“At just £14.95 for three courses it’s an absolute steal.”
Emma Dance checks out the new lunch menu at this Cheltenham Indian
I’ve always found curry at lunch time a slightly strange thing. Or, going to an Indian restaurant, at least. But maybe that’s because on the few occasions I have chowed down on a chicken jalfrezi in the middle of the day, the place has been pretty much deserted.
East India Café has only been opening at lunch times (and only on Fridays and Saturdays) for a few weeks, but it seems as if word is getting about because there’s plenty of people in there, enjoying the new lunch menu. And frankly, who can blame them because at just £14.95 for three courses it’s an absolute steal.
Particularly because it’s actually not three courses, by the time they’ve chucked in a few extra nibbles and things you’re actually looking at about five delicious dishes. And it’s none of your standard curry house fare either. Oh no, this is fine dining done Indian style.
We start off with an “Amush Bouch” of beans and velpuri masala chati with raita. It’s sensitively spiced and a scattering of pomegranate seeds provide little bursts of sweet freshness.
There’s another little bonus too, before we start on the menu proper – in the form of parcels of poached mackerel and crunchy heritage carrots wrapped in rice paper.
In an unusual (for me) move I’ve chosen the vegetarian starter – Dutch chilli and double Gloucester tikki, lentil bora, aubergine vorta and beetroot chutney. The flavours are all very delicate, working together in harmony. In truth, I could have taken a bit more of the promised chilli, but it was nonetheless very enjoyable.
Across the table my husband is tucking into tiger prawns, kasundi, malai and green spices, carom seeds and watermelon. Each of the two succulent prawns, has their own distinct, but equally delicious flavour.
When it comes to the mains I don’t take much persuading to tuck into the 14 day mature Cotswold lamb with bhuna lentils, kachumber and Afghani pilaf. Full disclosure, I have actually eaten this dish before and it might just be my favourite curry ever. The lamb is soft and rich and the sauce that smothers it has an incredibly depth of flavour with layers of spices that build and build as you eat.
Husband however, has gone for something altogether more delicate – Scottish salmon, banana shallot, mix pepper, coconut and baby potato. The flavours are perhaps more subtle than my hearty bowlful, but there’s just as much skill involved and it’s met with enthusiasm.
For pud I choose the gulab jamun. It’s a traditional Indian dessert, but in true East India style, this version is far from the norm. Usually a gulab jamun is a doughnut-esque thing, smothered in syrup. Here though, it’s been cubed, and combined with gin apricot and lemon yoghurt, which transforms it from something that can be fairly one-dimensional and overpoweringly sweet into something much more complex and, in my opinion, enjoyable.
The other pud on offer is Kashmiri chilli, dark chocolate, white chocolate pencil and chocolate ice cream, which is devoured by husband with gusto.
Lunch menus often only feature the cheaper, less interesting items from the regular menu, but this is definitively not the case at East India Café.
The food here is far superior to most Indian restaurants, not just in the Cotswolds, but, I’d be prepared to wager, most places in the country. And the fact that you can get a meal like this for just £14.95 is, quite frankly, incredible. East India Café, 103 The Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1NW; eastindiacafe.com If you’d like to try your hand at making the lamb curry, then head here for the recipe