If you love Indian food, don’t be put off by the signs saying that the Kerala does a bargain lunchtime buffet. In my experience, these can be trays of unidentifiable slop and I steer clear of the place. However, the Kerala also offers a wide menu of southern Indian specialties – choose from Syrian Christian dishes (meat dishes), Malabar Biryanis, coastal seafood dishes, Keralan vegetable curries and dosas from the Coral coast (steamed rice pancakes, plain or filled).
There are mild, medium and hot curries available, but the staff are very helpful if you want to check just how hot your meal will be.
My partner started with the dahai vadai – a curious kind of bean donut, we think deep-fried, sitting in a bowl of freshly spiced yogurt – the contrast between the spices and the coolness of the yogurt was great. I started with a mini dosa (a crisp pancake) filled with a beautifully spiced mixture of potato and onion, dotted with mustard seeds. It was fantastic and set my mouth tingling while we waited for the main courses to arrive.
I had the king-fish and green mango curry – huge pieces of meaty fish (similar to swordfish) in a delicious deep reddy-orange sauce – initially rather mild, more flavor than heat, but this was quickly replaced with a good strong kick! My partner tried the king prawns in a rich masala sauce – the prawns were monsters and so tender while the sauce was perfect, nice and spicy and just hot enough. We shared a portion of lemon rice (several kinds of rice available) and a portion of appam – a kind of steamed rice bread, crispy around the edges and soft and squashy in the middle, ideal for mopping up every last drop of the sauce!
The other mains offered a selection of chicken, lamb, mutton and fish and the veggie curries included more unusual vegetables that don’t make it onto the menu in most Indian eateries – beetroot featuring in several dishes.
Desserts included the traditional kulfi and lassi (a fruit yogurt drink), but I went for the fried plantain with honey and two scoops of subtly fragranced coconut ice cream. Dripping with honey and showered in cinnamon, this was the most fantastic pudding I’d had for ages! My partner was daring and went for the green gram payasam – a kind of milk pudding with green lentils, jaggery, nuts and sultanas. The aroma was gorgeous and he gave it the thumbs up. Sadly, my nut allergy meant I couldn’t sneak a spoonful!
There is a decent wine list and a good selection of bottled beers, including Kingfisher and Cobra. We sat outside where there are three tables, but inside seems pleasant, although fairly dark, even during the day. Service was good, friendly and prompt.
This was the best Indian meal I have eaten in the UK I can’t wait to go back and sample more from the menu. Do yourself a favor and ignore the buffet – the a la carte menu is great value and not to be missed! Total price? Three courses for two people including beers and side dishes – about $60!
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