Opening a restaurant is a brave move in any circumstances, and in the current economic climate could be considered foolhardy.
Little India is the latest occupant of what used to be Bar 21, on the corner of Market Street in Kettering.
If the night we were there is at all typical, the owner needs to have nerves of steel and believe that once word gets round, business will pick up.
The four of us visited on a Friday. admittedly, it was bitterly cold, but we were the only customers downstairs the whole evening. A party of six was eating upstairs, but that seemed to be the sum total of the restaurant’s business.
Perhaps a lack of advertising coupled with lack of cash has something to do with it, because it’s certainly nothing to do with the quality of the food, or the staff, who were courteous and attentive throughout.
We ordered poppadums and dips and a very tasty, reasonably priced bottle of wine while we made our choices.
To start we chose salmon tandoori, onion bahjee, chicken chaat and jhinga butterfly prawn. Sadly, they had run out of salmon, but the Goan fish substitute was beautiful. moist and subtly spiced, it melted in the mouth.
Ade enjoyed the filling in his chicken, which was generous and, again, well spiced, but he was less complimentary about the chapati it was wrapped in, which had gone a bit soggy.
Bry had two huge bhajees, which hit the mark both in size and taste. The only dish that was a slight letdown was the butterfly prawn, which is king prawns that have been dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried in butter, and which Anne thought was too dry and lacked taste.
All the main courses were excellent and served in generous portions. The lamb in Ade’s Jaipuri was tender and not overwhelmed by the sauce of peppers, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and onion, and Anne had nothing but praise for her chicken biryani.
The presentation was slightly odd. it looked a bit like a brown brick on the plate, and one thing we did all comment on was that the food looked slightly dull, which was a shame, as all the dishes had a nice zing to them, but even a few sprigs of fresh parsley or coriander sprinkled on top would have added a splash of colour and brightened up the appearance.
My prawn Tawa was a dish with attitude, the bite of the crushed mustard seeds and dried red chillies kicking in about two minutes after I’d swallowed, but, despite this, the taste of the fresh coriander came through. It was a hotter dish than I would normally choose, but one I would certainly try again.
Bry is something of a chicken tikka masala expert, and said Little India’s version was as good as any he’d tasted.
There was a special deal for a starter, main dish, rice or naan and side dishes, so we shared a chana massala and an aubergine massala. I am not a huge fan of aubergine but both dishes were very tasty and came in good-sized portions. And, as with all the dishes, we all commented on how fresh they tasted.
This is a restaurant that certainly deserves to survive. apart from the one starter, the food is nicely spiced, tasty and comes in generous portions and the staff are attentive.
There is always the worry that if you’re the only people in a restaurant the waiters will be in a rush to get you out so they can go home, but we never once felt they were hovering And at less than £65 for the four of us, including a bottle of wine, a pint of lager and four coffees, it is extremely good value.
By Janet Bew
Little India 14-15 Market Place