Date and Time: Tuesday 20th December 2011, 19:00
Name of Establishment: Tamarind*
Location: 5 Badminton Road, Downend – Bristol
Reason for Visit: Crimbo catch-up and a curry
Smack-bang in the middle of Downend’s residential high street, Tamarind instantly attracts its clientèle with the classy gleam of its silver lettering. Its interior predominantly carries this modern appeal with a colour-changing bubble-effect water feature proving the focal point at the forefront of a complex network of tables and chairs which, amidst the rich-coloured décor, are separated with crisp white latticed screens. Chandeliers hang grandly overhead and tables are dressed with white linen – this immaculate presentation even extends to the facilities which were commendably spotless. That said, old-school touches here and there add, in my opinion, a little character to the space; with intricately pattered crockery and napkins folded into swans balancing what could have otherwise been considered a little lack-lustre in terms of its arrangement. Service is courteous, quick and, albeit ever so slightly rushed, unquestionably efficient; upon our arrival (and in the blink of an eye), our coats and umbrellas were whisked away, D and I shown to our (advisably pre-booked) table and our drink orders taken. It was also noted that for an early-evening mid-week slot, the restaurant was heaving; something, we were informed, that has become commonplace for each and every night of the week!
We started with papadoms which, served alongside an assortment of chutneys and pickles, were wonderfully crisp, sizeable and not at all greasy. The mango chutney in particular was a tasty accompaniment, proving thickly textured and tangy – a good start. Main courses followed promptly; for D, a ‘hot’ Chicken Dansak (£7.50) and for me, my tried-and-tested favourite; Chicken Tikka Masala (£8.50). Both dishes were well presented (in deep bowls set upon a heated grill), generously portioned and delicious. The Dansak combined chicken with lentils and, flavoured with Fenugreek leaves, had been well-covered with a fantastically flavoursome sweet and sour yet distinctively spicy sauce; the perfectly-executed contrast of these sensations was reportedly a treat for one’s palate and for my dining companion, secured this dish as one of his favourites. The Masala was deep red in colour and established sweet, aromatic bursts of flavour. Uniting the earthy notes of almonds and cashews with a delicate blend of spices and although encompassing a curious coarseness, the sauce proved decadently thick with extra cream swirled through it for good measure – yum! D and I were also quick to praise the quality of the chicken which, in both dishes, had not been scrimped upon as well as proving both chunky and succulent . In addition to this and to mop up the sauce, we ordered a portion of mushroom Pilau rice to share (£3.50) and a Peshwari Naan (£2.70); the latter comprising a soft and doughy consistency with sweet almond paste baked into its folds. I think that the recipe would have benefited from a sprinkling of raisins to punctuate its intensity but with my sweet tooth, I certainly wasn’t complaining!
Our meals were washed down with Tiger Beer and yet unfortunately (or not as the case may be), our full stomachs prevented participation in a dessert of any kind. Incidentally though, I feel that this is where Indian restaurants fall short; offering a range of bought-in ice-cream based puds which often leave little to be desired. Let's be fair, it’s rather a rare occurrence to have room to follow-up a good-quality curry and yet, perhaps if there were a small selection of authentic (and bite-sized) delicacies to choose from (for instance, Rasmali - Saffron scented milk balls flavoured with pistachio - which I recently sampled elsewhere), they would be rather better received, and may even put the establishment above others of its kind…because, after all, who wants to eat artificial-tasting strawberry ice cream out of a plastic parrot, (yes..really!)
In conclusion, I really enjoyed my evening at Tamarind – the food was reasonably-priced as well as hot, tasty and expertly spiced, the service faultless and the overall ambiance vibrant and comfortable. Furthermore, judging from the excitable buzz resounding throughout the space, this is indubitably, for such a small high street, a big big hit!
Friend D gave Tamarind a rating of 9/10 and his three words were simply, ‘definitely going back’...