The East India Cafe is easily missed, tucked away in a basement on the Promenade. Through the doors there’s a bijou 24 cover restaurant with furniture and decor to conjure up the idea of the Raj, and an eclectic looking little bar with a few seats for cocktails. It’s a brand new venture from completely first-time restauranteurs, and it looks good. I felt perfectly chilled (especially after a decent negroni) and the service couldn’t have been more friendly.
Next up I had a couple of lovely little grilled lamb chops, while Maureen picked out keema chicken; two small fritters with a nice texture, a strong curry leaf flavour and a surprise garlic mayonnaise accompaniment. Hey, it worked. My lamb chops came with a “lasooni chutney” which was a smooth, spicy, garlicky paste I hadn’t tried before. Also delicious.
For main course I ordered a cardamom roasted guinea fowl. This was a beautifully cooked piece of bird, still juicy, and the cardamom was there too (it better be, ’tis my favourite spice!). The sauce was creamy and almost there – just a tiny bit unbalanced, perhaps the cream not cooked out. Maureen’s allepey sauce with her sea bass was spot on, though; sweet, sour, fishy, and with a heat that built up. The crispy sea bass was nicely presented, but just a tad over. Both dishes came with good pilau rice.
Apparently chef has never cooked in a commercial kitchen before. For me, that instantly explains and forgives the couple of dropped notes during an otherwise delicious meal. Give it another six months and I’ll bet those dishes will be perfect. In the meantime, I reckon the sense of hospitality and authenticity at the East India Cafe make it well worth a visit any time. Expect to pay £25 for three courses.