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