Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Happy 4th Birthday Cambridge Curry Crew!




Yes, the blog may only be a few weeks old but the original Cambridge Curry Crew group started four years ago today! 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheCambridgeCurryCrew

The first meet up was at the Kohinoor restaurant in Cambridge back in April 2010. 
Strangely enough the Kohinoor is also the restaurant we plan on reviewing next for the blog by sheer coincidence. 
It will be interesting to see how the place has changed, if at all, since we were last there! 

Since our first meet up we have had 17 meet up's ranging from places all over Cambridge to Brick Lane in London, also Brighton and Bristol.

Four more years!


Kohinoor - Cambridge - 2010. April 30th.

I was a terrible photographer :D 
                             Edmund, the bearded guest reviewer, and Sloosh, the creator!




Monday, April 28, 2014

The Curry Queen - Substance over style.

After a disappointing visit to Tayyabs the other night we decided to come back to Cambridge and have a more traditional meal at the Curry Queen, as part of our next step in the tour of Mill Road.

The Curry Queen for me has always delivered a consistent level of service for many years. I cannot ever recall having a bad meal here. As we all know though, restaurants go through good and bad times, so lets see if its managed to keep up the same level of consistency since the last time I was here. 

From the outside the Curry Queen looks very basic and very traditional. No thrills here. No neon signs, bright colours or even a fresh lick of paint, like its rival across the road (Golden Curry and Prana).


That being said, the Curry Queen has never really been about flashy gimmicks, its all about substance here. All that mattered to me was the decent hygiene rating on the front of the door!

When we came in we were greeted by two casually dressed men who were incredibly warm and welcoming. They weren't dressed up like you'd normally expect in an Indian restaurant but were chatty and friendly. They opened up our chairs and put napkins on our laps. You may find this kind of thing is to be expected in an Indian establishment but you would be incredibly surprised how often this isn't done now days. 

We were pleased to see that the menu was reasonably priced. 
We were even more pleased to see that beers were not £6 for a large bottle like at its next door neighbour - Prana.
They have a very basic yet well laid out menu which was easy to navigate through.


We ordered some poppadoms while we decided what we wanted to order.
While we waited we had a look around. 
I hadn't been to the Curry Queen in years and had forgotten what it looked like on the inside. I had peered through the window in the past to see how it was getting on and could only really see plain white walls, so I wasn't expecting too much.
The place looks much better once you actually get in. They have a charming little bar in the corner and a chandelier on the ceiling. It looks very nice, clean and very well presented. There was also some basic art work on the walls. A very well kept traditional Indian restaurant overall. 

When our poppadoms arrived we were presented with the four main sauces in a steel container. A lot of places now go for the white china pots which look more stylish, but what I love about the old way of using the metal containers is that they spin around, making it easier to share. Not only that but they can hold much more and end up making it less messy.
How many times have you run out of mango chutney or onion salad when eating poppadoms with white china pots?  If you are anything like me, lots! 

Again, substance over style.


Curry Queens metal containers. 

White china pots. 

They provided us with the usual onion salad, lime pickle, mango chutney and yogurt. Each one was simply delicious. I really couldn't fault any of them. The lime pickle was particularly nice. The poppadoms were very good too. I could have sat there all day eating them, in fact, one day, I think I might just try that. 

When we had finished they took our sauces away and took our order. We both ordered our usual. I had the chicken tikka vindaloo, rice and saag aloo. Sonya ordered a vegetable madras and rice. 
While we waited for our food we sat by the window and people watched. Again, if you have read my review of Golden Curry then you'd know one of my favourite things about dining on Mill Road is being able to people watch. 


Our food came out in good time. The food was well presented and the portions looked great. The rice was put on my plate as an upside down bowl. As the waiter lifted it off my plate the rice was revealed in a bowl shape which gradually expanded. The rice was a little (and I mean only a very little) too moist but nothing which interrupted the integrity of the meal. 




My vindaloo was delicious. The heat was a little mild (but again, only a little), but the sauce and texture was great. I would say the chicken was a little disappointing, especially since I ordered chicken tikka but otherwise it was spot on. 
The saag aloo was well done and very nice also. No problems with the potatoes and the texture and taste of the spinach was perfect.

By the time I was finished I knew id had a good curry. It tasted lovely, the flavours were all there and I was left with a mild burning in my mouth. Just how a good vindaloo should be. Sonya was very happy with her meal too. No complaints all around. There was even enough left over for another meal later on. So that was dinner sorted too!

We were very pleased to be given a real hot towel after our meal.
They were similar to the flannels you get at home and were served piping hot. None of those cheap microwaved wet wipes here.
This is something that I always love after a good curry.
So many places scrimp out on the hot towels now days and for me is always the difference between a restaurant which aims for quality.
Curry Queen does just that. 

We were given a chocolate after our meal, but no shots or mints. The bill came to about standard price and we were incredibly happy to pay it. We ended up tipping the staff, which isn't something I always do. but they were incredibly warm, friendly and professional. Despite not being dressed as you'd expect.

I was reminded as to why this place is so popular with the locals. Currently the Curry Queen is, in my opinion, way ahead of its other rivals, the Golden Curry and Prana. It just gets everything right. 

If you just want to come for a friendly warm experience and have a decent curry, with a decent atmosphere, for a decent price, with all the traditional Indian restaurant traditions, then Curry Queen is the only answer on Mill Road so far.

The last Indian on our Mill Road tour is the Kohinoor. Its going to really need to provide something special to beat the Curry Queen in pursuit for no1 spot of Mill Road! Though, if you ask me, if any restaurant can do it, its the Kohinoor. Watch this space.

The Curry Queen truly is a restaurant of substance over flashy gimmicks and style. 

4/5 - (itching to push to 4.5)


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tayyabs - Whats all the fuss?

After a night out in Brick Lane a few months back I ended up going back to Liverpool Street station to catch my train. I ended up talking to a lad who lived in the area who claimed to love Indian food and curry as much as I!
Hard to imagine, right? 
He suggested that I try going outside Brick Lane and go to a place in Whitechapel around the corner. The place he recommended was a place called Tayyabs
He said that Brick Lane is often catering for the tourists so wasn't always the best quality.
Naturally I disputed this as I have been to Brick Lane several times now and it has always been excellent.
Either way, I took his word for it and decided to think about what he said.
Once I got home I ended up doing a bit of home work on the place and found it to be notoriously popular with nearly everyone. It wasn't a traditional Indian either, but more of a Pakistani grill house.
The Guardian reviewed it and claimed that it was one of the best places to eat in the city, which for a city like London is a phenomenal statement. It went on to say that the reason it is so good was not just for its food but also its incredible value and service. 
I had to check this out, so assembled the Cambridge Curry Crew.

We ended up booking a table for 5 at Tayyabs. Their website was fantastic for booking and editing tables, which was great because we had to change the numbers of people attending at our table several times. Sadly the site didnt give away prices which made it hard for us to really see how good a value it was until we got there. Some reviews claiming that Seekh kebabs were as little as 70p each, wow. 



The place is in the heart of the muslim community and looks absolutely fantastic from the outside. Blue neon lights across the top with a busy crowd bustling outside. The place is clearly popular with many people itching to get in. I highly recommend using its website to book a table as by the end of the meal the place was so busy it was leaving the restaurant and spilling out on to the street. Which is surprising as it is a massive restaurant and can hold many many people.

We were greeted, taken up stairs and seated immediately. The table was well presented with poppadom sauces already waiting for us, I am not too sure how long the sauces were there waiting there for us, but by judging how busy the place was I wouldnt say that long. A few moments later we learn that the sauces are there because poppadoms are given out for free during the evening at numerous occasions. Sadly I wish I could say the sauces were of good quality, the mango chutney was runny and tasted cheap, the lime pickle-like sauce was basically a runny hot sauce and wasnt too appealing. The last sauce was yogurt which was quite nice but nothing incredible. 

We were allowed to bring in our own alcohol which ended up saving us a few pounds. I would highly recommend you find a super market to buy from before hand because there arent many off licences in the area which serve alcohol, and the ones which do aren't cheap. A 660ml bottle in the off licence we used was £3! 

The staff were incredibly busy and we noticed that once people left a table close by it was filled nearly immediately. A lot of people on reviews have mentioned how they cannot understand how Tayyabs is so cheap, it seems to me that its down to the famous old business model "small profit, mass turn over". They were rushing around a lot to make sure they had a massive customer turn over. Though strangerly it took them quite a while to take our order and when they did there was little small talk, we got a very strong feeling that we were being rushed, almost like we were being timed. It was horrible, and made us feel uncomfortable. It was very impersonal.  

Seekh kebab

While we were taking our order we saw the famous Seekh kebab on the menu which was 70p (and the main talking point) in most reviews I had read. Sadly due to inflation and such it is now £1. I would still argue that it was good value. The rest of the menu was quite cheap, nothing revolutionary, but still cheap. There was a poor selection of food to chose from. Often in any asian restaurant if there isnt something on a menu which is quite common then they are still able to make it for you, not here. Several of my friends couldnt have one or two of their usual dishes quite simply because it wasnt on the menu. Heck, even I couldnt have what I wanted, so ended up having to have a chicken tikka masala. I asked for it hot in the hope that it might simulate my usual dish. 

It took quite a while for our food to come out and when it did the orders were wrong. Drinks and samosas were forgotten completely and our starters came out the same time as our mains. I would certainly agree that the seekh kebab was good value with each one shown  above being only a pound. They were very nice, especially for the price. 


My saag aloo was not too impressive. It felt like two single potatoes floating in a spinach soup. The potatoes were a little hard but nothing too bad, it tasted fine. The spinach tasted ok but was liquid.

Saag aloo

My chicken tikka masala wasnt of the highest quality, heck, I would even say it was quite poor. It was incredibly dry and tasted like it was home made. The ingredients however did taste fresh but the dish lacked sauce and was quite dry. The rice was of a average portion but tasted very nice. The texture was great and was well presented. 

While I was eating I noticed that nearly everyone around me was ordering larger seekh kebabs and chicken tikka dishes. The sound of the dishes sizzling while being carried back and forward through the restaurant made the place sound incredibly exciting, it added to the bustle of the place and really made you feel like you were out on a Saturday night. Though it did make me wonder if I had ordered the right dish. Why was everyone ordering only these two dishes? Why was my chicken tikka masala curry so poor in one of the highest rated restaurants in the city? 

I asked my friend if I could try some of his chicken tikka dish, which he kindly obliged. It was delicious. I really started to regret what I had ordered yet I couldnt understand why there was such a huge difference, as in a sense, it was the same dish! The mini seekh kebabs I had ordered as starters were quite nice too. Maybe Tayyabs really is a grill house only kinda place?  Not for us traditional British Indian restaurant users.

The samosas finally came out, when they were supposed to be starters. They werent very nice. They looked slightly over cooked then left under a warm lamp for some time. In the end we ended up leaving a few of them. That being said, they were only £1 each. Its a shame really because you can forgive a forgetful service if the food is delicious. 

When we finished we ended up waiting quite a while for our plates to be taken away, they were still incredibly busy. I wonder if it was down to it being a Saturday night or just because its always so popular? Maybe both. It took them so long we ended up having to wave them down. We had to do exactly the same thing to get the bill. It was quite irritating and mildly stressful. I couldnt help but feel like we were constantly bothering them. 



We were pleasantly surprised that the bill for all 5 of us was only £68. We were offered a chocolate and a glorified hot towel which in reality was just a wet wipe. The packet of the wet wipe felt warm but when we opened it the wipe was cold. I was incredibly disappointed by this, not that I needed it anyway because even though I ordered the chicken tikka masala very hot, it was still served mild.


When we left we had to battle through dozens of people queuing on the ground floor and out in to the streets. The people too were very unwilling to let people past, it was packed!

Conclusion:
There was a general consensus that the place disappointed, not only considering the hype but considering it was just a regular restaurant in London. If you love a good chicken tikka or seekh kebab for a competitive price I would recommend it here, thats it.

Otherwise the service was cold, incredibly slow and overly busy. There was no room for chit chat and even though I was a customer dining in their restaurant I felt like I was constantly bothering them with my custom.
The selection of food was poor and they were incredibly stubborn when asked to cook something off the menu. The chicken tikka masala was one of the worst I have had. I understand this was not their specialty but I was still incredibly disappointed.

Our hot towel was disappointing too, and there was no sweets or shots offered after the meal.
The place might be considered a fun exciting place to be on a Saturday night with lots of noise, life and modern decoration, but personally I didnt like it. That's not saying I do not like this kinda thing, Aladins on Brick Lane was incredibly similar but still offered far superior food for cheaper prices and the staff still managed to find time to have a chat and a laugh with us. They had better decoration at Aladins and the place felt much more modern. 
For anybody reading this I would recommend Aladins as a far superior alternative unless you are after seekh kebab or any meat tikka particularly. I am sure there are many other places on Brick Lane too which offer the same value and better quality and choice. 

It feels strange going against the grain here considering there are so many positive reviews out there but I can only speak for my friends and I.


2.5/5 



Friday, April 25, 2014

Hitting Brick Lane! - Tayyabs!

The Cambridge Curry Crew are hitting Brick Lane tomorrow night - and boy are we excited! 



We shall be partaking on the famous Tayyabs in Whitechapel. Famous for its Pakistani cuisine and phenomenal prices! 

Our weekend does not end there though, oh no. We will be hitting the Kohinoor back in Cambridge the next day to get us one step closer to finishing off our Mill Road journey! 

I don't think my digestive system will be thanking me on the Monday morning but business is business! So lots of reviews to look forward too and for me, lots of delicious cuisine to come! 

Anyone in the London area tomorrow night, please feel free to join us! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1000 views!

The Cambridge Curry Crew has been up for just about a week now and we have already hit a thousand page views (not including myself, naturally).

A big thank you to the original Cambridge Curry Crew Facebook Group. Also thanks to Edmund and his beard reviews and also my Curry Queen 3, proof reader and grammar Nazi - Sonya Giles, for picking up trillions of mistakes and errors on my reviews. 

We have had some interesting stats regarding our audience with a 1/3 of our views coming from the USA and even people from Russia, Australia and France. 

Our most popular review so far is the Tour Of Ely which is tipping towards 200 views. 

I couldnt have managed to reach this level of audience so quickly without the use of Twitter, which I have recently learned is a sensational tool for this type of networking. I have been networking and getting to know some great people in the Indian Food Industry through Twitter already, and though I always knew Indian cuisine was big here, it has made me realise just how BIG it really is in the UK. It really is quite remarkable. 

Whats next? 

We are heading to the famous Tayyabs, just off Brick Lane on Saturday to see what all the fuss is about. Famous for its fine food and phenomenal prices! 

We shall be investigating Kohinoor (again) on Mill Road on Sunday too. We are planning a "best of Mill Road" review which will be quite similar to the Ely Tour review we did before. We have just done Prana and Golden Curry on Mill Road recently, so we thought it might make sense to try out Kohinoor and Curry Queen quite soon, so we can see which one is (in our opinion) the best! 

Watch this space.



Thanks again!
*Jazz hands*


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Sawston First....At Kaz's



Had the pleasure of trying Kaz's in Sawston recently. I was expecting big things and they definitely delivered.

It was Good Friday evening and we had reserved a table for the 4 of us. We were seated right away, and the waiter rose to tradition by placing our napkins on our laps before handing out the menus.

The place is nicely laid out, and there were quite a few other customers coming and going whilst we ate. Kaz's only re-opened about 6 months ago and had been Redfort Gardens previously. I had never visited under the old management so can't really make a comparison, others have said it is now a lot better.

The decor was lovely!

 

We placed drinks orders, which were reasonably priced and ordered a couple of poppadums each.
They arrived really quickly and were fabulous, the best I've had. They provided onion salad, red coconut, lime pickle, yogurt and mango chutney. All the sides were perfectly done and of the right portion sizes between four of us.


Five sides is a rarity!


We were told when our mains were ready to be brought and we never felt rushed, in fact they suggested we finished the poppadum that we were intending to leave!

I tried a new dish for me, a vegetable Ceylon and vegetable rice. The portions were very generous, I had enough left to make another meal which I took away with me.

The heat level was spot on. The rice was lovely. The only thing I noticed was the chese naan we had was a little burnt underneath but the quality of everything else put this out of my mind.

After the main we were given complimentary drinks, tea/coffee/baileys/brandy. They couldn't do enough for us! The baileys was a nice finishing touch for me, as was the chocolate with the bill. And not forgetting the hot towels which are overlooked by many places at the moment.

I cannot wait to return to Kaz's! It has now jumped to my top spot of Indian's!


5/5

Cafe Naz - A taste of Brick Lane in Cambridge!

Cafe Naz is the sister restaurant to the Brick Lane Cafe Naz in London. It is located on Castle Street and is one of the few modern style Indians which seem to be dominating the Indian restaurant scene these days. 

Our very own taste of Brick Lane in Cambridge.

Its hard to miss, being completely painted from head to toe in black. At night it is brilliantly lit up with blue neon lights which is quite a sight to behold. It has a large glass door on entry and black slate floors which really give it a premium feel inside and out. It is incredibly large, being two floors, and very spacious, so is easily able to hold numerous large parties at once.
Its quite well known for occasionally experimenting with dishes as well as keeping with the traditional Indian cuisine. It has a buffet menu on 6 days a week with 15 items to choose from at a cost of £6.95.
It may have a much smaller selection of food on the buffet compared to Moza or the A10 buffet in Stretham but its quality is much better. So for £6.95 you really cant complain when others in the city are over double that!

Wow!

I have been here many many times over the years, especially in my early twenties, so it has grown to be one of my favourites in the city. It has seen me through times of hardships as well as the good times, its also nursed me through hangover after parties and been the venue of the odd date or two. It seems to have something to offer nearly everyone at any time, with quality, value and style all wrapped up in to one.


To celebrate a good friends birthday a while back we decided to go for a visit.  When we entered we were seated immediately and offered a selection of poppadoms. 
We were offered the normal selection of four sides. Mango chutney, lime pickle, onion salad and yogurt. The sides were served in white china and all tasted very nice. 

We noticed that the menu was slightly steeper than usual (and I bet a lot more expensive than its Brick Lane restaurant).  A curry was over £7, so I was really expecting high quality food here. I wont be marking them down as expensive as they have the buffet for only £6.95, which I have had many times before and is incredible quality for its price. The option was there for me to have a bargain but I decided to go up market, which is great to have the choice. A lot of places are either a buffet or a general restaurant.
Cafe Naz is both!
They had Kingfisher on tap, which was great as its my favourite Indian beer and my favourite way of having it. It wasnt too expensive either which made it taste extra sweet. 


I went for my usual chicken tikka vindaloo with rice and saag aloo. The gentleman serving us was incredibly chatty and friendly, he even verged on cheeky in a light hearted way. They really made you feel like you were part of the restaurant with banter and a genuine warm welcome. 
The food took quite a while to get out to us. It was a Saturday night, and the place did start to get busier as time went on. We noticed people who had arrived after us were getting food before we were. Moments before we decided to complain our food arrived. 

I say this now, we were NOT disappointed. The food was excellent. My chicken tikka vindaloo nearly blew my socks off. It even managed to give me the hiccups, which is a sign of a real hot curry. This is exactly how a vindaloo should be! Not only that but it had that great vindaloo taste, the chicken just fell apart too which really made my evening.

Getting stuck straight in!

The rice portions were average but a good size. Two friends split their rice portion and still had enough for both. My other friend had an absolutely mouth watering chicken tikka dish which I kept thinking about weeks after. It looked so thick, juicy and delicious. You could see the flavour from across the table. How often do you feel like that about a piece of food?

You know you want it!

Eventually after much  perseverance I managed to finish off my incredibly hot curry and jug down my Kingfisher. Everyone was enjoying the modern atmosphere of the restaurant and the fine cuisine. We even had a friend with us that night who wasn't too keen on Indian food on arrival, after the meal she had been "turned" in to a curry fiend. She was ordering Indian take away the very next week.

Has your local Indian turned anyone before? 

We were offered a hot towel, as is to be expected (for all you Indian restaurant managers out there reading this). It was really needed too because by this point I was sweating buckets. We were offered mints and chocolates after our meal, but no Baileys shot or aniseed sweets. 

Our bill was a little more than we liked.  Not a single person complained as we all knew that the meal was definitely worth it. We were left with spirits high and a good time was had by all. 

The best thing of all was that being on Castle Street, we knew it was all down hill to the pubs and bars after! Which was just as well, because we were stuffed!

This restaurant has it all. I would say the meal was Brick Lane quality, I just wish it was of the same Brick Lane competitiveness. The atmosphere is brilliant and the place feels incredibly modern and classy. Absolutely perfect for a party. 

5/5

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.





Saturday, April 19, 2014

Zara - The reigning champion of Cambridge!




Located that the train station of Great Shelford, you'd never assume that a place so easily missed while getting off the train would actually end up being one of the top Indian restaurants around. Being slightly out of Cambridge, you might be slightly put off coming here if you live in the city, but being located right on top of the train station might make that a little easier for you. After recently moving to Ely myself, a roughly 35 minute drive, being on a train link is great for me if I ever get the curry itch for Zara!
Currently sitting in the Cambridge Curry Crew's no1 spot (On its online poll) - Zara adds class, delicacy and value to its customers.

We were waiting outside the door before it opened like a couple of curry junkies needing their latest fix. The staff at Zara were kind enough to open its doors slightly early to us and they led us straight to our table. We wasted absolutely no time ordering our poppadoms...straight to business for us!
We were pleased to see that our poppadoms were out with the four main sauces. Mango chutney, chopped onion salad, lime pickle and yogurt. They were beautifully presented in china dishes and all of them tasted incredible. This being said, though it was beautiful, delicious and great selection, it did mean there portions were small, leaving us a little short on mango chutney.
But hey, i'm really struggling to find a fault here, as you can tell!



It was my friends birthday so we decided to dress up. Believe it or not I decided to go in a shirt and my friend in a white dress. Now normally in a lot of Indians in Cambridgeshire you'd feel a little over dressed, but not in Zara. The restaurants modern and minimalist design with modern art work on the walls really looked classy. If you read some of my other reviews you may recognise that I describe a lot of other Indians as minimalist and modern in a bad way, but Zara executes this style perfectly!

Smiles all around at Zara

Our food took a standard amount of time to come out, which was fine, we weren't disappointed with our meals and it was certainly worth the wait. My curry was delicious and we even decided to try some seekh kebab and saag aloo too, which was all delicious and great texture.  Even my friends vegetarian dish was consumed with little fuss (which is a real achievement! lol).
I really felt like my vindaloo could have been hotter (as I always do) but I certainly knew id had a hot curry. The meal was almost like a delicacy, there was little grease and the food was presented incredibly well.

The longer we were in there the more it filled up. This clearly is a place of quality for good value and everyone here knows it.

When we had finished we got the bill to be pleasantly surprised. It was a little over average for the two of us but we both knew it was worth it. Especially since we were given a shot of Baileys each, chocolates and a selection of three sweets. Yes THREE. So in total on top of our delicious meal we had been given 5 freebies. We were also incredibly happy to have been given a hot towel, which was the icing on the cake!

The staff were chatty and incredibly friendly. They had a good selection of beer and the menu had a great selection also.

Over all I would agree with the Cambridge Curry Crew poll and say this is one of the top Indians in Cambridgeshire. This place adds class and fine food at an affordable price. The place is out of town yet still easy to get to for anyone. There is no doubt that this place would be ideal for birthdays or special occasions.

5/5 - See you again soon Zara.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Indian Ely Tour!

I have recently moved to the beautiful city of Ely. I love it here and it has only taken me a few days to clock all the Indians the city has to offer.
It was just as well I moved really, as I was starting to run out of new places in Cambridge to try, so I have been having some great fun getting acquainted with some new establishments! 

Here is a quick take of my experiences so far. Full reviews coming soon.

Basmati Indian Cuisine: Take away x2


I have just tried the Basmati Indian Cuisine in Ely. A pretty mild chicken tikka vindaloo but it tastes sublime, they get the flavours and texture just right. They do a fantastic tandoori special too. The saag aloo was perfect and we even got free delivery and 20% off through Just Eat, so the value is unbeatable in the city.
Delivery took exactly an hour.

If you love flavour, value and a fast service then these are your guys. If you don't mind it being a little mild. I would recommend asking for it hot over the phone as Just Eat doesn't seem to give you this option.

Take away 1st time- 4/5

Update: We decided to have another take away. We didn't get the 20% Just Eat discount as that seems to only apply during the week, but we did manage to order a set menu which gave us 2 main meals, 2 rice portions, a side portion, a bottle of wine, 2 slices of cake and a chicken tikka dish, for £23!

This is a place really is good value!

Sadly though, the curry we received was nowhere near the same quality as before. The sauce tasted nothing like a typical vindaloo should and it was incredibly mild again. It seems the chef consistency isn't too reliable.
The delivery was fast, though they did forget our cake so we had to phone them up and get them to send it over again, which they were more than happy to do.
The chicken tikka dish was delicious and the texture was fantastic. The wine was nothing special but still good value for £5.

I really cannot say if I recommend this place or not, despite the locals seeming to love it. Its too inconsistent. 

Take away 2nd time- 2/5.

UPDATE 2: I have lived in Ely for nearly a year now and I am finding myself using the Basmati and my go to take away restaurant. They are punctual, good value, and you will be pleased to know the consistency has gotten much better. They have a great set menu options which are very flexible with what you buy and even come with a great value house wine for £5 and a slice of cake. Not to be sniffed at! 

4/5 and a perfect every day Indian restaurant for the locals!


Montaz: Eat In


Montaz in Ely scored very highly. 

The poppadoms were lovely, the dips were generous and the sauces not only tasted great but there was a great selection. The restaurant itself has a "ye olde" England feel to it with what I presume is a Tudor style house, with its low ceilings and wooden beams. The owners have added nice touches of India to it too, so It feels like the best of England and India combined, which in a way reminds me of the true story of the journey of Indian cuisine in the UK. It is almost symbolic.

Service was very good, they couldn't do enough for us and they were always checking to see if everything was ok. The portions of the meal were larger than in most other places, though this is reflected in the higher than average prices, so it levels out at about average for me. 

There was a lovely view from the back window of a small historic square being overlooked by the cathedral, which was a really nice touch. 


Currently Montaz is my favourite place to dine in Ely though I am saddened to say that they do not do delivery.

What excites me most is that there are several more Montaz sister restaurants around the county in St Ives, Newmarket and Bourne. I am really looking forward to giving them all a try!

4/5 - They get everything right but lack that essential delivery service.


Sylhet: Take Away and Eat In


A very fast and friendly service from the Sylhet Tandoori in Ely tonight. My food was ready within 30 mins and the staff were incredibly warm and chatty. 
Sadly the food didn't meet the same standards though with the vindaloo having incredibly dry and flavourless chicken. It was very mild too, even though it was requested hot on order. Everything you don't want from a vindaloo.
The saag aloo was delicious and very generous with the spinach. Even though this was mixed with the curry I still didn't have any left over for the next day which implies small/average portions.
The poppadoms were slightly above average but were sadly accompanied by a horrible lime pickle and mango chutney, even though the onion mix was very generous and quite tasty itself.
Currently the Sylhet is sitting in the shadow of its next door neighbour, the Montaz, which still remains (in my opinion) the no1 Indian in the city of Ely so far!

I will revisit soon as I feel this place deserves a second chance, especially since it is an award winning establishment.

2/5


La Spice: Eat In


 A beautifully presented Indian with friendly and overly helpful service combined with a great atmosphere. This place comes across as incredibly modern which feels like it could be aimed at a more trendy audience. 
Sadly let down by small portions and poor quality chicken despite the sauce being quite nice. This is something I find a lot in a few of the Cambridge Indians, they scrimp out on the chicken quality because they think they can cover it with the spicy sauce. I might put this down to the Monday night chef and revisit soon but currently the food is lacking. 

The prices were slightly above average but nothing too expensive. 

The incredibly friendly service and great atmosphere are keeping this up there as one of my most hopeful Indians in the city. They just need to work on that chef work. 

3/5 for the time being. 

Update: I have been back a few times now and though the food quality has improved slightly, it seems to have hit a general glass ceiling of quality. The food is good, but by no means inspiring. I would say the food here is consistent so you know that you will always get a good meal here, just do not expect to be blown away by anything. I still love the decoration, interior and style of this place, the atmosphere is unparalleled in the city. 

3/5 - could easily he so much more though!




Ely is a great city and has many decent places to eat. Indian restaurants is no exception. They have several to chose from and each one is quite different in its own way.

I would be cautious if you are from Cambridge or London though, as it seems to be a little bit more expensive around here. I am not too sure why but it might be something to do with the lack of competition in the area. I wouldn't worry too much as its only a few pounds difference on each meal. 

Summar: All the establishments differ in quality and it seems that though Montaz for me was the dominant one for dining in. Sadly that is all it offers, with no delivery option.
After talking to a lot of the locals it seems that Basmati is the general favourite around here and it certainly has become my regular go to restaurant too, for take away's. It just gets the balance of value, quality and service just right. 
Not only that but La Spice showed great potential, and adds a touch of class to the Indian restaurant scene in Ely. If it can sort out its cuisine then it has the character and customer service to be one of the better places not only in Ely but in the county.

I am impressed so far but my business in Ely isn't finished yet!

Conclusion: I have been living here for nearly a year now and I am finding myself ordering my food from the Basmati quite often, mainly because of its decent quality, which seems to have gotten a little more consistent the more I have used it. Not only that but because of its fantastic value, free delivery and promotions!  They just get the balance right.
That being said, if I ever go out for a meal I am still sticking with Montaz at the moment, its just a shame it doesn't do delivery.  Even though I have given the Sylet and Le Spice another go, they seem to fail to grab me. Sylet seems to do very average food and Le Spice is a very beautiful, modern and a polite place but lack good meat quality in every dish I have had there.