Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Curry Palace - Cottenham.

My good buddy Jim and I decided to head back to the Curry Palace in Cottenham recently after quite a long break since our last visit. This is one of my favourite Indian restaurants in Cambridgeshire as it always offers the text book Indian restaurant experience and executes everything so well. 
Our previous review in 2014 scored well so we were looking forward to seeing if they still have it.
The restaurant still has the stunning bar with a lovely waterfall back drop, similar to what can be found at the Lalbagh in Bourne. Its a theme which echoes throughout the restaurant with all sorts of water features lingering around. It gives a very mellow and relaxing feel to the place and is a charming novelty. 
 The place is quite spacious too, especially now they have had an extension out the back which adds another 20 seats at least. They have upgraded the toilets as well which is a pleasant surprise. Though I was very sad to see that despite all this money which was clearly spent on extensions and upgrades, they still hadn't bothered to purchase a ramp for wheelchair users or a disabled toilet. 
Upon arriving we were seated at our usual table. We were quite taken by the very warm and vibrant art work along the walls which seems to add a very nice contrast to the water features around the restaurant. The neon lights on the ceiling created a dim yet atmospheric feel in the establishment...A very nice touch indeed. 
We were handed a brand new and very modern looking menu which seems to list the same cuisine as before but with some nice little extras. 
 The first thing we noticed was that there was a fantastic new allergy list on their menu making everything very clear and easy to understand. After the recent allergy scare at an Indian restaurant in the news recently this kind of thing is very welcome indeed!  
The other nice surprise was that the menu had been modernised (as well as a new extension and toilets in the back), yet this was not used as an excuse to hike the prices. A curry still being £6.95 and a tikka'd version being £7.95. All other priced on the menu looked about right too.

There is also a fantastic selection of classic dishes, chef recommendations and house specials. There should be something for everyone here and nobody should be leaving disappointed. 

While we studied the menu we ordered some papadums. This is always the part where I get very excited as the Curry Palace has always done a mean papadum, mainly because their side sauces. Today was no exception either as the quality was just as good as I remember. Their lime pickle was absolutely perfect. It was fresh, succulent and had a nice sharp kick to it, like it should. The mango chutney was thick and sweet and the onion salad was chopped perfectly. Make sure you give it a try! 
 Curry Palace - Home to some of the best side sauces to papadums in the county! 
We decided to order our mains after a lot of studying on the menu. We really struggled to decide what I have as there was such a healthy selection of things to choose from. We decided to go for a chicken tikka vindaloo and a king prawn masala. Yeah yeah, I am hardly adventurous!  
 King prawn masala
Pilau rice
Chicken tikka vindaloo
Our mains came out in very good time and were both presented excellently, especially the vindaloo, as you can see from the picture. The king prawn masala was particularly impressive as there were a generous amount of prawns, each one had a lot of meat on them too! The masala may have cost around a tenner but you got a lot for your money. 
Good work lads! 
The chicken in the vindaloo was tikka'd really well as you can see the red stains around the chicken when you cut in to it. I swear a lot of places I order a chicken tikka will just poke some hole sin it to make it look like it has been tikka'd and then charge the extra £1. Not here though. The food tasted absolutely brilliant and the curry had a real good kick to it too! A first class vindaloo! 
Once we were done the staff were quick to take our plates away and offer us a dessert menu. We politely declined and asked for our bill. They came out with some classic hot towels (no warm wet wipes here!) and some very smart Curry Palace themed chocolates with our bill. 
The bill came to a very competitive price reminds me of how good value Indian restaurants are compared to chinese and thai which often come to 50% that. 
We left feeling like we had a damn good meal for a very good price. At the end of the day, that is exactly what you come out for! 

Conclusion: The Curry Palace has a very cosy yet modern feel to it thanks to the water features and neon lights dotted around the establishment, yet still manages to keep its traditional vibe. The food is great quality and provides decent value, with a very generous selection on the menu to boot. The staff were polite,  efficient and quick. You get all the bells and whistles you have come to expect with Indian restaurants now days (which sadly seem to be in the decline elsewhere). I couldn't recommend Curry Palace enough to anyone who loves the traditional British Indian restaurant we all know and love...unless you are a wheelchair user that is!

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Value 9/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Wheelchair access 5/10 
Total 8/10

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Curry Inn

Walking through Mill Road the other week I was absolutely mortified to see one of my favourite Indian restaurants being refurbished!
 The Kohinoor was one of the most beautifully decorated Indian restaurants I have ever seen, and it has always had a very special place in my heart (especially since it was the venue of the first ever Cambridge Curry Crew event 6 years ago!).

As you can see here, it was colourful, vibrant, authentic, and unique. It was such a cosy and atmospheric place to dine in. 
The first thing I noticed was that they had changed the name of the restaurant to "The Curry Inn". A very cheap, and, lets be honest, patronising name. Peering through the window I could see that they were gutting the place inside out. The walls now painted bright white and all the plants gone. I really didn't (and still don't) understand what they were thinking. My concerns were shared on the Cambridge Curry Crew facebook page too, so when I heard that they had now reopened I was ready to tear this place to pieces. 
 Before - The Kohinoor
Now - The Curry Inn. 

Walking in I was gob smacked! The place was unrecognisable. You could tell that they had tried to make the place look modern, but it just looked unfinished. The place was bare and a mere shadow of its former self. They had a neon light which runs across the ceiling which slowly changed colour over time. Something which was clearly part of their modernisation idea but sadly failed to capture the imagination,
Still the same old carpet!

I was really glad to see the same lovely staff in there as before, so the restaurant probably hasn't changed hands.

They were quick to seat us down and ask us if we wanted any drinks or papadums. I was disappointed to learn that they had no beer on tap anymore, only bottles. This is another thing which I had to mark down as inferior to the old Kohinoor because of this stunning picture below...
The Kohinoor taps. A thing of beauty and now a distant memory

We ordered 4 papadums and two large bottles of Cobra. I was pleased to see the Cobra beer was a respectable £4 each. Something compared to other Indians I found quite competitive (Cam Spice - £4.50).

Sorry for the bad picture folks!

The papadums came out in good time and were accompanied by three sides. Mango chutney, lime pickle and onion salad. The mango chutney and lime pickle were both decent. The onion salad was very finely cut and was slightly sticky, like it was being held together by something. Whatever it was it held it together well and stopped it falling off the papadums, and added some sweet flavour to it. 

Looking at the menu while we enjoyed our beer and papadums I noticed the place was still very good value. A curry being £5.50 and plain rice being £1.85. Impressive stuff! In fact, you could come have a curry for the same price as a Burger King meal! I know whose side i'm on! 

There was a decent selection on the menu and a lot to choose from. I think most people will find what they are looking for at the Curry Inn. 

I decided to go for my usual chicken vindaloo and plain rice. My friend had the prawns and a particular lamb dish which we have both forget the name of in our haste. I also ordered some plain boiled rice and saag aloo on the side.

 Chicken vindaloo. 
 The forgotten lamb dish.
 Saag aloo. 
Boiled rice. 

The food all looked great. The saag aloo especially was spot on. The chicken vindaloo was decent and had a good kick to it, as it should be. I noticed that the chicken was cut up quite small, I couldn't help but think that perhaps this was done to give you less chicken, as it certain felt so. Maybe this is how they keep it competitively priced. 

The boiled rice was a bit damp and sticky, I think it had been cooked with too much water. It made the dish quite heavy and it filled me up too quickly. It was a shame as its such a basic dish to prepare. 

The prawns were quite uninspiring. My friend seemed to enjoy them but I was not overly impressed. It came across as something I could have even prepared myself. His lamb dish was the star of the show however, the lamb was tender and full of flavour, I would really recommend this to anyone thinking of visiting. 
Once we were finished we were handed our hot towels. They were really needed too as the vindaloo packed a punch! We were pleasantly surprised by our bill which worked out very cheap considering what we ordered. This is clearly the most appealing part of the The Curry Inn, where other places like its neighbour Prana are trying to corner the more expensive end of the market, The Curry Inn seems to be going for cheap and cheerful. Its good to see we are getting a choice here and Indian restaurants aren't all going in one direction. 

Conclusion - As you can probably tell, I am very disappointed by the recent changes from the Kohinoor to The Curry Inn. I really didn't think the place need modernising or changing at all. It was perfect how it was. In fact, from my opinion, the only thing which did need modernising was the only thing they STILL haven't been done yet, and thats getting some online presence (no website, no facebook page, nothing). 

The interior has been made to look modern and minimalist, but fails miserably. The place has lost its character and its main selling feature and just looks bland and boring. I am putting its unfinished look down to the restaurant opening prematurely in order to keep revenue coming in while they continue to fix the place up. I might give the place another visit in 6 months time and see if they have done anything else to the restaurant.

The food was nothing inspiring but shouldn't offend anyone either. I am glad to see the vindaloo was served hot but sadly the rice was poorly cooked which made the meal very heavy and filled me up way too fast. The saag aloo and lamb were very good and the papadums/sides were nice also, its a shame the prawns let them down. I really hope they reinstall the three beer taps as it was one of the only places in Cambridge which served Lal Toofan on tap. 

I cannot see myself recommending The Curry Inn to anyone for now, the interior decorating, atmosphere and food quality are all below standard. That being said the place does have great value and marvelous customer service so it does have something to offer. I look forward to seeing what happens to the place over time. I wish them all the best and hope they can make it work.

Thanks for reading!