Monday, April 21, 2014

Prana - The new kid on the block!

As you may or may not remember the other week I noticed a new Indian restaurant which opened on Mill Rd.

I was incredibly relieved as Mill Rd's Indian scene has been on the decline as of late, with three shutting down in the past year or so. Not only that, but numerous people have mentioned that the quality has been declining too. One of our more recent reviews of Golden Curry has even confirmed this.

The restaurant in question today is Prana. Can it save Mill Rd from curry stagnation? Well tonight I found out!


The first thing you notice about the restaurant is how easy it is to miss while walking down the street. The place looks so tiny. Don't let that deceive you though, as its deceptively large. It boasts being able to seat 50 people and this is mainly because it is much longer than it looks in the picture and also has a two floor basement, with the bottom basement having three separate rooms. 


As you can see from this photo the restaurant goes quite far back and even has outside seating if need be. 

When entering you are greeted by a very friendly man who was actually in there the first time I went in. He is incredibly warm and welcoming and comes across as the owner. The entrance has a beautiful bar with a selection of drinks on show. When you are greeted you are taken down stairs to one of the basement rooms to sit down. 


The basement doesn't exactly scream space, with one of the rooms being as small as this. Even though there is lighting, the place is quite dark because it is mainly neon lighting. I assume they were trying to give it that melodic atmosphere as seen in similar restaurants in Brick Lane at Aladins. Though, in my opinion, not exactly pulling it off. 


Luckily the room we were seated in was the lightest out of the three. It was the largest room too so had more tables, and therefore more neon lights to light up the room. I just hope you are one of the lucky ones who gets seated in there. The art work was nice and made the place look less bare, and though I say less bare, you did get an overall feeling that you were still sitting in a basement, despite their efforts to jazz it up.


That being said, we werent here to look at interior decorating. 
We were here for business,
CURRY!

The service was friendly, if slightly shy. He was quick to take our order and was quick to bring out our papadums. The papadums were incredibly nice, especially the sauces which came with it. We were given a selection of four sauces which was great as many places now days only give you three. The taste and textures to all four was sublime. They nailed it! They really did well here and the lime pickle was some of the best I have had.

Though I will say, once again, like in India House, when you get papadums side sauces served in china pots, they often make the portions incredibly small. They were also quite a small shape too, so it made it a pain to scoop the sauces out, so I ended up making quite a mess!

Well....thats my excuse anyway!


It may be worth noting that I do pack my papadums with sauces but we ended up running out of three of the four, and we only had two papadums between us! 

When we looked at the menu we noticed that the lay out wasn't exactly great. It was poorly presented and though it wasn't terrible by many means I have certainly seen much better labelling systems around. We managed though. It was hardly a massive issue. I would just like to see more menus like in Raja on King Street. 

We were shocked to notice that they had no beer on tap, the only selections they had were small bottles of Cobra beer and Kingfisher and a large 660ml bottle of Bangla. Brace yourself as the small bottles were £3 and the large 660ml bottle (which is only slightly over a pint) was whopping £6! 

I kid you not!


Oh yes, its true.

Though we were shocked at this, we were pleasantly relieved and surprised to see that the rest of the menu was not expensive. Any curry was pretty much around the average price of around £6-7. 

We ordered a chicken tikka vindaloo, a vegetable ceylon, saag aloo side and a rice portion. 
The food came quite quickly and looked delicious. My vindaloo looked exciting and the ceylon looks very nice also. We were impressed to see that the saag aloo side was actually a very decent side (actually comparable to a main in some other places we have been).



The saag aloo was absolutely spot on. They seem to be good at cooking potatoes. The flavour was soaked completely through the potato, you could see the colour. The same was said for the potatoes in my vindaloo too. Sadly the chicken in my curry was quite tough and had a mild flavour, which was a shame because the potatoes were just right. 
That being said, the curry was incredibly hot and it tasted just like a vindaloo should. The thing was as hot as anywhere else in Cambridge. I had to thank the waiter personally as I am quite used to ordering a vindaloo and getting it mild (Golden Curry next door). The waiter said that they have a few old school chefs working in the kitchen, and he then went on to explain that a lot of the new generation of chefs are the ones who like to make it mild for the masses. So keep this in mind if you are after a spicy vindaloo. Prana is the place to come on Mill Rd. I just wish the chicken didn't let it down!

Once we had finished we had our plates taken away. They brought out a poor excuse for a hot towel which was just a warmed up wet wipe. It went cold almost immediately which was disappointing. It was greatly appreciated however as most places don't give you anything now days. I have even noticed that the worst culprits are places which usually give you a blinding hot curry which is when you need it most. 
The vindaloo being as hot as it was, I soon took advantage and wiped the sweat from my brow. We were presented with some Prana chocolates...but sadly no mints, aniseed sweets or shots of Baileys, which was something its neighbour, the Golden Curry, did.

The bill came to slightly more than we had hoped, with the drinks adding a huge £6 to the total of the bill, considering we only got two tiny bottles which were drunk BEFORE we got the meal, I cant help but feel a slight bit of resentment towards them.

If you arent a drinker? Than you will be happy with the prices here, as the rest of the menu was reasonably priced.

Enjoy a beer with your curry? You wont be happy!

We couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with the over all experience. There was a lot to like here but always something to let it down too. 
The curry was tasty and very spicy, but the chicken lacked. 
Though we got a hot towel, it was still a glorified wet wipe. 
Though it was a 50 seater establishment, it still felt like we were sitting in an empty basement. 
There was no beer on tap, and it was very expensive. It lacked all the bells and whistles which would make it a 4-5/5 establishment.

If you want a hot curry on Mill Rd and only that, come here. Its that simple. But do not expect an incredible atmosphere or experience. Personally I like to sit near a window when dining on Mill Rd and people watch on the street, or soak up the incredible atmosphere of the restaurants. This place has neither to offer. If this place could invest in some ways to make the place more pleasant then it could be one of the top restaurants in town.

Sadly I wish I could say that this place is the saving grace of Mill Rd but does have potential.

That doesn't mean its all over though, it does offer another dimension to the street, with Golden Curry being refurbished, Kohinoor offering great atmosphere and special promotions, and Curry Queen being its usual traditional and consistent self, the Prana seems to bring back the hot and spicy side of Indian food which is surely dying off now days.

Lets not forget that all four Indian restaurants are within arms reach of each other too. This new face of Mill Rd is incredibly diverse and balanced - There is just no super star among them!


This photo makes the place look much more atmospheric than it actually felt sitting in there. 

Thanks for reading.