After last week's effort of getting out of my curry comfort zone and going to so-called trendier, modern places, I went on the tourist trail to the dreaded Albert Dock. Dreaded because the last time I ventured there was 2002 when I had an awful weekend job working at La Crepe Rit (faux French café for those who haven't been unfortunate enough to discover it) back in the days before Liverpool became a capital of culture and you never got asked by Japanese tourists if you know John Lennon. After being away from the city for a decade, I'd heard amazing things about the Dock and the foodie grapevine was saying it was finally safe to go there- in other words, swerve Liverpool One as it's full of that faceless, identikit rubbish like N*ndo's. Enter Spice Lounge, one of the Dock's two curry houses!
Spice Lounge is an opulent modern Indian in one of the old original dock buildings, its chandeliers contrasting with the architecture. Its USP can be found in the bar area- one of the tables is actually a huge fishtank full of koi! I visited of a lunchtime where there is a choice between 4 business lunch menus- 2 meat ones, 1 fish and 1 veggie, each with 3 choices of starter and main. My veggie lunch was £7.95- all the lunches include pops, starter, main and a coffee.
To start, I had the pops which came with a choice of 3 pickles- the ubiquitous lime and mango and a third mint yogurt dip.
Next up was Aloo Moti Tikki, a potato fritter reminiscent of fish cakes without the fish and plenty of spice, served with a crisp salad. Non-greasy and full of flavour, a refreshing alternative to samosas, bhajis and co.
For the main, I had Sabzi Miloni, a vegetarian curry with brown basmati rice. Bursting with flavour and packed with vegetables, the portion size was more than enough for my bargain lunch. All this was rounded off with a real potent coffee.
My veggie meal was no cause for complaint and I would give it a 10 out of 10 but Spice Lounge had a big thumbs down from my carnivorous colleagues. The Chicken Jalfrezi was apparently 'spongy and a bit pink in the middle' while the beef curry which on the menu was described as having 'pieces of meat' was in fact very thin shreds of meat, even I would have eaten it! Also, the nan bread didn't arrive with the meal so one of my dining group had practically eaten his curry by the time it arrived. Another bugbear was the service charge whacked on the bill- why should you be held at ransom to give a tip? Not normal practice in this city, save the mark-ups for the tourists with cash to splash.
The Good- Friendly service and opulent surroundings in a great waterfront location
The Bad- meat quality and enforced service charge