Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Back to Bollywood Spice

After growing up in Waterbeach most of my life, it is safe to say that I have been to The Slap Up Tandoori (now Bollywood Spice) many many times. In fact I have been coming here for over 10 years now. It was the place responsible for my Indian food renaissance back when I was 19 and became a permanent fixture in my life ever since.  
The place has had its ups and downs over the years, quality ranging from sensational to damn right awful. It has never been an overly attractive place from the outside either but despite all that it has always had a special place in my heart. 
It nearly broke me to give it an average 3/5 during our review last year. We loved the fact that it had a lick of paint, some blinding interior decorating and a new name but sadly the food and service was average all round. We saw so much potential in it, if it could just nail those few problems then it would easily be one of the best in town, but sadly it fell at the last and most important hurdles. 

So tonight my friend and I thought we would give it another shot.


We headed to Bollywood Spice at about 17:15 as we were feeling quite peckish and couldn't wait till opening time. My friend has special needs and uses a wheelchair so sometimes we like to get there early anyway as it can take a bit of time getting out the car. Not only that but certain places feel that disabled access simply isn't important for them so we are often turned away at the door (Indian Ocean in Histon) so we feel coming early is sometimes important just in case we have to go somewhere else.

Parking here is great. It is just off the A10 and only 15 minutes from Cambridge. All parking is free here and there is lots of space for any type of vehicle. 

Upon arriving you could see that the place still looked as good as it did last year. They have even added a beautiful garden which added some nice greenery. We looked at the side entrance for disabled access but sadly there was a step. Luckily for us the front door is a flat floor so it was easy enough to just roll in. They could see us outside looking in so let us come in despite being 15 minutes before opening time. 

Thanks guys!

Who's that handsome bugger in the reflection?

Once we were in we were blown away by the modern interior decorating. It was clear they were still trying to keep with that Bollywood theme. They had some beautiful ornaments and an Indian music channel on the TV which was quite nice as I love watching TV from other countries. 

We were seen to immediately and seated at a good sized table. We were handed some very handsome looking menus and we ordered some poppadoms while we waited. We could see they had a reasonable selection of food from curries, specials, biriyanis and grill/tikka. 


The poppadoms were well presented with three side sauces. Mango chutney, red onions and a mixed salad. I had to order the lime pickle separate but it was hardly a bother for them. The sauces were presented in very stylish white china pots and were of reasonable sized portions. The mango chutney was of good quality, as was the mixed salad (though it was cut in the blocks which make putting it on the poppdoms a little messy). At first glance I didn't like the red onion as it looked far too watery, but after trying some I was seriously mistaken. It was very watery but it was full of so much flavour! I was very happy over all and we enjoyed making a right mess while eating it!

Sorry chaps!

We ordered our main meals. 
I was in that mood again, so went for the chicken tikka vindaloo with pilau rice. My friend went for a prawn korma with chips. We had the chef starting his job 15 minutes early. So it was much appreciated!
The staff are very chatty and friendly. Certainly less shy as they were the last time we were here. They were helpful and nothing was too much of a bother!

Smiles all around!

One issue we found for any wheelchair users who are thinking of coming to the restaurant, they have this annoying blind/stand in front of the men's toilets. Despite it looking very modern and helps pull the look of the restaurant together, it does mean that it is near impossible for a wheelchair user to get through to the men's toilets. So my friend had the undignified experience of having to use the ladies. This was not such a problem as the place was nearly empty but at busier times this is something a wheelchair user might need to consider before coming.

 BOOM!
 Chicken Tikka Vindaloo
Prawn Korma and chips.

The food all came out quite quickly and it was presented well. The curries themselves were excellent sized portions and looked and smelled incredible. The chips were something to be desired but the rice was very nice, though it could have done with being a little bigger. 

My chicken tikka vindaloo tasted sublime. It was rich, smoky and full of flavour. It had a good kick to it with the spice too. I even got my trade mark hiccups that I get every time I have a hot dish, so that was a good sign. I remember the chicken being very mediocre last year at Bollywood Spice but this time they had NAILED IT! The chicken was so tender, it was full of flavour and it looked like it had actually been tikka'd rather than just had a hole poked through it like some other establishments. So I was VERY pleased. I chowed down the LOT very quickly.

I wish I had another RIGHT NOW!

My friends korma was nice too, very nice in fact. It was very sweet and had a marvellous texture to it. Even the prawns, which were very small, had a bold taste to them and they were very meaty for their size. I do not order an korma often myself but it was one of the best I have had in my time. It was better than the one we had at Curry Palace in Cottenham a few months back, and that in itself was a very nice dish too.

So in all we were blown away. 

Once we had finished be both agreed we were very happy with our meals. The staff cleaned out messy table and brought us out a hot towel. Once we had freshened up (which was well needed after a vindaloo!) we were given the bill and some chocolates. We were pleased to see that our bill came to £27! We didn't order very much, but we normally order roughly the same every single time when dining together and most meals come to over £30. So by that idea alone, we can say that Bollywood Spice is good value too!

Conclusion:

I really don't know what to say. The over all experience has been nearly perfect. The place has come on leaps and bounds over the years and I am so pleased to see this being an establishment so close to my heart. 
The place is clean, modern and vibrant. The service was fantastic and they were very friendly and approachable, nothing was too much trouble for them. The food has come a long way too as that was some of the nicest chicken I have had in a while and the vindaloo too was fantastic.  All for a competitive price!

My friend and I both agreed that there was very little to fault. 

Access and parking is free, being just off the A10 and there is no trouble for wheelchair users to get in or out of the building.
I just wish they had a disabled toilet as this place would be getting the full marks today, but because of that, and that alone, they shall be receiving a very handsome 9/10!

Thanks for reading!












Saturday, March 21, 2015

Zahza Grill - The final gap in the Cambridge Indian restaurant scene has been filled!

Cambridge has always been a place well equipped with a good selection of Indian restaurants, especially for our tiny population. 
We have even been blessed with a couple of traditional Indian restaurants such as The Rice Boat and Cocum. Both of which have added that extra dimension to the Indian restaurant scene in Cambridge for anyone thinking of venturing out and trying something other than just the usual spicy slop in a bucket. 
That being said, we have still lagged behind larger cities such as London for a diverse selection of Indian establishments. 
It looks as though things are about to change however, we have had a bit of a revelation lately in the city since the opening of Navadhanya a few months back, offering high end Michelin rated Indian cuisine. A first for the city, and now it seems more good news has arrived. 


Thats right, the Zahza Grill in Trumpington has now opened. Offering not only Indian grill to its customers but a selection of Indian style burgers and the usual curries we all know and love, even some Thai and English food has been added to its huge menu in case you happen to be dining with someone particularly fickle (and we all know there is usually one in a group!).

Located at the place I have often consider "the cursed tandoori", which has changed hands more times than I can remember. 
Before Zahza, it was Bollywood Spice, before that it was the Spice Merchant, and that is only in the past 2 years! That place never seems to have much luck. 
I have often pegged the lack of success of this establishment as its location, and it offering of nothing new from what you can get around the corner anywhere else. Being situated at the Trumpington end of Long Road, it is reasonably isolated and can be a bit of a mission for anyone wanting to dine here. If the place offers something you can get almost anywhere else, why bother with the mission? 

Zahza, with its new genre, now offers a wide selection of food and something a little different with the grill theme. So fingers crossed it is here to stay and I wish them the best of luck!



From the outside the place is well lit and has a lot of bright signs on the outside, so its easy to find! Luckily for us the place is well presented on the inside too. Back in the days of the Spice Merchant it was vile and you felt dirty just sitting inside. The place had damp up the walls and had a filthy carpet. That was quite a few years ago now and all that has changed, it clearly has had a lot of work done. You can see it had a lick of paint and a good clean so its looking very clean and modern now. 

Good work lads!

My good friend Caspar and I were greeted by the staff who showed us to our seats. For a Friday night the place was not exactly heaving so we pretty much had our pick of tables. 

We ordered some poppadoms while we had a look at the menu. Which was MASSIVE by the way!

They do a selection of ales as well as beers, which is refreshing. As well as having Kingfisher on tap. Sadly we were told that the taps were out of order, though this might not be the case by the time you arrive in the future. 
They offered Cobra and Kingfisher bottles instead, which was fine, though they do work out quite a bit more expensive at a staggering £4.50 for the 660ml! (Ouch!)


The poppadoms were brought out with four side sauces. Yoghurt, mango chutney, onion salad and lime pickle. All my favourites were there, all portion sizes were generous and were of a high standard. So Zahza was off to a good start! The poppadoms themselves were of a good size and thickness too, so they went down a treat

There was such a rich and diverse selection of dishes on the menu, from grill, Afghanistani dishes, Indian curries, burgers, and some Thai and English food too. There was something for everyone here, and the place was reasonably priced (though by no means as cheap as Tayyabs in London).  In fact, there was so much choice we couldn't make up our minds for quite a while, so Caspar went for prawns as a starter, and I had some lamb chops to give us more time while we decided. 

Lamb chops

The food was brought out quickly and was presented excellently. There were no complaints from Caspar for his prawns and my lamb chops tasted very good. Though I did find that mine was only a single pork chop, and that pork chop did consist of about 60% bone, so it was hardly satisfying for the £5.95 I paid for it! I wouldnt order it again. 

Once we finished we decided to order our main meal. 

I went for the "Zahza Speical Grill" which comes with a bit of everything from tandoori chicken to sheek kebab and lamb, all covered in their trade mark sauce.  I thought it would be a good way of sampling a bit of everything and also a good way of getting to know what the restaurant was all about. It also came with a side portion of rice, which is always welcome with any sauce dish. 

 The Zahza special.

The dish made a good meal. I had a great selection of meats and the rice portion was very generous and well prepared. It is certainly one for the big of appetite! Both portions were massive. The Zahza sauce turns the mixed grill in to a bit of a curry with numerous mixed meats and works very well. 
I would recommend this to anyone looking for something different yet at the same time something quite familiar.  In the end the portions were just that little too much for me and I couldn't finish the last bit, but I gave it my all I promise!
 I would have liked to have seen a bit more spice in this, but I know a lot of people do not order a mixed grill for its heat but a little tang would have made this a lot more exciting.

The Zahza special with rice.

I cannot make up my mind about the meat quality here. I feel like a place which promotes itself as a grill dominated menu should have sublime meat. Naturally I am comparing it to other similar places I have been to in London like Tayyabs, which is a tall order. The meat quality is by no means poor but doesn't grab me either. I would love to know what other people think in the comments below!

Caspar had the vindaloo with naan. I tried a bit myself and tasted pretty decent. It certainly was not as hot as some of the other restaurants in Cambridge but that can be forgiven considering this is more of a grill place. 

The service here is punctual and polite, though a little too polite. They seemed almost scared to make a conversation with you. Often whispering/speaking very lightly. It was quite annoying. Otherwise they were well presented, effective and by no means offensive.


The restaurant has had a lot of work done to it from the last time I was in here, which is great considering the dark days of The Spice Merchant.
Despite the place getting zero stars during a surprise health inspection last year, it comes across as incredibly clean and also had a 5 star food rating now, which is the important thing. There is a good selection of free parking and its big enough to house any number of people in the restaurant.

The restaurant has something for everyone with its huge and diverse menu. I would suggest this place would be ideal for parties as it caters for so many tastes, does many sharer platters and is big enough for almost any amount of people. 
I seriously doubt anyone will leave disappointed, or certainly hungry. That being said, I cant help but feel that this place wouldnt blow anyone's socks off either.  

Zahza certainly fills a gap in the Cambridge Indian restaurant scene, and does it well. It isnt going to challenge places like Tayyabs in London for "king of grill", but it will serve Cambridge just fine. I am really excited about the goings on in Cambridge these days as it seems we have a healthy selection of four different types of Indian restaurants floating around, so there is now something for everyone and is slowly becoming and Indian foodies paradise! I hope this place breaks the tandoori curse and becomes a success!

7/10

Thanks for reading!












Friday, March 6, 2015

Curry Crew 20 - The Tamarind


Its been over four years since the Cambridge Curry Crews first ever event back at The Curry Queen in 2010. Not only that but it was our 20th event coming up too so for this occasion I had to plan somewhere particularly special and of the highest quality to celebrate. 

Not many places spring to mind when thinking about a place which serves fantastic Indian cuisine as well as being consistent with it. In the end we had no choice but to go for The Tamarind in Teversham. Not only does this place tick all the boxes but I have never heard a bad experience about it!

From the outside the building is beautiful, an old school if I am not mistaken, but inside a very sleek modern interior, so quite contrast in itself.

The disabled access is fantastic, the food never disappoints and the service never gets any complaints. 


 One thing I love about The Tamarind is the reasonable price for the quality you receive. The amount of times I have walked in forgetting that and expecting an expensive bill at then end, to only be left pleasantly surprised after.  Granted the beer is a little steep here, but that is a sad pattern I am starting to see in all Indian restaurants. 


The selection of food is here good. There is even a very small English menu for people who are dragged here against their will. They have a selection of fish and Biriyani's on the menu too. They also offer a buffet service on Sundays for anyone in that kinda thing.

As my girlfriend and I were hosting this event we got there a little early and waited for people to turn up. We looked at the menu decided what we wanted. The tables around us were filling up quite quickly being a Saturday night and all, which is always a reassuring sign of a places reputation. 
I decided to go for a Kingfisher beer and had some papadums. The staff brought them out quite promptly and presented the sauces in white china pots. They only gave us three sauces instead of the usual four you'd expect in most establishments, mango chutney, yoghurt and onion salad. I had to order the lime pickle separately, which wasn't a problem for them. 
All four sauces were absolutely fantastic and were prepared without fault. The only quarrel I had was with the portion sizes. We ran out of mango chutney and lime pickle twice.  Over all we were all very satisfied with it.



Once we were finished and everyone had turned up we decided to make the order. I was in a particular mood that evening so went for the old slop-in-a-bucket, and had a chicken tikka vindaloo with saag aloo. Some of us also ordered some tikka'd salmon and a leg of lamb. 

While we waited we chatted and took in the general atmosphere of the establishment. I have been here before and you can read my other review here. The place has a very modern feel to it. It is very open, light and has lots of warm, modern art work on the walls. A complete contrast to the old school building on the outside. 

The place had started to pack out a bit now and was bustling with life and noise.

The food came out with reasonable pace. Everything looked fantastic and was presented incredibly well. 

The lamb looked absolutely sublime. I gotta give Paul credit for this order. It was mouth watering!


Chicken korma and chicken tikka vindaloo. 

The portions were all generous, even the rice. The chicken was all in large chunks and looked like they had been tikka'd properly. I am finding a lot of places now days are simply sticking a hole through the chicken and saying its tikka'd (well, thats how it feels anyway!). I would also like to add that to have the meat tikka'd here is only an extra £1. So it is competitive and well done as some places charge £2!

My vindaloo had a real kick to it. Myabe it was the fact I hadnt had a hot curry in a few weeks but my face went bright red. Just how it should be! The curry also had a bold, smokey and flavoursome taste it to and a marvellous texture. I was very happy with my meal!

The staff asked us if we were happy with everything, as we were and left us too it. 

When we were finished we were shown a little magic. We were presented with 8 little white tablets which appeared entirely innocent. The gentleman serving us then poured hot water over them and we watched in awe as they expanded in to hot towels. 



Magic? No. 
Amazing? Still, no. 
Mildly entertaining and a great conversation piece? Absolutely!  

I always appreciate little novelties like that. It shows the restaurant are willing to go that extra mile for their customer (at no extra cost too!). I have seen this many times before and it always goes down well. The hot towels aren't even a bad quality either. So many places now palm you off with wet wipes stuck in a microwave, but here at least we got a full flannel and a bit of a show at the same time. 


Once we were finished we were asked if we wanted tea or coffee. We all politely declined. 

Even though it was a Saturday night and very busy we were NOT RUSHED in any shape or form....I am speaking to you, Maharajah!  After a nice conversation and a bit of digesting we decided to call for the bill. We were presented with some chocolates and aniseed sweets, The bill came to about roughly what we expected and we were handed some cards and a take away menu which advertised their Sunday buffet service. Something I have yet to try. 

Once again The Tamarind gets everything right. It provides and sleek modern atmosphere with excellent customer service and very fine cuisine. All the bells and whistles you'd expect from Indian restaurants, which you may notice by now are slowly dwindling these days, such as hot towels, chocolates with your bill, and good manors, are all included here at no extra cost!

The place is reasonably priced and has fantastic wheel chair access too. 


Thanks to everyone for coming and thanks to the staff at The Tamarind for a great night!

9/10




Monday, March 2, 2015

Diwana - Euston, London.

Meeting up with my good friend Charlie in London this weekend, we decided to take up the opportunity to try something different. We headed to Diwana, a vegetarian restaurant in Euston. This place has quite a cult following in the vegetarian scene and has a lot of respect from people all over London. 

Its not usually my kind of thing, being a massive meat eater, but considering that a majority of Indian people all over the world are vegetarian I thought I could learn more about the culture I love so much by coming here.


The place is easy to miss on a busy and lively street, but the building still has a lot of charm in itself. 

It promotes a buffet menu on a sign outside for a reasonable £6.95 which I have yet to try. 

We walked in on a bustling Friday night without a reservation and was still seated at a nice table. The place goes with a very wooden theme all over, which gives it a very warm, yet slightly bland feel. 

Wooden table, wooden floor, wooden walls. It works in its simplistic minimalism.


Sadly for me the tables we were seated on were very small. For a chap of 6'4 I felt quite uncomfortable for most of the experience.  I was not going to let this dampen my spirit though as I was very excited to try something new!

Being quite inexperienced with vegetarianism I decided to order a set menu with multiple dishes, so I could sample a bit of everything. I was surprised to see how reasonably priced everything was on the menu. My Thali-annapuena house special was a mere £8.60. 

The Thali-annapuena comes with rice, dal, two vegetables, one farsan, papad, raita, shrikhand, mango pickle and chapattis. So as you can see, the selection was very good value. My friend went for the Masala Dosa, which is a flemented crepe made from rice batter, which is one of my favourites and something I would normally go for in the more British Indian restaurants, but I was on a mission to try something new, so I gave it a pass.

We ordered some drinks while we waited for our food. My friend had a coke and I decided to go for a lassi - A yoghurt based drink which I tried once before at The Meghna in Cambridge and really enjoyed. 

Lassi - A yogurt based drink. 

Part of my order came with something called Papad, which came out with our drinks. To most people a papad is basically a poppadom, which was accompanied by several side sauces.  It was a great appetiser and gave us something to nibble on while we waited for our mains. The side sauces were things you would expect to see in the average Indian restaurant in the UK. 
Mango chutney, lime pickle, yogurt and an onion salad. Every single sauce was fantastic, especially the onion salad, which was simply sublime. The only criticism for me was that the yoghurt was a little runny. It certainly went down a treat either way!


The moment we had finished with our Papad they brought out our mains. They certainly don't screw around here! The place did have a bit of a fast food feel to it but was by no means fast food in quality. Our food was well presented, had a great selection, and looked fantastic. 

I really wasn't too sure what I was eating in this dish, or how I was supposed to eat it. I decided to try everything individually and judge it on its own merit. I really loved the Dal, Farsan, Pooris, and the Papad which came before as an appetiser. The Shrikhand was just a little unusual for me and a little sweet. I usually like yoghurt based food but this was just a little too thick for me and didn't seem to go with the rest of the dishes. 


Thali-annapuena

I enjoyed almost everything I tried, which I was quite surprised about considering I was a fish out of water here. Even the Shrikhand was something I could appreciate was well made, even though it was not my cup of tea.  I managed to eat everything and felt incredibly full when done. We certainly both felt like we had a great meal and we both acknowledged that we had gotten a good deal on the food. This combined with the fast service, there really wasn't anything to fault. 


I decided to have desert, in the spirit of trying as much as I could in a new place. So went for the Rasamalai. A milk based sweet garnished with nuts, which came to a respectable £2.60. Again, very nice, well presented and not too big. I really don't need to order a massive (and by default expensive) dessert after a meal. I simply want something sweet after the savoury. Which this executed perfectly. 



We both had a hot drink after. I had a chai coffee and my friend had a lemon tea. Again, something which was brought out quickly, was well presented and was full of flavour. The staff at Diwana seem to have the routine of this establishment down perfectly. If you really wanted too you could have all three courses and a coffee within an hour and be out. Yet at the same time you never felt like you were rushed. Which was incredible considering how busy the place was. Bravo guys!

When we left we were given some chocolates and a very reasonable bill. 

Even though this is not really my kind of place, I really learned a lot today and I am glad I tried it. I think a lot of places could learn a thing or two from this place. Other than a small table and chair for me to sit on, I really couldnt find anything to fault.

The service was fast, yet you didn't feel rushed. They were cheap, yet you got a good meal. The food was all quality and not a single thing disappointed me, even though this is not the kind of food I generally go for.

For the sake of criticism, I suppose the only thing I would have liked to have seen was a little more friendly chat from the staff, though, understandably, they were very busy on a Friday night, so it can be forgiven.  I am really struggling to find faults as you can see!

Highly recommended, vegetarian or not!

Thanks for reading!

9/10






























Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Maharajah


The Maharajah is one of the three kings of Castle Street. A place my dad and I like to visit from time to time and have one of their trade mark spicy curries! 

We decided to visit on Sunday afternoon instead of having a roast dinner. A much more British way of spending a Sunday i'd say!

The place was completely empty so we had our pick of seats. The first thing you generally notice about this place is its snappy interior and modern yet still quite traditional decoration. The art work and wall paper looks quite bold yet it seems to work really well. The theme matches the red and gold look from the sign  outside as you can see from the picture above. 


Once we were seated we were asked if we wanted drinks and poppadoms immediately. We wanted time to look at the menu (and wait for my dad to turn up first). I had a vindaloo the night before at The Tamarind so I was not completely sure if I could handle another one. We noticed the prices were about average, verging on expensive but nothing anyone would have a right to complain about. 

We decided to order some papadums and a Kingfisher beer before my dad showed. In the end they were getting quite pushy with getting the order through so we felt a bit pressured. Once we ordered they brought out our papadums immediately, it was like they were having a race. The waiter really didn't look like he wanted to be there today either, he actually looked incredibly depressed. I nearly asked if he was ok. He kept looking at the floor, with a miserable face and was incredibly quiet. I have never seen anything like it!


I was pleasantly surprised with the sauces presented. We were given an onion salad, mango chutney and lime pickle. 

The onion salad was quite nice though it was chopped up quite thick which made it hard to eat with the poppadoms. The mango chutney was spot on and tasted delicious. The lime pickle had great flavour but sadly was poorly chopped so you had to take huge chunks.  It was also very watery so it leaked all over the table when you poured it on your papadums, which was quite annoying. Overall though the experience was good, the sauces all tasted nice and the portions were very generous. 

 A different waiter came over to take our main order. I think the other guy must have had to go home or something. I didn't see him after that. This guy was a lot more friendly and lively. He was up for a joke and really had a good energy about him. He did however decided to take it up himself to clear up our papadums and sauces without asking if we had finished. We nearly had finished anyway and I was looking forward to getting stuck in to my mains so didn't make a fuss. This might bother some people and would probably have bothered me on a different day!


I decided to go for the chicken tikka vindaloo and rice (I just couldn't help myself!). My dad and my girlfriend both went for chicken tikka biriyani's. Once we had ordered, the food was out nearly immediately, no longer than say, 15 minutes? I really got the impression that they wanted us out quickly, but I couldn't see why, the place was deserted! 

The food was well presented and looked fabulous none the less. The food tasted fantastic (though a little salty) and it had a real kick to it. As a vindaloo should! The texture of the biriyani and rice were both spot on too. They really know how to make a slop-in-a-bucket curry. Which today, was just what the doctor ordered. 

It didn't take us long to demolish our meals and sit back with a look of satisfaction. The new waiter came over and was quick to tell us they were closing soon so wanted us out (nice, huh?). We decided to order the bill, in which we were given in haste. We were presented with some chocolates but NO hot towels (which we really could have done with considering I ordered a very hot vindaloo).

The price came to a little over what it should do, that being said, the food was very good, the venue was great, I was just a little unsettled by the staff here. They were either depressed or trying to get us to pay and get out. I cant help but think that if they could work on their customer service a little then they would be the hottest place in town. 

Every time I come in here its usually busy, with only today being the exception, so maybe they don't have to be polite? What do you think? I know that this is not the first time I have heard about their poor customer service!

I want to give the place a 4/5 but if you are really bothered by strange/rude staff then it could be a 3/5. Its so hard to fault them on anything else really as they do so much right. The place is unique in style and the food is always good here. The price is about average and the service is fast.