Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Look who's in The India Daily!




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Rang Mohol


Tonight, we hit the The Rang Mohol.
This has been a well over due target for us for some time now and I am so glad we have finally managed to visit. Sadly, thanks to geographical inconveniences, a lack of time and a serious lack of money,  it has not been a possibility, until now!

The Rang Mohol is the sister restaurant of The Lalbagh in Bourne and is located in the fine town of Sawston, just south of Cambridge. It is an award winning restaurant (English Curry Awards 2014) so should serve us well. 

Lets see what the fuss is about. 


The first thing I like about this restaurant is that is has free parking in the back. It sounds trivial I know, but it makes a big difference when coming from out of town (which is probably for most people in this case).  
I do not know if this is just the man inside me or some sort of weird Simon thing, but I would much rather drive all the way out to Sawston and not have to worry about where to put my car, or worse yet, pay for parking my car, then actually drive in to Cambridge, which is actually a much shorter journey. 

The wheel chair access to this restaurant is fantastic and actually the best I have ever seen in an Indian restaurant. Not surprising really after my Disability access blog post the other week where someone from the restaurant actually challenged us to visit and test their restaurant and test their disabled access. So clearly they are confident and I can see why. Well done guys! 

I would recommend this to anyone who is wheelchair bound.


Once you enter, the first thing you notice is how modern the place looks. Like its sister restaurant, Lalbagh, it has a water themed look to it, with blue neon lighting. This makes the place look very modern and atmospheric but also quite hard to take pictures with a poor camera phone, so I apologize again (new camera coming soon, I promise!).
 The water walls (with bubbles) were a real winner for me, it just made everything feel so mellow. This would be an ideal place to impress a work college, boss or a date if you wanted to show them some sophistication...but still just wanted a good curry!


The staff were very polite, well presented and tended to our every need. We were seated in a fantastic spot in the corner which overlooked the restaurant. The whole place is very clean and the toilets especially are incredibly classy. We really liked the blue lights on each of the tables, they gave us that bit extra light which was really needed considering how dim it was in there.


We ordered some poppadoms while we decided what we wanted. The menus are fantastic and incredibly varied, catering for traditional Indian cuisine and more standard British Indian dishes too, so there is something for everyone, including a good fish selection.
They brought out the poppadoms quite quickly and gave us four side sauces in white china pots. Yogurt, lime pickle, mango chutney and onion salad. The yogurt was quite runny and unfulfilling but everything else was spot on. The onion salad especially was fantastic. Over all very impressive. 

There was Mongoose and Kingfisher beer on tap at the bar, though as I was driving we decided to just have a can of coke. The prices were over £4 for a pint, so be careful!

Shorisha seabass.

The Rang Mohol are known for their sea bass, so naturally I found it hard to resist the temptation. 
I went for the "Shorisha seabass", which is a pan fried seabass with coriander, cumin and served on ground mustard seeds. This came excellently prepared in a fish shaped dish, which impressed me more than it probably should have, but was a nice touch either way. 
I couldn't help but think if it had come with a few extra potatoes then it would have been a perfect dish in its own right. I think they were trying to encourage people to buy rice with it as it had a lot of spicy sauce. After looking at the menu and seeing that the rice portions were nearly £4, I thought that id give it a miss. Nice try fellas. 
All things considered, the 3 small potatoes nearly sufficed, and the over all experience of the dish was very good. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys something a bit different or quite simply loves sea bass. 


The korma was no different. It was well presented (if you ignore the picture), it had a fantastic texture to it and it also just burst with sweet flavour. The prawns were quite small but tasted fine. There were no complaints all around with this dish.


Once we were done we were asked for coffee or dessert, which we both declined. We were keeping it short and sweet tonight. We were offered a chocolate, some orange, and a blue packaged hot towel (warm wet wipe) to freshen up with. Which was a nice touch as a lot of places are not so generous now days. Once we paid, we left the building. The staff were polite enough to walk us out and open the door for us. No complaints all round. 

The bill came to much less than it did at Frankie And Benny's, so that might be something to consider. You can have fine delicacies while dining in modern restaurants without paying for the earth. Not to mention fantastic access and disabled facilities.

Conclusion:

I loved the Rang Mohol, as I did the Lalbagh. Though I don't think both restaurants are for everyone. 
The place is modern, sophisticated and quite atmospheric. I think some people might not like how dim and dark it is in here, and perhaps prefer a place with more light or somewhere with more of a traditional feel. Otherwise there is not really much to fault here.

Prices are a little over average, though the food is fantastic and easily worth it. The selection of food is even better, with menus catering for traditional Indian cuisine and more British Indian styles of cooking too, so there is something for everyone. The fish selection is fantastic too.

Its clear to see why Rang Mohol has won awards and gets a lot of respect within the industry. It has clearly put a lot of effort in to its cuisine, image, and its service. Not to mention catering for its customers.

4.5/5





Monday, February 2, 2015

Navadhanya - 5 star Indian food comes to Cambridge!


Another day another fine Indian restaurant opens in our city! 

This restaurant is not your typical spicy slop in a bucket (which seems to be the standard in our country for Indian food these days). The Navadhanya has set itself up as a high end Indian establishment with chefs from 5 star and Michelin rated backgrounds, setting a whole new benchmark of standards for the city.

Located in the old "Bird In Hand" pub on Newmarket Road, opposite the Grafton Centre and "The Zebra" pub, this place seems to snuggle in nicely to a very crowded market in Cambridge. The only Indian restaurant close by is the Raja on King Street which offers more traditional British Indian style so is a very welcome addition to the city without stepping on anybodies toes.
Hopefully there will be a time in our lives when we shouldn't ever have to walk more than 5 minutes for a curry in Cambridge! One can dream but this could soon be a reality at this rate!


The place is decorated with bright blue lights upon entering so the restaurant is not hard to find. Once inside you are warmly greeted by incredibly polite and friendly staff who offer to take your coats. The place is modern and very new. I wouldnt say the place has an overly homely or atmospheric feel to it but as the night went on the lights dimmed and we both felt incredibly cosy. 

Considering this place is not your traditional British Indian restaurant, things such as vindaloo were not on the menu. So I had to climb out the sty, hose off the slop, and act like a human being for the night and try some of the finer delicacies on the menu. Something I was more than willing to oblige with mind! 




The prices were understandably higher than what I am used too, being a higher end restaurant. A Biriyani (without rice) was around the £11-£15 mark and the main courses were hovering around £13-£19 each. Beer was reasonably priced, however at £3.50 (with a selection of Kingfisher and Cobra on tap). Rice and Naan were around £2.50, which was not too bad, but you can easily see how two people could easily rack up £60-70 at a time here.

After looking at the menu we decided to take them up on their 7 course promotion, which is a set selection of different dishes from all over India. I thought this would be an ideal way to sample what this restaurant, and the country of India, has to offer. 
After all, this is a place I probably couldn't afford to come back to very often, so lets make the most of it!
The 7 course menu came to around £30 a head but gives you a selection of different things including prawns, salmon, chicken, lamb and dessert. Considering a Biriyani, rice and a naan would have been well over £20 I didnt think it was a bad deal. 

We ordered some poppadoms while we waited for our food to be prepared, which was presented in a basket with three side sauces. No lime pickle or onion salad here, even on request. From memory the sauces were mango chutney, yogurt and some sort of chili sauce. Each sublime and full of flavour with a great texture, though incredibly stingy portions. We managed to make it last with some economising but felt we could have had at least a little dollop more. 


The service was incredibly quick and the food was brought out almost immediately after our poppadoms were finished. The courses were brought out little and often so you were constantly being served and had something new to experience and talk about while dining. 
Its a great way to eat and I loved the experience, I couldn't recommend it enough. Each dish was not a massive portion but it was all excellently prepared and of an incredibly fine standard. 

The first thing to arrive was the Masala Dosa, one of my favourite dishes. When it was brought out the head waiter came over and explained the dish to us, telling us exactly what we had ordered, what was in it and what kind of work went in to the dish . Considering that we ordered 7 different dishes, it was greatly appreciated to be reminded through the night and it really made you feel like you were being taken on a journey with them. 


The Masala Dosa was excellently presented but a little different to what I am used too. My experience of Masala Dosa is dining at Cocum with a giant pancake roll which has a form of mashed potato inside. This was more of an appetizer than anything else, but it was full of so much flavour and spice. It really went down a treat, I could have eaten many more of these if I had the chance! 

Once we had finished (which didn't take long), the next dish was out. The Salmon and Prawn tandoori. Sadly my low quality camera phone does this picture absolutely NO justice at all (I am trying to get a new camera sorted soon, sorry folks!). 


As usual, the dish was well presented. You could tell that these chefs were from a high end background as everything was a work of art. Though it doesn't just stop at the kitchen here as the customer service matches to boot. The waiter, again, came over and explained the dish to us giving us a very detailed explanation of everything that went in to making it. They really look after you here, they really couldn't do enough for us!

The prawn was absolutely huge! It was succulent, full of flavour and just so juicy. It reminded me of the fantastic prawns I had at The Rice Boat in Newnham.
 The salmon just fell apart when you pulled it with your fork. A simple dish with not much complexity to it but still, it managed to blow me away with flavour and texture. Easily some of the best salmon I have ever had in my life, and the prawn was certainly a contender too!
I am not a huge fish man myself but we both had absolutely no trouble devouring them both. 

Gone!


Once we were done with the previous dish  we were presented with a Granita strawberry ice dish. It is like a refreshment dessert, but in the middle of our journey of sampling rather than at the end. It felt like it was there to give you a breather from the heavier eating and hydrate you a little.  It was greatly appreciated and something I thought was a very good idea, though nothing which blew me away in itself. It was a bit of an anti climax perhaps after the bar had been set so high for everything else.


Next on the list was the Afghani Murgh, which is tandoored chicken. Again, a very common and basic dish, but somehow they have managed to make this chicken burst with flavour. Not overly spicy, but that didn't matter, the flavours were incredible. The chicken just fell off the bone and was incredibly juicy. A lot of places get chicken wrong and leave it too dry, often leaving the sauce to cover it up. The chicken came with a small dollop of sauce but it still had so much moisture and succulence to it.

Next was the Lamb Varathu Curry, serviced with ground spices and coconut milk. This was the closest thing I got to a real "curry" all night.  It came with rice, garlic naan and Dal Tadka soup. 


Everything was well presented, as usual. There was so much to take in here, as up until now we had only been given tiny little dishes. This certainly came across as the main meal of the evening. 

The lamb was so tender and rich in flavour. They got it absolutely spot on. It wasn't too fatty, it fell apart on my fork, and it melted in our mouths. The sauce had a nice kick to it but it was also bursting with complex flavours. 
The Dal Tadka was not my cup of tea though I could appreciate its appeal to others. The rice was cooked well and the garlic naan was well presented and cooked just right. There was a lot of colour to make the bread look quite herby but lacked much of the flavour you would expect from eating a garlic naan. That being said, its texture was perfect for mopping up the sauce from the Lamb Vatathu. So though we were in a fancy high end place, we were still able to wipe up the plate like a back alley Indian on Brick Lane! 

Sensational! 


The last dish to come out was the dessert. A chocolate mouse and mango kulfi. Both looked like they would be quite soft and full of air, but on digging in with my spoon I was incredible surprised (and pleased!) to see how thick the dishes were. They were incredibly sweet and quite filling. They were also very small but they did have a lot of substance to them. After finishing them off, I naturally wanted more as it was so creamy and moreish, but I really felt like I had enough so was not disappointed!

Once we were done we decided that we did not want any coffee or anything else to eat. I quite simply couldn't eat another bite. Since I hadn't whoofed down an entire curry within 45 minutes and instead slowly sampled 7 smaller dishes over a couple of hours I didn't feel too bloated either, just incredibly well fed. 
At no point did the staff try and rush us out of the restaurant once we said we were finished, even though the place was getting packed (I am looking at you, Maharajah!). Once the bill came we were given two chocolates but not hot towels. 

Wheel Chair access:
Wheel chair access looked difficult from the entrance with a couple of stubborn steps.
 After quizzing them about their facilities they showed me a side door which chairs can use as its on ground level. Upon further investigation I noticed that the door was blocked by a Mercedes outside, which was parked on a gravel drive, with bits of concrete along the way, making it incredibly hard for access (not to mention a lot of fuss to go with it, including moving a table which was next to the door). 
To their credit though, they did have disabled toilets, though the restaurant really doesn't seem to have much space for moving around. I can see people on manual wheel chairs moving around fine but I feel that anyone operating an electric wheel chair might find themselves knocking tables over and catching chairs to get around, especially on their way to the toilets in the corner. This can be slightly forgiven as the place is quite small and there is only so much you can do. If I was a wheel chair user I would think about this and consider your needs before coming here. They staff are incredibly polite and easy to talk to here, I am sure any of them would be more than happy to talk to you on the phone before coming.



Conclusion:

We were both blown away by the quality of this restaurant. I felt like we have both been taken on a food sampling journey throughout India with our waiter as our trusty tour guide. We sampled a bit of everything that the north and south has to offer in India. Every single thing which was prepared was not just good but of excellent quality.
If I was going to put this restaurant in to a category, I would say that it was in the same league as The Rice Boat or Cocum because it is not a standard British Indian restaurant, but focusing more on the traditional Indian cuisine. The only difference being that Navadhanya focuses on dishes from the north and south rather than just a particular area of India.
 For me this is a perfect place to introduce someone to what India has to offer, as it takes a bit of everything from lamb, chicken, fish and deserts and presents it excellently and executes everything to such a high standard. Nothing I have experienced in Cambridge before can compete with the quality I sampled tonight, and I honestly mean that. 
Absolutely nothing here disappointed me and even though I ended up paying double the usual for my meal, I felt like I easily got good value for money. 
The good people at Navadhanya have added a fine piece of variety to the Indian restaurant scene in Cambridge and a new dimension to Indian cuisine as a whole. 

Bravo guys!

5/5