Originally uploaded by dynamist.
This is our local Indian restaurant in West Hampstead, and the restaurant we have patronised most (with the Banana Tree Canteen coming a close second). We returned on Monday night for a farewell meal, as I was to leave London the next day for another month.
It was a rainy, miserable night, and I was so full up from my lunch that I did not feel hungry until after 9PM. But we ventured out anyway, because I was craving Spice Plaza’s chutneys (pictured). They present you with four: mango chutney (but of course), an onion relish, a spicy onion and tomato mixture, and a green coriander chutney that has lured us back to this restaurant many times over the years. They are all made fresh on site – nothing from a jar appears on this table – and it comes through in the texture and taste.
I could have happily left after the poppadums, but of course we stayed, sharing a starter selection (as always) which features wonderfully crunchy, toothsome onion bhajis and marinated salmon cooked to perfection in the tandoori, as well as chicken and sheek kebab. I was trying to be virtuous, so skipped my usual inauthentic main course of choice – chicken tikka masala, the abominally sweet dish I cannot help but adore – and went for straight chicken tikka. This is chicken, marinated in yoghurt and spices, then cooked in the tandoori. Spice Plaza always has extremely tender, moist chicken (I suspect they know my secret), so I knew this was a safe choice. Antoine stuck with his usual, a biryani, this time opting for lamb…which I taste-tested several times just to make sure it was really, really good. (It was.)
The food will never let you down at Spice Plaza, but the service might: There is one very good waiter, a man in his 30s who seems to be the oldest one there. He is generally attentive, efficient, and friendly. The others are nice enough, but slow and at times incompetent. (We had to walk up to where the waiters were shooting the breeze – twice! – in order to get dessert menus and, later, the bill. No one was apologetic about this.) No one told us until we had laid down our cash card to pay for our meal that their card reader had not been working lately – which would have meant a trip back out into the wind and rain to get cash if we hadn’t had just enough on us.
Antoine wanted to reduce the gratuity severely after this treatment, but I convinced him to give at least 20%. (He thinks I’ve been in the US too long; I think he’s never lived in fear of someone spitting in his food.)
212 West End Lane
Tel: 0871 0757404