Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Curry Palace - Cottenham.

My good buddy Jim and I decided to head back to the Curry Palace in Cottenham recently after quite a long break since our last visit. This is one of my favourite Indian restaurants in Cambridgeshire as it always offers the text book Indian restaurant experience and executes everything so well. 
Our previous review in 2014 scored well so we were looking forward to seeing if they still have it.
The restaurant still has the stunning bar with a lovely waterfall back drop, similar to what can be found at the Lalbagh in Bourne. Its a theme which echoes throughout the restaurant with all sorts of water features lingering around. It gives a very mellow and relaxing feel to the place and is a charming novelty. 
 The place is quite spacious too, especially now they have had an extension out the back which adds another 20 seats at least. They have upgraded the toilets as well which is a pleasant surprise. Though I was very sad to see that despite all this money which was clearly spent on extensions and upgrades, they still hadn't bothered to purchase a ramp for wheelchair users or a disabled toilet. 
Upon arriving we were seated at our usual table. We were quite taken by the very warm and vibrant art work along the walls which seems to add a very nice contrast to the water features around the restaurant. The neon lights on the ceiling created a dim yet atmospheric feel in the establishment...A very nice touch indeed. 
We were handed a brand new and very modern looking menu which seems to list the same cuisine as before but with some nice little extras. 
 The first thing we noticed was that there was a fantastic new allergy list on their menu making everything very clear and easy to understand. After the recent allergy scare at an Indian restaurant in the news recently this kind of thing is very welcome indeed!  
The other nice surprise was that the menu had been modernised (as well as a new extension and toilets in the back), yet this was not used as an excuse to hike the prices. A curry still being £6.95 and a tikka'd version being £7.95. All other priced on the menu looked about right too.

There is also a fantastic selection of classic dishes, chef recommendations and house specials. There should be something for everyone here and nobody should be leaving disappointed. 

While we studied the menu we ordered some papadums. This is always the part where I get very excited as the Curry Palace has always done a mean papadum, mainly because their side sauces. Today was no exception either as the quality was just as good as I remember. Their lime pickle was absolutely perfect. It was fresh, succulent and had a nice sharp kick to it, like it should. The mango chutney was thick and sweet and the onion salad was chopped perfectly. Make sure you give it a try! 
 Curry Palace - Home to some of the best side sauces to papadums in the county! 
We decided to order our mains after a lot of studying on the menu. We really struggled to decide what I have as there was such a healthy selection of things to choose from. We decided to go for a chicken tikka vindaloo and a king prawn masala. Yeah yeah, I am hardly adventurous!  
 King prawn masala
Pilau rice
Chicken tikka vindaloo
Our mains came out in very good time and were both presented excellently, especially the vindaloo, as you can see from the picture. The king prawn masala was particularly impressive as there were a generous amount of prawns, each one had a lot of meat on them too! The masala may have cost around a tenner but you got a lot for your money. 
Good work lads! 
The chicken in the vindaloo was tikka'd really well as you can see the red stains around the chicken when you cut in to it. I swear a lot of places I order a chicken tikka will just poke some hole sin it to make it look like it has been tikka'd and then charge the extra £1. Not here though. The food tasted absolutely brilliant and the curry had a real good kick to it too! A first class vindaloo! 
Once we were done the staff were quick to take our plates away and offer us a dessert menu. We politely declined and asked for our bill. They came out with some classic hot towels (no warm wet wipes here!) and some very smart Curry Palace themed chocolates with our bill. 
The bill came to a very competitive price reminds me of how good value Indian restaurants are compared to chinese and thai which often come to 50% that. 
We left feeling like we had a damn good meal for a very good price. At the end of the day, that is exactly what you come out for! 

Conclusion: The Curry Palace has a very cosy yet modern feel to it thanks to the water features and neon lights dotted around the establishment, yet still manages to keep its traditional vibe. The food is great quality and provides decent value, with a very generous selection on the menu to boot. The staff were polite,  efficient and quick. You get all the bells and whistles you have come to expect with Indian restaurants now days (which sadly seem to be in the decline elsewhere). I couldn't recommend Curry Palace enough to anyone who loves the traditional British Indian restaurant we all know and love...unless you are a wheelchair user that is!

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Value 9/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Wheelchair access 5/10 
Total 8/10

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Curry Inn

Walking through Mill Road the other week I was absolutely mortified to see one of my favourite Indian restaurants being refurbished. The Kohinoor was one of the most beautifully decorated Indian restaurants I have ever been in and has always had a very special place in my heart, especially since it was the venue of the first ever Cambridge Curry Crew event 6 years ago! As you can see here, it was colourful, vibrant, authentic and unique. It was such a cosy and atmospheric place to dine at and because of that I dined there often. 
The first thing I noticed was that they had changed the name of the restaurant to "The Curry Inn", a very cheap and, lets be honest, patronising name. Peering through the window I could see that they were gutting the place inside out. The walls now painted bright white and all the plants gone. I really didn't (and still don't) understand what they were thinking. My concerns were shared on the Cambridge Curry Crew facebook page too, so when I heard that they had now reopened I was ready to tear this place to pieces. 
 Before - The Kohinoor
Now - The Curry Inn. 

Walking in I was gob smacked! The place was unrecognisable. You could tell that they had tried to make the place look modern, but it just looked unfinished. The place was bare and a mere shadow of its former self. They had a neon light which runs across the ceiling which slowly changed colour over time. Something which was clearly part of their modernisation idea but sadly failed to capture the imagination,
Still the same old carpet!

I was really glad to see the same lovely staff in there as before, so the restaurant probably hasn't changed hands. They were quick to seat us down and ask us if we wanted any drinks or papadums. I was disappointed to learn that they had no beer on tap anymore, only bottles. This is another thing which I had to mark down as inferior to the old Kohinoor because of this stunning picture below...
The Kohinoor taps. A thing of beauty and now a distant memory

We ordered 4 papadums and two large bottles of Cobra. I was pleased to see the Cobra beer was a respectable £4 each. Something compared to other Indians I found quite competitive (Cam Spice - £4.50).

Sorry for the bad picture folks!

The papadums came out in good time and were accompanied by three sides. Mango chutney, lime pickle and onion salad. The mango chutney and lime pickle were both decent. The onion salad was very finely cut and was slightly sticky, like it was being held together by something. Whatever it was it held it together well, stopped it falling off the papadums and added some sweet flavour to it. 

Looking at the menu while we enjoyed our beer and papadums I noticed the place was still very good value. A curry being £5.50 and plain rice being £1.85. Impressive stuff! In fact, you could come have a curry for the same price as a Burger King meal! I know whose side i'm on! 

There was a decent selection on the menu and a lot to choose from. I think most people will find what they are looking for at the Curry Inn. 

I decided to go for my usual chicken vindaloo and plain rice. My friend had the prawns and a particular lamb dish which we have both forget the name of in our haste. I also ordered some plain boiled rice and saag aloo on the side.

 Chicken vindaloo. 
 The forgotten lamb dish.
 Saag aloo. 
Boiled rice. 

The food all looked great. The saag aloo especially was spot on. The chicken vindaloo was decent and had a good kick to it, as it should be. I noticed that the chicken was cut up quite small, I couldn't help but think that perhaps this was done to give you less chicken, as it certain felt so. Maybe this is how they keep it competitively priced. 

The boiled rice was a bit damp and sticky, I think it had been cooked with too much water. It made the dish quite heavy and it filled me up too quickly. It was a shame as its such a basic dish to prepare. 

The prawns were quite uninspiring. My friend seemed to enjoy them but I was not overly impressed. It came across as something I could have even prepared myself. His lamb dish was the star of the show however, the lamb was tender and full of flavour, I would really recommend this to anyone thinking of visiting. 

Once we were finished we were handed our hot towels. They were really needed too as the vindaloo packed a punch! We were pleasantly surprised by our bill which worked out very cheap considering what we ordered. This is clearly the most appealing part of the The Curry Inn, where other places like its neighbour Prana are trying to corner the more expensive end of the market, The Curry Inn seems to be going for cheap and cheerful. Its good to see we are getting a choice here and Indian restaurants aren't all going in one direction. 

Conclusion - As you can probably tell, I am very disappointed by the recent changes from the Kohinoor to The Curry Inn. I really didn't think the place need modernising or changing at all, it was perfect how it was. In fact, from my opinion, the only thing which did need modernising was the only thing they STILL haven't been done yet, and thats getting some online presence (no website, no facebook page, nothing). 

The interior has been made to look modern and minimalist but fails miserably. The place has lost its character and its main selling feature and just looks bland and boring. I am putting its unfinished look down to the restaurant opening prematurely in order to keep revenue coming in while they continue to fix the place up. I might give the place another visit in 6 months time and see if they have done anything else to the restaurant.

The food was nothing inspiring but shouldn't offend anyone either. I am glad to see the vindaloo was served hot but sadly the rice was poorly cooked which made the meal very heavy and filled me up way too fast. The saag aloo and lamb were very good and the papadums/sides were nice also, its a shame the prawns let them down. I really hope they reinstall the three beer taps as it was one of the only places in Cambridge which served Lal Toofan on tap. 

I cannot see myself recommending The Curry Inn to anyone for now, the interior decorating, atmosphere and food quality are all below standard. That being said the place does have great value and marvelous customer service so it does have something to offer. I look forward to seeing what happens to the place over time. I wish them all the best and hope they can make it work.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Farewell to the Rang Mohol!

Tragedy has stricken Cambridge today as we hear the news that onc of the top Indian restaurants has closed its doors...
Highlights for the restaurant include it's stunning interior decorating and atmosphere,  it's excellent disabled access and facilities, and of course, it's fine cuisine. Especially it's famous sea bass.

Though the restaurant will be missed, we are lucky enough to still have its sister restaurant in Bourne, the Lalbagh.

Reminisce with our old review of the Rang Mohol here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cam Spice - Great Eversden

Just when I think i've have tried every Indian restaurant in the Cambridge area, another one pops up! 

Not that I am complaining! Keep em coming I say!
This afternoon, I had the pleasure of going to the quaint village of Great Eversden to try one of the newest Indian restaurants around, Cam Spice (The Hoops pub).  
The restaurant is modern yet set in an old English back drop. The wooden beams along the wall and ceiling are a charming touch. 
There is a stunning bar at the entrance which is complimented by some water bubble glass across the room, reminiscent of Indians like the Rang Mohol & Curry Palace
Everything is presented well and there is a lot of windows which let in a lot of light too. 
The staff were great from the very start and warmly greeted us from the moment we entered. We were seated down promptly and shown the menu. Upon reading I noticed that the prices were very reasonable. Popular curry dishes were approximately £7 each and rice floated around £2.50-£3.50. A pint of beer was on the steep side, coming to a whopping £4.50 a pint, but at least they had two very good Indian beers on draft - King Fisher and Mongoose. 
We decided to order some papadums while we thought about what we wanted for our mains. The staff brought out exactly the number we ordered (no freebies here). The papadums were equipped with four side sauces. Mango chutney, onion salad, red sauce and lime pickle. 
I really enjoyed the sauces though they weren't quite the usual standard ive come to expect. Perhaps they make it fresh or perhaps they use a different supplier, all I know is the sauces were incredibly sweet, some may not like this, some more prefer it. 
 Pilau rice 
 Garlic chicken Bhuna - phal style! 
 The Fish Jakanaka (salmon, pangash, sea bass and king  prawn) 

Once we ordered our mains the food came out in good time. Everything was presented excellently. The Fish Jakanaka was served on a sizzling plate with onions. It was absolutely out of this world and I couldn't recommend it enough. The portions were generous and tasted sublime. I really want to go back and try this again real soon! 

The garlic chicken bhuna was served phal style, extra hot, and was executed perfectly. My mouth was on fire but it didn't take anything away from the taste and the thick creamy texture of the dish. The pilau rice was a decent size and came topped with a ton of herbs and spices, which made it very exciting to look at and gave it an extra depth of taste which isn't usually found on most pilau rice. I cant help but think this is exactly how pilau rice is supposed to be! 

Top marks all around! 
After a very satisfying meal our table was cleared. The waiters were so chatty and friendly and made us feel right at home. They brought us out some hot towels presented in a wicker basket and some orange slices (which was welcome after a hot curry!). A nice touch! 
We were also treated to some chocolates with the bill which came presented in a pot. 
Considering what we had ordered we were very happy with the bill, it was noticeably cheaper than our trip to Prana the other day and to be honest the quality was just as good! 

I was very impressed with Cam Spice today. The restaurant is beautiful, the staff were lovely, there was a diverse selection of food and it was all executed perfectly. Most of all, the price was competitive (though the beer was still £4.50!). Not only did they get everything spot on but we also got lots of extras like orange slices and chocolates too. 

If you don't mind the trek to Great Eversden then I suggest you come say hello, you wont be disappointed here. 


Monday, April 18, 2016

A brand new look for Prana.

A short time ago I reviewed what I dubbed the "New kid on the block", one of the newest additions to the Indian restaurant scene down Mill Road. Yet already Prana has decided to reinvent itself in almost every way imaginable with what seems a very expensive refurbishment.

Prana clearly needed it in my opinion. Judging from my previous experience the place did fantastic food but was incredibly claustrophobic with the seating area being located in the catacombs of the restaurant. Space, lighting and acoustics were all suffering and it really struggled to pull me back to the restaurant. 

All that has changed now and they have done a fantastic job giving it a new look and feel. 

The place has had a massive extension installed out the back giving it a huge amount of space. This makes the restaurant dining area all on the same level (compared to being mostly in the basement in the past). There is now lots of light and the interior decorating has been modernised (but still with a hint of a traditional influence). There is a real classy feel to the place now and everything is tastefully done. I would be shocked if anyone arrives feeling like they prefered the old restaurant.

Classy - Even the napkins were folded with a metal ring. 

We were seated next to the front window so were able to people watch across Mill Road. Something  i've always found fun as an activity and something you were simply unable to do in the old Prana. 

The staff here were incredibly friendly and couldn't do enough for us. You really get the full family business experience here with all sorts of people coming to say hello and make us feel welcome. A nice touch. We really liked that. 

Looking at the menu I noticed that beer prices were ridiculous. £5 for a large bottle of beer (roughly a pint). Sadly they didn't seem to offer any draft beer either, which was disappointing. I would have liked to see them offer a BYOB (Bring your own beer) policy as these prices really made me feel like I couldn't relax and enjoy myself without worrying about the bill. 

Looking at the food, the prices tend to be as expensive as the beer. Most of the popular curry we all know and love comes to roughly a tenner (without rice, which comes to a staggering £4 upwards on top!). That's £14-£15 for a bog standard curry and rice. 

While we mulled over what we wanted we ordered some papadums. They were kind enough to offer us a couple free on top of the few we ordered, which was really appreciated, as you can never have too many papadums!
The mango chutney, onion salad and yoghurt were all quality. They tasted great and had good texture. The pickle was lacking a little. All portions were well presented with generous portions. 

Talking to the very friendly restaurant owner, he was explaining his plan for the "new Prana". He has turned the place upside down and modernised Prana for the new age. He admitted the food on the menu was more expensive than the standard Indian restaurant, and for good reason. All the ingredients are fresh and of the highest quality. Top notch chicken breast, Tilda rice and freshly crushed spices...

...and this clearly showed with the food as it came out. 

 Saag Aloo
 Chicken tikka masala 
Biriyani curry. 

Everything which we ordered was incredibly well presented, tasted fantastic and came out in good time. The food quality was clearly there, especially in the chicken which was very thick and juicy. My chicken vindaloo may have cost nearly £15 but tasted exactly how a vindaloo should, and rightly so! 
The vindaloo lacked that heat which we've all come to expect, but talking to the restaurant owner you realise that this is not what they are going for. They are making cuisine here, not spicy slop in a bucket. This will suit most people though I know there are a few spice heads who will be disappointed by this. 

The chicken tikka masala was incredibly creamy and rich, the chicken chunks were huge and full of flavour. I really couldnt recommend it enough! The kind of people who order chicken tikka masala will not be disappointed by this, they have nailed it. This is exactly how it should be made! Top marks! 

Everyone was very happy with their meals and there were no complaints all round. 

Rice portions were generous, fluffy and well presented. 
The saag aloo was exceptional too. The texture, flavour and portions were all perfect. An excellent side dish to any curry. 

 Marrechi Ponir - fresh whole chillies stuffed with cheese, covered in bread crumbs and deep fried.

We also had the pleasure to try a couple of starters too, courtesy of the manager. 
The Marrechi Ponir is a very unusual dish which I have never tried before. Essentially they are cheese stuffed chilies deep fried in bread crumbs. I found them a pleasure to eat but something I could easily see dividing opinions. Clearly not for everyone but executed well none of the less.  
Nazakat - Sliced chicken skewered and grilled in the tandoor. 

The Nazakat is sliced chicken grilled in the tandoor. Very nice in its simplicity. This dish, without any masala, really shows off the quality of the chicken they use at Prana. 

Once we had finished eating, chatting and taking in our surroundings, the staff cleared our table and presented us with some hot towels. They opened up the packet for us and handed them over individually. 
We were also presented with an After 8 mint with our bill, which is always welcome. 

Our bill was on the expensive side considering what we had ordered. I was paying nearly double what I have come to expect in a standard Indian restaurant, but Prana is not aiming to be a standard Indian restaurant. You have to pay for quality now days and Prana certainly offered that.


Prana hasn't modernised, but revolutionised! The place is unrecognisable compared to what it used to be, and that is no bad thing. They are now completely reinvented and have set out to become a modern, high quality, Indian restaurant, which provides a good mix of traditional Indian/Bangladeshi cuisine and the more common British Indian stuff we all know. 
If you are looking for a spicy curry to blow your head off after 10 pints down Mill Road then forget it, this is not the place for you. But if you are looking for a welcoming, modern (yet still slightly traditional), diverse menu which offers you nearly everything you could want (and maybe some stuff you have never tried before), then Prana is the place. 
Everything is executed properly here and clearly only the best will do. However, just be willing to pay for it as it is noticeably more expensive than what most of us are now accustomed too. I have a sneaking suspicion that most people will not mind paying for quality food, and I don't either, but I see no reason why they insist on charging so much for the beer! 

I look forward to coming back here and I can really see myself doing so. 

The main question I leave myself it this, are there Indian restaurants in Cambridge which offer a similar quality for less?

Score pending...

Thanks for reading.