Long Overdue (review and visit)

RajP

I’m not entirely sure what happened to the idea of this blog being a regular thing but here I am posting again. Better late than never!

Back in January, Lauren and I returned to Raj Pavillions, somewhere we’d visited both together and apart several times over the past few years. It had actually been a while since our last visit (much like this blog) and our first with the intention of reviewing our meal (having said that, I did write a TripAdvisor review after our very first visit at the suggestion of our waiter – said good reviews help boost morale).

As always, a warm welcome awaited us (not for the TripAdvisor review, just because the staff are friendly). Alarm bells did ring, albeit quietly, when our starters arrived – my Meat Samosas were stacked with a wooden skewer through the middle and I’m always cautious of curry houses that opt for stylish presentation. Thankfully, I was wrong to worry, the flavour had not been sacrificed in the name of style. Lauren opted for Chilli Paneer which she did find to be a little on the hot side.

For my main course I chose Chicken Shorba whilst Lauren ventured into hotter territory with Fish Jalfrezi. The Shorba had a great depth of flavour and the thickness of the sauce complimented the well cooked Chicken that we expect with the Tikka style of cooking. If I had to describe it in a word, it would be hearty. It gave the same sort of warm comfort one gets from a home cooked stew; the perfect choice for a cold winter’s evening.

The danger with seeking comfort in the cold is going too hot and Lauren certainly found this to be the case with the Jalfrezi. Whilst it may not have been to her liking, if you’re the sort of diner who enjoys a face melting curry then look no further!

With the bill came the usual after dinner mints, but these were covered in white chocolate. I didn’t even know they existed.

So, we have a split verdict I suppose – I left with a mouth full of flavour whilst my companion left in a sweat. Lesson learnt – when they say a dish is hot, they mean hot! And that’s not necessarily a reflection on the restaurant, more on the choice of the diner.

No tablecloths is just common sense

Yikes, it’s been ages!! This post is slightly (very) overdue, but I’ll try my best to think back to May when Chaz and I went to Maniks in Filton, Bristol 🙂

It’s fair to say is that this place did give us something to smile about. The little button on each table you can press to call a staff member over to order another drink was a personal favourite, (unfortunately, it didn’t make the x factor style buzzer sound effect I was hoping for). We also quite liked the huge-print menus, and agreed it was nothing short of genius that they’d thought to forego tablecloths and therefore the (surely extortionate) dry-cleaning bill.

Our curry at Maniks
Our curry at Maniks

The food and its presentation we were less keen on. We both went for Indian (Maniks is quite different in that it offers Indian and Thai under one roof). To keep it brief, Chaz’s Shashini wasn’t very sour (meant to be a sweet&sour dish), and the sauce for my main (Shashlick) didn’t have the greatest of flavours, not to mention all the dishes were a little bit on the cold side – safe to say we were a little disappointed. But I think we were perhaps even less keen on the presentation. Chaz’s bowl was…..well, see for yourself in the pic (it’s the one at the back!) Not the most practical when you want to get your rice and your bread in amongst it! And I wasn’t 100% sold on the goblet of salad either….

To give them their dues though, the rice was nice, the naan was nice (I don’t think we had two though – which is very unlike us!!) We also felt that the pace of service was good – it was quick, without feeling rushed – a definite plus. Oh, and not forgetting the added extra of Guylian seashell chocolates with the bill, instead of those naff mint chocolates. Hooray, at least, for something a bit different!

So if there’s two of you choosing somewhere to go for food in Bristol, and one of you likes Thai and one of you likes Indian (and you both like something a tiny bit random!) – then this is the place for you! If not – we’d say there’s better out there folks.

Returning to an old favourite

I suppose I should start this blog with an apology to my partner, given that this post relates to a night out at the end of March with a promise to write up our visit mere days later. Two months on and I am finally blogging!

Thankfully, the time delay has not dulled my memory of our evening at Ashyana in Henleaze, a restaurant we first visited almost two years ago and that we have had the pleasure of returning to on several occasions (sometimes without one another – we do have friends outside of this blog after all).

Predictable as I am, I chose my usual starter of Prawn Puri followed by a main course of Hara Chicken. The Prawns were cooked perfectly and the sauce struck a good balance between heat and flavour. But it is the main course that excites me – it must be the best dish on their menu and, dare I say, one of the best curries I have had anywhere. The sour notes produced by the tamarind are wonderfully complemented and subdued by the smokiness of the chicken and the richness of the sauce. None of the ingredients tries to overpower the others, they just work together to deliver a taste you will remember for all the right reasons.

Lauren decided to go for one of the house specials – the Ashyana Chicken. It arrived in a foil swan and whilst we weren’t entirely sure that was necessary it certainly did bring a smile to our faces. With dishes like this one, the taste can sometimes take a back seat. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, Lauren enjoyed it and I found the portion I sampled to be flavoursome, but it’s the fact it is the chef’s own recipe, that they add a little something to the presentation, that it’s named after the restaurant. A curry you can’t get anywhere else is always worth trying.

Given the name of our blog I have to include a comment about the naans, because we’ve had enough in our time to know that these side dishes can sometimes make or break a meal. Some places we’ve been to we’ve found the naans to be too crumbly, others too greasy and sometimes too salty. I am pleased to report that Ashyana do not fall victim to any of these ‘peshwari pitfalls’.

If you’re looking for an overall verdict, look no further than my second paragraph. You don’t go back to a restaurant unless there’s something worth returning for. We go back to Ashyana for the flavours, for the service and for the atmosphere. And once you’ve gone on several occasions, you also return for the memories of your previous visits – these memories are always revived at Christmas because they send their customers Christmas cards, which I think is a nice touch. Restaurateurs take note!

Starting upmarket!

What better way to start a blog about curry in Bristol than with possibly one of the most upmarket Indian restaurants in the city!

The Mint Room in Clifton has been open for just nine weeks. It’s taken the place of The Muset (which closed a couple of years ago), a firm favourite of my family, tucked away on Clifton Road. So when the fam and I visited on Saturday evening (I wasn’t with Chaz this time!), I must be honest we went in with a bit of an attitude of ‘this had better be good’!

This place is definitely billing itself as being far from your average Indian eatery, and with choices like quail three ways for a starter and seafood moilee for a main, that description seems pretty accurate.

It’s an interesting place. The building seems to engulf somebody’s house for a start! Inside the restaurant offers a bar/lounge area (not something I’ve personally seen in many Indian restaurants), with its own bar snacks menu (with some pretty fancy choices!) which you can enjoy before heading to your actual table. A nice opener.

In terms of the food, there were a number of stand-outs. The highlight was the chicken biryani. Our waiter made a point of telling us ‘this is how it should be done’, presenting it in a usual Indian serving bowl (I think it’s called a Balti dish?) but with bread over the top, sealing in the heat! He proceeded to cut the bread with a knife to reveal the yummy contents and amazing aromas – It’s always nice to be presented food with a flourish! It was yum too – plus we thought the price (£12) was pretty reasonable for what was a pretty sizable meal  – so top marks all round for that one.

Whistle-stop tour of the other dishes on our table: a very subtle, really tasty halibut dish with crab and an incredible carrot purée, seafood moilee with a slightly curried sauce and offerings of octopus, muscles and more, and a lamb dish (Chettinad) with a lovely pepper crust – all three courses around the £15 mark. The peshwari naan was deliciously sweet and the side dish of Jeera Aloo was another triumph of flavours. The main dishes and sides were definite high scorers. They weren’t measly small portions and the experience didn’t leave you craving your typical chicken jalfrezi or lamb madras.

We were slightly less bowled over by the starters – some very nice flavours again, but we weren’t convinced by the near £8 price tag for the lamb tikka, the chicken tikka and the quail-three-ways dishes. These were undeniably different from your usual curry house starters (I’ve not seen quail on an Indian menu in Bristol until now) – they had more subtle flavours to offer and the plates were presented really nicely. Buuut were they special enough to command that price? Personally, we weren’t 100% sure.

Overall thoughts

  • The Mint Room seems to fill a bit of a niche in Bristol’s curry scene  – people who want a good curry AND a ‘fine dining’ experience should deffo try it out. It’s not just a nice, modern restaurant – it does actually provide ‘curry with a twist’
  • Try and have at least one fish dish! They seem to be making a good amount of room on their menu for fish, crab and seafood – expanding on the usual King Prawn offering on Indian menus – and the fish dishes we went for definitely went down well
  • Leave room for side dishes! If the rest of the sides are anything like the Jeera Aloo, you should make space for them on the table
  • If I went again, I’d go for main course and dessert, not starter and main. Chaz and I never seem to go for desserts, because wherever we go it’s literally the same menu! But The Mint Room’s desserts looked genuinely interesting and different – I’d just run out of room!
  • Service was friendly and professional – good job really because we were helped by at least five different people, from greeting us at the door to handing us our coats at the end. Perhaps a little too keen?!
  • White chocolate-covered whole mint leaves instead of the usual after dinner chocolate mints is a great way of doing things differently and offering a special touch – a nice ending to a pretty tasty ‘upmarket’ experience!