The search for the perfect vindaloo goes on
For many years I have been partial to hot spicy food and have evolved like Darwin’s finches to order vindaloo whenever I go to an Indian restaurant for the first time. My reasoning is if the chef can handle hot food and still allow the spices to be tasted then their job is well done. I may not have the taste buds I once had but I can remember and see in my mind’s eye the taste and colour of dishes that have impressed me. The restaurant’s name may be a blank but the place and associated dish are forever etched in my brain. My earliest memory is a Chinese chicken curry in Blackpool which was like the ‘Fish ‘n Chip’ curry sauces currently in vogue but darker in colour (almost drab olive in Army speak). The meat and chicken Phal in Petts Wood (Great), the Halal in Aldgate has been serving the same standard meat vindaloo for the last thirty years (Terrific). Today, one of the hottest dishes is a meat Raga in Chislehurst (Eye watering good). Then there is The Standard food from years ago in Westbourne Grove, and the up market Gaylords in Charlotte Street and Chutney Mary and The Red Fort. My favourite vindaloo is from the Halal.
It seems that when you venture up market the menu changes – you are told not to expect curry house cooking, here the spices are freshly prepared every day and you will taste the difference. I remember walking through the wrong door of a restaurant in Putney one evening, looking for the toilet, and seeing two workers peeling onions onto a stack already half a metre high. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
So our party went to lunch at Masala Zone (Islington branch) on Saturday 27th April (my birthday). I was mildly surprised to find Lamb Vindaloo (£9.45) on the menu, so I reverted to type. The rice and meat portions were good enough, but the curry had a predominant aroma of cinnamon which I wasn’t expecting. The meat had a similar style in terms of colour and sauce to the Halal, but where they would have had some fresh vegetables among the sauce like peas, here there were none, which made the dish look a bit stark. but the strength was not what you would expect from a vindaloo.
I had the Chicken Tikka Chaat (£5.35) as a starter which was excellent mainly because the portion was good and the unexpected addition of pineapple went well with the spices. I had several small Cobra beers (£3.95 each) and we shared two bottles of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (£21.75 each). The staff were excellent, the décor modern but not too bright, the bench seating not very comfortable but it did not detract from providing an afternoon well spent in a colourful large, very friendly Indian restaurant.
|Crispy Fried Prawns||£5.25|
|Chicken Tikka Chaat||£5.35|
|Grand Thali (Lamb) x 2||£13.00 each|
|Grand Thali (Chicken) x 2||£12.30 each|
|Grand Thali (Prawn)||£12.80|
|Sauvignon Blanc x 2||£21.75 each|
|Cobra Beer x 3||£3.95 each|
|Masala Chai x 3||£2.30 each|