11 May 2012

A welcome change to a traditional curry

I've always loved going for a curry. Traditionally, this has been at the end of a night out, accompanied by several pints of lager with the food temperature as hot as possible!

Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot of time for that sort of curry experience, and sometimes, there is nothing better than a lamb rogan josh and a pint of Cobra. Recently though, I've been introduced to the world of gourmet Indian dining, which is a completely different way of enjoying Indian cuisine.
chickpeas and baby aubergine curry in gujrati spices

Chickpeas and baby aubergine curry in Gujarati spices from the menu at Anokaa

I've been to a few of these restaurants near where I live in the South of England. Included among the best is Kuti's Brasserie in Southampton which is on Oxford Street and serves great food with a friendly atmosphere. Hox Brasserie near the train station in Salisbury is excellent. I would recommend the Goan Fish Curry as it is exquisite. And you generally get a free liqueur (fake Baileys) at the end of the meal at Hox, which I would never turn down!

However, for me, there is nowhere like Anokaa on Fisherton Street in Salisbury, and it is probably my favourite restaurant in the area. 

Their strap line is "Style. Sophistication and Sheer Seduction" and Anokaa apparently means "exceptional" in Hindi which may seem a little over the top. But this place holds a special, little, romantic place in my heart, so for me, couldn't be more accurate.  
soft shell crab - with kumquat chutney

Soft shell crab - with kumquat chutney, from the Anokaa menu

The restaurant is modern in decor, but in an interesting juxtaposition, the staff all wear traditional clothing. The food is a fusion between Indian flavours and spices, and British classics. So think steak cooked Asian style, or Welsh lamb in a stir fry. And all the food comes beautifully presented, like a piece of artwork on your plate, with an array of saucy chutneys, dips and drizzles. 

Whenever I go, I either have the soft shell crab, or the mixed fish platter for starter. And last time I had the aubergine and chickpea curry which was so beautiful it seemed a shame to eat it, and I would also recommend the char grilled halibut with tomato and shrimp broth served with curry leaf quinoa. 

Often you think beer is more suited to a hot curry, but I think a good red can go really well. There is a wide selection of wines at Anokaa and this time we had a lovely bottle of MAN Vinters Pinotage from the Stellenbosch region. I promise myself that I will only have one bottle, but I always end up having another and they never rush you though your meal so you can sit back and slurp away.

MAN Vinters Pinotage, enjoyed at Anokaa

One restaurant that I thought was very disappointing was the Coriander Lounge in Southampton. I'd been recommended to eat there by several people and was looking forward to going. However, despite making a reservation, we had to queue to be seated, and there was no area for waiting in, so we were literally had to stand in a line by the door. When we were finally shown to our table, we were asked what we wanted to drink before we even opened the menu. This set the precedent for the rest of the meal, where we were rushed through service, which offered a thoroughly uncomfortable dining experience.

Having said that, I must concede that the food was delicious. I enjoyed the Tandoori Mackerel and my friend had the coriander monkfish which was also exceptional. Just sort out the service.... please! 


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