Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Royal Tandoori, Smithdown Rd, Liverpool

After visiting so many new restaurants that have been a letdown, I decided to visit an old favourite of the Liverpool curry scene that I've never been to but always wanted to go to- the Royal Tandoori. Smithdown Rd is becoming a great place for foodies, what with Christakis, Peking Duck and Santino's, offering better food than the uninspiring bistros of Allerton Rd. The Royal is an old school curry house with vital components like a sticky carpet, booths, twangy music and a fabulously ornate ceiling that wouldn't look out of place in Dubai. To start, we feasted on the usual popadoms and there was yet another variation on the chutney tray. Lime pickle, onions and mango chutney were there but with two other dips- red onion salad and a tangy concoction of hot, sweet and sour.
The main event consisted of Veggie Madras for me and Veggie Bhuna for the Other Veggie, served with lashings of pilau and garlic naan.
My madras was heaven- lots of spuds and other assorted vegetables, this was a quality curry experience. The pilau was at its oldschool best- the colourful variety and the naan lovely and fluffy with just the right amount of garlic without being overpowering. The veggie curries were only £6.20, bargain.
For dessert, I couldn't resist a Pistachio Kulfi- only £1.95. I needed it after eating a curry on the hottest day of the year so far! Note the retro tableware!

At around £30 for the two of us including 2 drinks each, the Royal is a great throwback to the days of a big curry night out before Indian restaurants got all pretentious on us. Amazing.
The good- the prices, the décor, the atmosphere, well everything!
The bad- could have done with a yogurt dip on the pickle tray.

Royal Tandoori on Urbanspoon

Spice City, Stanley St, Liverpool

Spice City, the former Balti House. A fond memory of my past, a whimsical world of sticky Chintz carpets, cosy booths and hot towel, orange slices and Vimto lollipops with the bill. A common feature on nights out, be it stag, hen or the dreaded office party. Sadly, the Balti House burned down and this traditional curry house became just another chapter of my past, along with Liverpool legends the Old Monk, Howl at the Moon and Plummers. I was delighted to find out it had recently reopened as Spice City- but how would it fare without its traditional décor?

It was unrecognisable as all the booths had gone and no longer looked like a curry house. Hopefully, the food would distract me from the boring décor. There was a meal deal on- 2 courses plus a drink for £10. Surely that would have the crowds flocking? Apparently not. We were the only ones in there. Awkward. To start, we paid extra for popadoms- £4.80 for the three of us- ouch! The chutney tray was plentiful though, 5 dips including a fiery hot tomato based one:

I washed them down with a glass of flat coke, good job the drink was free with the meal. My starter was vegetarian samosas served with a side salad. If you look, the salad includes that well known Indian vegetable, the Jalapeno.

The samosas were tasty, but my colleagues were less than satisfied with their starters. The Carnivore ordered a chicken kebab and it looked like something from the frozen section in the halal shop on Smithdown Rd, a dubious concoction of processed meat. The Other Veggie's onion bhaji tasted uninspiring and lacking in substance, a bit like the ambience of the restaurant. Time for the mains.

I ordered a Vegetable Madras, the Other Veggie a veg bhuna. The sauces were deliciously potent but the quality of the veg was abysmal. No potatoes or carrots, just lots and lots of leafy stuff and onions. Again, tasty but lacking in any real substance. It was pleasant to eat, but just that. It wasn't what I'd call an ultimate curry experience. The rice portions were decent though and the naan fresh and fluffy.

The Carnivore fared the worst though with his lamb pathia described as 'ropey'. The meat was sinewy and tough and didn't taste like lamb apparently. During the meal, no other diners came and the staff seemed desperate to push their delivery service. Spice City, you've got a lot to live up to if you want to recreate the big night out vibe that the Balti House was known for.


The good- Portion size and price
The bad- Meat quality and no atmosphere

Spice City Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Elif, Childwall Fiveways, Childwall, Liverpool

Hi foodies, long time no see! It's been quiet on the foodie front lately as I've been going to some of my usuals and hate blogging about the same place twice (Christakis, UNI and Red Fort in Liverpool to name a few) so have refrained from blogging til I discover some new eateries. The heatwave has put me off curries temporarily so I decided to try Elif, the Turkish place at Childwall Fiveways. I was a bit sceptical at first as Turkish cuisine UK style has been hit and miss for me, a seasoned connoisseur of mainland Europe's Turkish communities. The menu looked pretty enticing, 2 courses for £12 and there seemed to be a good selection for veggies.
First impressions were positive- beautiful Mediterranean décor and traditional Turkish wall tiles and a rather handsome Turkish staff member sweetened things up. Talk about dish of the day! (sorry male readers) To start, I ordered the Patlican Salatasi below, the Turkish equivalent of my Dubai staple Baba Ghanoush or my Greek fave Melitzanosalata. It was pleasant, albeit a bit too creamy. Not as good as ones I've eaten in Istanbul or even Turkish caffs in Germany.
My 2 dining partners ordered Cacik which tasted watered down and the chicken wings which were a success with the Carnivore. These were served with a bread basket which was sadly taken away when the starters were finished. I was disappointed that when it came to the mains, the meal I wanted wasn't available as it was the reason I had chosen to come to Elif instead of a repeat Christakis visit. I was craving stuffed vine leaves and tomatoes, and went crazy when they said it wasn't on but there was a veggie casserole instead. I'm not a fan of veggie casseroles, it shows lack of imagination and inspiration, a bit like when pubs do a frozen lasagne or 'posh' places fob us off with a mushroom risotto the colour of dirty dishwater. I had no choice but to order it, wishing I could've gone to Christakis instead. The Carnivores ordered a Lamb Casserole and Lamb Kebab. When the plates came, I was lost for words as were the carnivores. The meals were served with rice and salad but the portions were tiny. The rice wasn't even proper Turkish pilaf but reeked of Uncle Ben's. It appeared that between the three of us, we were sharing one bag of a boil in the bag rice. The salad was fresh and tasty but seemed ok for two but not sufficient for three. Carnivore 1 loved his lamb kebab- he had no qualms about the quality of the meat but complained how bare the plate was. No bread, no traditional Turkish dips and no chips or potatoes. Carnivore 2 liked the lamb in the casserole but the actual casserole was inedible- it tasted like someone had lobbed in a tin of Napolitana Chopped Tomatoes. And more toms. And even more toms. Even the lamb was probably suitable for veggies as the sheer amount of tomato puree had probably negated out the meatiness of the lamb. What can I say about my casserole? Pass the Rennies. A concoction of feta, peppers and even more tomato, I quit while I was ahead as I didn't want a sleepless night of acid reflux.
I was hoping I'd be won round by dessert but no. Instant coffee was on the menu plus ice cream for an astronomical sum. I gave it a miss and went to the Fiveways instead. Come on, if you're going to be a serious competitor in the restaurant market, please buy a coffee machine. I was disappointed as I really wanted to like Elif as it's local, plus I'm a massive fan of Turkey. £12 for a 'deal' seemed extortionate for a few tins of tomatoes and boil in the bag rice. As authentic as a bar of Fry's Turkish Delight.
The good: Friendly staff and beautiful décor
The bad: Small portion size and no decent coffee
Elif Turkish BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon