegetables (anything from mushrooms to potato to pumpkin) for a pound a pop. Then you tell the chef your preferred cooking strength (mild, medium, madras or vindaloo hot).

Now that’s got to beat a ‘extra pepperoni with a thin crust’ any day of the week.

Sartaj, 26 Earlham Street, London, WC2 H9LN. Tel: 020 7831 1413. Open: Mon–Wed noon-2pm and 5.30pm-midnight, Thur–Sun noon-midnight.

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