By Andy Symmonds
Readers may have spotted the fact that the regular author of Nicks Nosh is currently distracted by the fact that he is the new Chair of the British Society. Rather than lose this regular slot in Zine editions, we are inviting guest contributors to submit their restaurant reviews for consideration. There is no fee for being published, just the joy of seeing yourself published in Zine.
Our first guest review takes us to the increasingly fashionable Pijp area in pursuit of Indian food (a popular theme at the British Society – you may have noticed that the Curry Club is now dining on a regular basis), although the Balti House has been serving great food on the Albert Cuypstraat for many years. As a past advertiser and sponsor of BritSoc events we felt that it was time for a revisit to see if the standards were still at the same high level.
We visited on a Saturday evening, and were relieved that we had booked as the restaurant was in full swing when we arrived. We had to wait a couple of minutes to be seated as the previous diners were very relaxed about their speed of payment, but we were able to get drinks by the bar before being seated, and (most welcome) papadums swiftly arrived with some sauces to keep us going once we were seated and preparing to read the menu.
To begin we combined three starters to make our own mixed starter, each of us choosing one element. The final combination was sheek kabab with hot wings and some onion bhaji’s (an old favourite for all of us). The mixture of flavours and textures worked well, the drinks flowed and we relaxed into a gezellig evening.
The other diners in the restaurant were the usual mix of British expatriates seeking a fix of Indian food with other expatriates and Dutch customers. Some guests clearly knew their way around the menu whilst others sought advice from the waiting staff. Everyone seemed happy with the outcome, and we joined the happy bunch when our main courses arrived.
The three main dishes we chose were the lamb saag, chicken bhuna and lamb dansak. These dishes are all from the section titled medium curries, so they would have been ideal for Goldilocks as they were not to hot and not too cold in spice terms. At special request, the dansak was made with madras strength spice levels and this turned out to be my highlight of the evening. The dishes were all well prepared and the lamb in both dishes was succulent and very flavoured. The dansak won points for having lentils that were clearly lentils – so many restaurants serve dansak that is closer to soup in texture that I have almost given in trying to get a good one. Saag is another favourite of mine and the combination of the lamb with the spinach was very good. The bhuna was also consumed with gusto but this dish is a little creamy for my taste, although clearly my companions had no such concern as all three dishes were consumed to a point that left the bowls remarkably clean. The dishes came served with rice and vegetable curry and we all ordered naan breads to help mop up the sauces. Having had starters the side dishes were sensibly restricted to one mushroom bhaji, as there have been more adventurous occasions when we over ordered in the excitement of the moment and left mounds of food behind.
Feeling pleasantly stuffed, the lack of dessert options was almost a relief, even for sweeter toothed members of the party. The lassi was tempting but even that looked like a mission too far, so I rounded the meal off with a tasty bottle of Kingfisher in lieu of something sweeter. As I gently quaffed my beer some later arrivals were served and the smell of the sizzling Royal Tandoori Mixed Grill gently drifted over to our table – a scent so delicious that it was almost tempting to start again. Common sense prevailed but I know what will be high on my list the next time that I visit the Balti House. This was a great way to end a very good evening. The food, service and atmosphere (and company, natch) were all to a high standard yet the cost per person was most reasonable, if slightly inflated by the volume of soothing beers that were quaffed throughout the evening. Recommended!