Curry is now widely considered a traditional British dish, though it only came here from the Indian subcontinent two hundred years ago. A few of Faversham’s curry connoisseurs were challenged to put the local chefs to the test for this issue’s Taste of Faversham. Initially we were going to order the same dish from every restaurant but too much chicken tikka masala doesn’t make for a great night’s sleep. Besides, curry has thousands of variations and we wanted our local chefs the chance to showcase their culinary skills. So we ordered a meal for one from each of the four local Indian restaurants, selecting one of their special mains with a recommended side dish. We also sampled a meal from Corinne’s Creative Kitchen. She is a local chef who supplies her dishes in the area. One of our tasters, who has a reputation for making a mean curry, added a particularly spicy number.
Each of the six tasters was given a scoresheet and asked to give an overall mark out of ten along with their comments. Each meal was dished up (a little sloppily) and served to the guests anonymously.
Head and shoulders above the restaurant meals was the offering from Corinne’s Creative Kitchen. Corinne delivered Madras chicken, courgette mussalman, pilau rice with delicious homemade mango chutney and an onion raita. The chicken was tender with a rich and fragrant balance of spices, with just enough heat to excite the palette but not burn out the flavours. One of our tasters purred, describing it as “awesome.” A marriage proposal is on the way. The creamy courgette dish, not your usual offering in a curry house, complemented the main beautifully. The courgette had a solid crunch bathed in a creamy sauce. Again, with just the right amount of heat. The most impressive part of the meal was the homemade chutney and raita. The mango chutney was elegantly spiced and came beautifully presented whilst the raita had a strong oniony bite with lots of flavour. Everyone was impressed and will be buying from her in the future.
The great thing about Corinne’s food is that you can order online:
http://www.corinnescreativekitchen.co.uk. It comes frozen or chilled so can be reheated to suit you. It’s reasonably priced. Curries cost £5 - £7, side dishes are around £3.30 and rice is £1.20. Some of her snacks can be purchased at Macknade and she sells her food at the Best of Faversham Market (first Saturday of every month) on Preston Street. She also caters for parties and runs a cookery school for curry enthusiasts.
The Spice Lounge (Preston Street) was the runner up. They sent us their house special of baby lamb shank (£11.95) with Bombay aloo (£3.50) and a pilau rice. The “medium hot” fall-off-the-bone lamb was cooked in rogan josh spices and came with chick peas. The lamb was juicy and tender, with a nice flavour but the dish was milder in heat than described. Our reviewers thought the lamb needed a longer time to marinade to properly soak up the flavours. The rice was considered one of the best overall.
The Prince of India (Preston Street) provided an onion bhaji (£3.50), naan and mixed thali (£11.95). This consisted of a chicken tikka starter, lamb bhuna, chicken bhuna, sag aloo and pilau rice. The bhaji had a light crispy texture but the taste was bland. Although reasonably priced the thali dishes were all a bit dull. They lacked passion, which is the heartbeat of Indian food. The naan was sweet tasting but felt like something that had come out of a supermarket packet, rather than fresh from a tandoor oven.
Towards the bottom of the bowl came The Raj (West Street). From here, we sampled the chef’s special Bangladesh style maas bath with garlic rice (£12.50) with a dal mosala side (£3.50). The unidentified fish came in a wet batter. The best any one could say was that it was slimy. Some of our tasters pronounced it inedible. The sauce, which was supposed to contain rich spices, lacked any depth of flavour. It was dull, boring and salty, the opposite of everything Indian food should be. The rice grains had given up the struggle to stay afloat and were drowning in oil with a bitter tang from burning the garlic. The spicy lentil dish went some way to saving the overall offering. It had a proper depth of flavour and a comfortable heat - a real treat after so many bland and badly cooked dishes.
Even though this is normally my son’s favourite, The India Royal (East Street) came at the bottom of the pack. We sampled the chicken pakora starter (£3.95), the tandoori king prawn bhuna (£12.95) and a lemon rice. The pakora which should be light, full of zest and vibrant were like stodgy dumplings from an overcooked stew. The bhuna contained some decent sized looking prawns but they disintegrated in the mouth and had a funny taste, never a good sign. Prawns should be solid, have a strong fresh bouquet and plenty of bite. If they don’t, the best advice is trust your instincts, which two of our tasters did, promptly spitting them out as they were worried they were off. The rice was far too lemony and had mixed reviews.
Finally one of our guests provided a home cooked pork vindaloo to finish off our curry extravaganza. Tender pork in a sauce with a rich blend of complex but beautifully blended spices. The heat knocked your socks off but the good thing was that the spices survived. This was a curry that just keeps giving. They don’t call it a vindaLOO for nothing!
Restaurant Average mark out of 10
Corinne’s Creative Kitchen 8.4
Spice Lounge 6.9
Prince of India 5.2
The Raj 4
India Royal 3.2