Monday, May 19, 2014

Kohinoor - The last step on our tour of Mill Road!

The weather has been great lately, hasnt it? 

The sun is shining, people are wearing shorts, heck, people have even been getting sun burned. Its been a real scorcher of a day in the fine city of Cambridge. 

So naturally, it was time for a steaming hot vindaloo!

Next on our list as part of our Mill Road tour is the Kohinoor. 

Well known for its good value promotions and beautiful decoration, the Kohinoor has long been established as one of the most consistent places on Mill Road. Especially during a time when Indian restaurants on Mill Road are slowly declining from 6 restaurants a few years back, down to just 4 - The Kohinoor must be doing something right!

The first ever Cambridge Curry Crew event was at the Kohinoor, which was actually the last time I ate there.  It has a real historic and emotional connection for me and shows how desperately it needed reviewing. If you scroll down the blog you will see guest reviewer Edmund Day's take on it, which he describes as good value, beautiful decoration but small portions. 

He even did a summary meme below, enjoy!

We were so amateur!

Lets see how much the Kohinoor has changed...

We tried going to the Kohinoor a few weeks ago. 
Sadly the restaurant doesn't have much online presence...as in, none at all.
We turned up following instructions from Yell.com page telling us it was open at 5:30pm, sadly the restaurant was not open upon arrival. First we blamed Yell.com for putting false information on the page but after looking closer at the opening times on the door we realised that the restaurant was supposed to be open, but wasn't!
We phoned them up to get no answer. After much searching on our phones (we are more determined than the rest) we found another number for the Kohinoor restaurant, we called and a gentleman finally answers and says that they weren't open today, so naturally we were disappointed and quite confused. So we decided to leave it for another day.

Second Attempt!

Today was our second attempt. My good friend and fellow reviewer Sonya Giles decides to treat me to a meal since it was vegetarian night on Mondays (she is a big vegetarian). When we first visited they had  a good promotion in the window which gives customers a vegetarian mains, side, rice, naan and a half pint for only £7.95. 

Taken the first time we tried to eat here.

Sadly, once we got in they had told us that this promotion, and many of the other famous promotions you often see in the window of the Kohinoor have actually stopped from last week. We were gutted as some of the promotions were fantastic. The gentleman who seated us was kind enough to give us the promotion anyway as we seemed to remember the deal from memory and made a bit of a fuss (though I have a feeling this is something you will not be able to get back in the future).

I will say, even without the promotions, the menu is still good value. A chicken tikka vindaloo being just over £6, a regular chicken vindaloo being just over £5 and vegetarian vindaloo being a meer £4.75. All curries are priced roughly the same too. Very cheap!



Being the only people in the restaurant on a blinding hot summers day, we were seen to quickly. As we took our orders Sonya took them up on the vegetarian promotions which they were kind enough to still let us have. I went for my usual vindaloo and rice. 
We noticed on entry that they had a fantastic selection of Indian beer on tap. Cobra beer, Kingfisher and one I have never seen before, Lal Toofan. 

So naturally we both thought we would try Lal Toofan to try something new.

 A fine selection - £4 each. 

While we sipped our beers we took in the interior decorating over papadums. 
The Kohinoor is beautifully decorated inside and out. It is painted head to toe in a dark blue with lots of plastic potted plants. There are shishas in the window and very traditional looking chairs and curtains. It really comes across as a beautifully decorated Indian establishment, something which is slowly getting rarer in Cambridge, especially with the rise of modern and minimalist Indian tandooris which go for neon lights and white walls. 

Easily one of the most beautifully decorated Indians in Cambridge.

The potted plants really make it look nice. The last time we came in here 4 years ago the plants had dust on them. I am glad they have had a clean!
From the outside you can see shishas in the window which make it look really authentic. 

Once we had done looking at the beautiful surroundings, we had a chat and finished our beers. I cannot say I am a fan of the new Lal Toofan beer. It was quite watery and incredibly flat. It was good to try and expand my Indian beer pallet but I think I will be going back to Kingfisher or Cobra beer in the future. 


The papadums were a little soggy, though not enough to ruin the experience, they just lost their crunch. The mango chutney was mediocre and the onions were not cut properly. That being said the lime pickle was absolutely incredible, the texture and flavour was just right. I was glad to see the sauces were served in the traditional metal containers with great portion sizes, though I was a little sad to see no yoghurt.


Luckily the onion bhajis came out with some yoghurt, but it came a little too late to be used with the papadums. The bhajis were incredibly nice and crunchy. We got four to share which was good considering that it only came under the promotion which Sonya had ordered. We dipped our bhajis in the yoghurt to find that the it was sublime. In fact it was some of the nicest yoghurt I have ever had. It had such a lovely texture and was brimming with flavour. I really couldn't fault them.
To think this came free as part of a cheap promotion was incredibly impressive. 

Our meal was brought out on silver trays. Looking by eye the portions look quite small, like Edmund mentioned in his review 4 years ago. Once we put our rice and curry out on our plate the portions did look a bit bigger, but I would still say they were generally quite small portions.

 The naan came free with Sonya's vegetarian promotion. It was incredibly sweet and had a great texture.

 Portion sizes of rice looked small but did end up being a little bigger looking once on our plates.

Once we had the food on our plates we got stuck in!

The chicken tikka vindaloo was mild, which was a shame, though still very nice. 
I didn't get my trademark hiccups like I do with every hot curry, which was not a good sign for me as I like my vindaloo hot. 
The chicken lacked flavour, which was disappointing really as it was supposed to be chicken tikka. The only way I could tell it was a tikka in fact was because the chicken had holes in it. 
It wasn't all doom and gloom though, the onion rice I ordered was sensational and it added a real crunch to my bite. I couldn't fault them there. The rice was probably the best I have had in Cambridge for a while.

Sonya enjoyed her vegetarian madras, though she claimed that it was quite mild too. 
She enjoyed the rice but claimed that the mushrooms from it were quite rubbery. I had a sample myself and sadly had to agree. The rice as a whole was done quite well, the mushrooms just lacked flavour and a decent texture. 

Once we had finished we both felt like we had a decent meal. I think we would have both been hungry if we hadn't had the promotions to add the side portion and naan. One could argue the portions are slightly small but they offer so much for a set price that its really hard to complain. They give you so much.

The bill came to a mere £20 and that included a pint and a half of beer. We had two mains, two rice, a side, a naan, a starter and two papadums. 
We would have gotten even more if I had ordered from the promotions too.  

The Kohinoor really is one of the best value places in town. 




Once we had our plates taken away we were given the bill and two chocolates. 

I couldn't help but think we were missing something though, something important, something cultural to the British Indian restaurant scene....

NO HOT TOWELS!
(Not even a lousy heated wet wipe!)

I was devastated! 

Only kidding, but still, I was quite disappointed. 
I assume that due to their fantastic value they had to scrimp and cut certain things to keep it so competitive. If you don't mind about the hot towel then the value is easily worth it but personally this is an important part of the experience for me. Luckily the curry was not hot enough to warrant a hot towel too much. 


Conclusion:
If you are looking for good value then the Kohinoor is your place, even without the promotions it is very competitive. 
I would recommend this place for students and people looking for an authentic Indian restaurant atmosphere as the interior decorating is marvelous. They have a brilliant selection of Indian beer too.
If you are a bit of a connoisseur like me and would rather pay a bit more for better quality then there are several places in Cambridge I would recommend over the Kohinoor. They place is disorganised with erratic opening times, no online presence and out dated phone numbers which can prove annoying if you have arranged to meet friends there. It is however, one of the very few traditional Indians in Cambridge left with such a beautiful decoration and feel to it so can be worth it once you make it.

7/10 

Thanks for reading.