Friday, 27 November 2009

Spice up your life...Ajanta Tandoori

FYI I love curry. So when I'd arranged a mate-date with my good friend Mo it was also an opportunity to get my curry sweats on. I've been enjoying Indian food for as long as I can remember and for all the wrong reasons. i.e. too much alcohol & Indian restaurants were always open later more welcoming to drunk students, but since I've started cooking for myself my love of this cuisine has certainly blossomed beyond this.

Okay before we go any further it's time to fess up. I'm a really pansy when it comes to curry but really do want to get better and train the palette and I have seriously neglected the good Indian restaurants of W12 and surrounding areas so thus I can kill two birds (ouch!) with one stone - find the best curry house in the Bush and also "man-up" my taste buds!

So Thursday night I met Mo in Hammersmith where she works and after a few obligatory happy hour drinks in
Be At One (a long standing favourite for cheeky cocktails and even cheekier barmen) and then we shimmied up to Goldhawk Road for a meal at Ajanta Tandoori.

Ajanta has all the right front of house ingredients: comfier chairs than your average restaurant, dubious fishtank/artefacts, waiters in dodgy sailor-come-hotel porter-come-straight jacket shirts who move tables, chairs and the earth for you to sit down, and of course incredibly piercing at time uncomfortable off beat bollywood-esque soundtrack. I was in heaven.

Poppadoms were served after asking us "how many?" as opposed to "would you like some poppadoms?" (Tick) and the condiments to accompany them were the usual 4 (onion salad, mango chutney, hot stuff we don't go near, mint yoghurt yummy stuff) plus an old friend I hadn't seen in a while since an amazing curry in Bromsgrove (don't ask) - coconut chutney! (Big tick!). It's the surprisingly red stuff in the piccie below.

This was like eating the inside of a bounty bar as a starter - perfection. I got so carried away Mo had to stop me to come up for air with a perfectly timed quote:

"You've got poppadom on your boob hun". She wasn't lying.

I ordered the Chicken Jalfrezi and Mo wanted to try the Chicken Tikka Makhani which was a dish I'd not heard of I have to admit but she seemed to think it meant mild and I quickly learnt she was as much of a pansy as I was! Indeed the waiter taking our order (who had a black straight jacket on so therefore must be well important) squared me with his eyes and told me the Jalfrezi would be hot. "How hot?" I gulped. "We make it milder." "Thank you." I beamed my bestest grateful "I-will-tip-you-well" smile at him.

I've since Wiki-ed it and
Makhani is a term used in Punjabi cuisine and literally means "with butter" and indeed it was deliciously mild yet full of flavour and funnily enough buttery/creamy so I guess we got lucky as the term "with butter" isn't necessarily a guarantee that it would also be "without tear inducing heat". Phew. We shared both dishes and I was pleasantly surprised by the Jalfrezi too. It definitely still had a kick (a very oniony kick I found out afterwards as did my work colleagues the next day) but it was rich in flavour and worked well with the Makhani which to be honest could have been a creamy Tikka Massala, though still delicious.

One odd thing about me and my love for curry is that I don't like rice. It's all based on a weird childhood thing about it being like maggots that I've never got over. I know, I know I need talking therapy about it. Anyway I often think it works in my favour as I'm perfectly happy with a Peshwari naan and a shared portion of Sag Aloo/Bombay Aloo (one or t'other - am not THAT greedy). And on this occasion Mo actually chose not to have maggots, I mean rice, also and we got our hands nice and messy mopping up sauce with our naans.

They let me take all the leftovers in a doggy bag (another tick!) and the total cost of the meal was 20p over £30.00 which is more than fair enough considering we were both full to bursting and with our over-zealous poppadom order got best part of two courses each plus 1 massive Cobra for me (Tick) and an "all right actually!" glass of white wine for my mate-date.

Mo lives just off Brick Lane so I knew she would be a good co-judge and she was indeed pleasantly surprised that a W postcode could produce such a great value Indian meal with a few of the extra trimmings E1 throw in there (often halfheartedly) to attract tourists. For my Twitter followers I can also report that Ajanta Tandoori also passes the 24 hour test with flying colours! This was the first stop in my hunt for the best Indian restaurant in the Bush and a good standard has been set!

Overall I'm going to give Ajanta Tandoori a rating of 7 out of 10 poppadoms. It was in many ways just how a good Indian meal should be - cheap in cost and cheerful in flavour. My only criticism was there could have been more atmosphere (I think it was too bright/light wheras I prefer dining in a room where a few bulbs have blown) and there was a serious lack of ("verrry hot") hot towels and those handheld table crumb hoover-brush gadgets!

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