Food review: Bina Tandoori Caversham
July 9, 2013, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Food reviews

After a long day at the office, sometimes the best remedy is to ‘Keep Calm and Curry On’. At least that’s my new mantra after sampling the onion bhajis, fresh pickles and tasty curries at Bina Tandoori in Prospect Street.

The Caversham restaurant has launched a Wednesday Gourmet Night, offering a mixed starter, main dish, vegetables, rice or naan, and tea or coffee for £13.95, and it’s an ideal way to perk up midweek.

After baptising our on-arrival papadoms by dunking them into the generous dips (a sharp pickle, fiery chutney and cool cucumber raita), our hospitable waiters presented us with a plate of mixed starters.

A zesty fish pakora and a crispy onion bhajee sat next to an aromatic piece of chicken tikka, and a piece of equally tasty lamb tikka.

The starters might have looked bite-sized to a hungry diner, but when hot plates filled to the brim with curry arrived, we were glad to have not over-indulged at the first hurdle.

Gorging on the saucy Murgh Razala, chicken cooked with fresh herbs and spicy sauce, (£9.95 outside the offer), I could understand why director Mohammed Siraj had told me it was a bestseller as he took my order.

Creamy and full of flavour, it went well with pilau rice and a glorious bowl of Aloo Palak (potatoes cooked with potatoes and spinach).

My companion’s Chicken Passanda, diced and tender chicken cooked in a mild sauce with cream and cashew nuts, (£9.50 without offer) was too rich for her, but that meant all the more for me to munch on while she raved about her vegetable Mushroom Bhajee.

After the initial disappoint that this was not a mushroom equivalent of the onion bhajee but instead Asia’s answer to Provençal’s ratatouille, she left very little of the dish for the kind staff to pack up for me to take home (thankfully Bina is also a takeaway).

By the end of our meal we had no room for dessert, or even the tea or coffee included in the offer but, if you plan to bring kids, then Shrek (£4.25) and Kuaky (£3.75) ice creams, are on offer.

Nestled in central Caversham’s bustling shopping street, which lights up at night with takeaways, restaurants and pubs, the Bangladeshi and Indian restaurant was relatively busy for a Wednesday evening when we visited.

Indulging in the moments of eavesdropping and people-watching that the relaxed and slow-paced atmosphere of the place allowed, I gathered many diners were regulars, proving what I had heard about the restaurant having a sterling reputation.

“People come back because we have built our reputation in the last 22 years,” said Mohammed.

“Local people tend to come back because the food and service provided is really consistent and makes people come again and again.”

Furthermore, Bina’s website promotes its British Curry Award and its award from the AAA Guide of Excellence.

At £13.95 for an Indian feast, Bina would be an excellent choice for a midweek office party, or just a little treat to keep you going until the weekend.

Read the original article here.


Food review: BHOJ Reading
July 9, 2013, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Food reviews

Belt-loosening, rich, stodgy food is usually what I expect when eating at an Indian restaurant.

It’s usually straight to bed for me afterwards because I’m barely able to move after eating so much curry. But when I dined at Bhoj it was a different story.

Having secured a five star chef who worked for the Taj Group before moving to the UK, the Singh family who run the restaurant are proud to serve up subtle and thoughtfully presented food.

“The menu is inspired by our home cooking, not specifically for a Western market,” explained head of the family Updesh Singh, who hails from Punjab in Northern India.

We started with papadums and dips (50p to £1) before tucking into a pre-starter of potatoes dipped in honey, sesame and chilli.

It was clear, even at this early point, the food was better than your average Indian restaurant. This family of self-proclaimed foodies proved in one dish that their menu has a real emphasis on layering and balancing spice and flavours.

Another special and my favourite starter was ‘star’ fried chicken with a twist. The chicken was so tender it fell apart on my tongue and the twist – it was cooked with curry leaves, tomatoes and tumeric on a crispy naan. The dish had a slight kick but was cooled off with Paneer Tikka Hariyali (£4.95) – home made cottage cheese marinated with yogurt and spinach.

The Boti Kebab (£6.95) again showcased the intense layering of flavours with cubes of lamb marinated with yogurt and fruity spices. As you would expect the usual Korma, Jalfrezi, Madras and Vindaloo options are available, (all £6.95), but the Chicken Korma was not rich or sickly like some I have tried before. It was sweet, fragrant and creamy and much more subtle than Kormas I have had in the past.

The chef recommended lemon rice mixed with cashew nuts to go with the mild curry and he knew what he was talking about as the flavours really worked.

Updesh also recommended Matar Methi Malai Chaman (£6.25) – fenugreek leaves mixed with green peas, cubes of cottage cheese and cooked in an onion gravy with a dash of cream.

I wouldn’t usually pick a veggie option when there is meat on offer but I will in future as this dish could easily rival its meaty competitors.

The Rara Lamb (£7.85) was something I haven’t tried before, but it was good to delve further into the more adventurous side of the menu. Lamb cubes were mixed with minced lamb and cooked with chopped onion tumeric and fresh spices. Like the other sauces I tried there was no oily residue, just lots of different flavours.

A basket of tasty homemade bread and naan, soon to be on the menu, was ideal for dunking and scooping up the tasty sauces and just thinking about the garlic naan and buttery aloo paratha makes my mouth water now.

Water, as it happens, is something I should address, because Bhoj doesn’t have an alcohol licence so it serves soft drinks, lassis or masala tea.

If you want alcohol you will have to take your own, which is a point to remember.

Another thing to mention, is my visit to the restaurant reminded me to never judge a book by its cover.

Bhoj is right on the Oxford Road and is also a takeaway, and right now the front looks like it is just that.

But the Singh family said a makeover will be completed soon, which should see the exterior and interior match up to the quality of the food. It was lucky that they do offer takeaway as it meant I could take my leftovers home, along with some pudding. A tub of sweet Kheer (£2) was a nice milky finish to the meal at home and curry warmed up nicely for a tasty work lunch the next day.

Food can be ordered via JustEat.co.uk.

See the original review here.

First ever restaurant review: The Bird in Hand at Twyford
September 26, 2012, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Food reviews | Tags: , , ,

This article was originally published in the Reading Post and Wokingham Times. I could get used to writing about eating!

A country pub restaurant just 10 minutes taxi ride from Twyford train station is an ambient little gem.

The Bird in Hand Country Inn on the A4 Bath Road is a 14th Century inn that isn’t stuck in the Dark Ages.

It boasts a popular bar with a cosy feel, a restaurant and 20 rooms, including two new suites and five superior rooms, so you can enjoy real ales and organic wines without worrying about who will drive home.

Friendly staff could not do enough when we visited on a Saturday night – we were very well looked after.

We didn’t have to ask for table water, always a plus, and staff were keen to share recommendations from the wine and food menus.

The inn offers a range to choose from including a daily meal deal, daily specials, Sunday roasts and a lunchtime buffet.

With one eye on food miles, it aims to source ingredients locally when possible. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it can accommodate special diets without a fuss.

The choice isn’t just with the menu; you can eat in the bar or the restaurant, private dining areas are available and, in warmer weather, you can also dine al fresco.

On our visit there were five starters, one of which – the mussels – had sold out, so we’ll have to be quicker next time.

Thankfully, the warm goats cheese and onion marmalade on a walnut crouton with mixed leaves and roasted beetroot (£6.95) and black pudding, brie and bacon salad with wholegrain mustard dressing (£7.25) more than made up for it.

Hungry as we were, the starters were generous with their portions – meaning we had to pace ourselves as we were planning, all in the name of research, to try three courses.

Mains include everything from fresh fish, veggie dishes, and a range of steaks freshly flamed on the grill.

There are also salads and food from around the world from the very British steak and kidney pudding (£13.95) to aromatic Thai green curry (£13.95).

It is a hearty balance indeed.

My friend chose the rack of lamb in a port and redcurrant sauce, sauté potatoes and green beans (£19.95) and I selected the venison steak in a raspberry sauce with red cabbage and sauté potatoes (£16.95) from the specials menu.

The lamb was perfectly pink and tasted great.

The chef had also supplied us with some extra mint sauce and redcurrant jelly.

The venison had a great flavour and the raspberries were creative but may prove sickly to someone without a sweet tooth like me.

I would have also preferred to have a greater range of sides in smaller portions as again the mains were generous.

Despite the large portions we could not resist pudding and everything looked truly sumptuous.

Signature pudding A Tidy Bird in Hand Mess (£5.95) was again large, but the raspberries, peaches and passion fruit combined with meringue, ice cream and cream was lovely and light after a hefty main.

The Sunken Drunken Chocolate Cake served with ice cream (£5.95) was also delicious.

It’s worth saving room for a tasty pud, but be ready to share.

The dessert menu also includes a Berkshire-based cheeseboard, with Barkham Blue and Spenwood as two of the choices.

I’ll be back to The Bird in Hand as there is so much more to try.