Indian cuisine is one of my favourites.
It's a tricky one though, as apart from rustling up a quick jalfrezi with some peppers, chicken and paste from a jar (my spice cupboard is not as extensive as I would like it to be) it can be hard to know where is best to go for a good Indian meal.
An average takeaway is frankly not worth the tummy ache. A really good one gets incredibly expensive before you know it - once you've added the poppadoms you can be paying so much you may as well just get a Dominos topped with tikka sauce and onion bhaji.
Similarly, eating out in good Indian restaurants is often over my usual budget, so apart from celebrating a birthday or anniversary, it's not something I do as often as I would like to. So, when you find a really good, reasonably priced Indian restaurant, with authentic food that delivers it's money worth, it's like discovering a hidden gem, or a needle in a haystack.
Needless to say, coming across two in the West End in the past few weeks has left me feeling very lucky indeed. This review and the consecutive blog will hopefully explain why.
I have tried a few of the Indians around me. Masala Twist on Byres Road is excellent, but a little pricey. The Full Bhoona, irresistibly close to my flat, is sadly lacking.
If I want a good, reasonably priced takeaway I go to Queens Cross on Maryhill. The couple of times I have been, the curry has been surprisingly good for the cost, but it's just a tiny takeaway so it's more of a stop over after a few pints than somewhere to go for dinner.
The first of my new discoveries is one that is fairly new to Great Western Road, Cafe India Tapas. However, trying to do research (I always like to check menus and prices before I commit to eating out) proved difficult. The website didn't seem to correspond with the restaurant menu I expected and I couldn't find much on their Facebook page. So, turning to reviews I was told repeatedly that it was good quality food and good value for money, particularly because it is BYOB, which can bring down the cost by as much as ten pounds per person. One night when we fancied a spontaneous dinner out, Calum and I grabbed a four pack of Stella and headed along.
We were seated by a lovely waitress on the mezzanine level of the restaurant, and brought our menus, as well as a couple of glasses for our terribly classy drinks.
As the name suggests, the majority of the dishes are tapas style, although you can opt to choose just one as a single main if, like my brother, sharing food makes you violently uncomfortable. Never ones to miss out on trying as much food as humanly possible, we opted for the tapas.
We went for five dishes; the butter chicken, the chicken chillie garlic, channa daal, chicken karahi (punjabi style) and the chicken achari, plus a pilau rice each and a garlic naan to share.
Poppadoms came first, served with excellent spiced onions and shortly followed by the rest of the food. For tapas dishes there was a very reasonable portion of each dish.
None of our choices disappointed.
The channa daal was delicately spiced yet still hearty, Calum declared he could eat a whole bowl of it on it's own. The butter chicken wasn't just chicken in sweet cream, which is sometimes a risk with mild curries, but delicious. My favourites were probably the chicken chillie garlic and the chicken achari, which is cooked in chilli pickle. Both were quite spicy, with visible green chillies, but it wasn't a case of scorched tastebuds, the other flavours still came through for a balanced taste.
The garlic naan was delicious, the chicken tender and all of the food had been noticeably cooked to order. It had a wonderfully homey, authentic and humble air about it, as if you were sitting down and eating food with an Indian family. Without pretension, just a focus on good ingredients and incredible flavour.
The combination of curry and beer meant we could hardly speak to each other by the time we were finished. When offered the option of dessert, we both declined. However, our host told us that the chef had just made a dessert that was probably the best he had ever tasted. Still not convinced we could manage another bite, he was charmingly relentless and brought us some to share, on the house. I didn't quite get the name but I think they were Gulab Jamun, which are sweet Indian dumplings served in sugar syrup, sort of like exotic treacle sponge pudding. I have never tried them before, but they were incredible, served with lovely vanilla ice-cream and piping hot, they were definitely worth being so full we had to walk home at snail pace. I would even order them the next time I visit.
Now that I know just how good Cafe India Tapas is, and that the takeaway branch (situated right next to the restaurant) is within easy walking distance, I think it will probably become my go-to Indian restaurant. I will definitely be taking my family next time they come to visit, as it's a great space for large parties and the nature of the dishes makes it perfect for sharing with a big group, unfortunately for my brother.
I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants an authentic Indian that isn't quite as 'West End' pricey as Ashoka or Masala Twist. The staff are lovely and the service was impeccable, it really is worth a visit.
In my next blog, which will hopefully be following shortly I will write about my other newfound Indian favourite. Perhaps one with a more intimate vibe, but just as good in different ways. I've made myself hungry now, might need to get out the spice paste.