Laura and her partner Sarah are two creative foodies out to discover enticing flavours and food ideas. When they aren't tucking into their latest delicious find, they're writing, photographing and designing at www.sarahlauradesign.com
Published March 3rd 2015
Celebrate the Cricket World Cup at the Dhaba
Dhaba at the Spice Kitchen is a fantastic restaurant at 252 Kensington Road Leabrook specialising in Indian cuisine. It started out back in 1989 as a one-stop shop for all things authentically Indian including food, recipes, chutneys and fragrant spice blends, hence the name. The 'Dhaba', or casual eating place, grew as a natural extension into the restaurant we know today, providing delicious home-style and regional dishes together with the best of Indian street food.
Dhaba from the inside reminds us of British Indian styles, a mix of traditional and modern fusion.
Rest assured that everything is cooked from scratch to produce the very best flavour for each dish. There are no bulk cooked curries or mass produced chutneys here. While this labour intensive approach may nudge up the prices a little bit, we agree with Ragini Dey that there are no short cuts to preparing really delicious Indian food.
Regina's famous spices, chutneys and cook book are available for purchase at the front door before you enter the restaurant.
We received a gift voucher for a 12 course degustation at Dhaba from a family member who knows us well, and we couldn't wait to check it out.
Walking in we were a little surprised at the abundance of cricket memorabilia decorating the two main sections of the restaurant. We soon learned that it was in celebration of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The owners had transformed the restaurant into a fabulous little 'Cricket Cafe', complete with a green artificial cricket pitch running through the middle, especially for patrons to enjoy delicious Indian meals and snacks while watching the game.
The new theme is carried through to an all new cricket themed menu.
We were led to a cosy table for two and our waiter took the time to ask our dietary preferences including our tolerance for heat in curries then explained what was involved in the degustation.
While we waited for our first course, we were encouraged to grab a plate and head over to the selection of Regina's sides buffet consisting of salads, home made chutneys, pickles, raita and pappadums. We tried a little bit of everything, each bursting with unique flavour. Some were sweet, others so spicy you only needed a tiny mouthful. We recommend trying all of them with the fresh pappadums provided. If you are unsure of the heat levels or what a certain dish is, we encourage you to ask your waiter for advice to ensure you get the best selections to suit your taste as there is not much detail available on the buffet spread.
The vast selection of sides are not to be missed, jump on them after you arrive but be sure to leave room for your actual meals.
The first little morsels served up as part of the degustation were crunchy Gol Gappa - crispy wheat flour balloons filled with sweet and sour potatoes, chickpeas and tamarind yogurt. These are a popular street snack in India and are small enough to be consumed in one mouthful. It was a great sensation of a crispy outer coating and soft and spicy potato on the inside. Small cups of Jal Zeera accompanied the Gol Gappa, consisting of tamarind and roasted cumin water. This was something we hadn't tried before and the chilled temperature contrasted deliciously with the spicy heat of the cumin. A definite must try for a unique entree not often served at more 'Western' style Indian restaurants.
Gol Gappa puffs accompanied by the intriguing Jal Zeera.
A side of masala pappadums helped to clear our palates. Drizzled in spiced chutney the pappadums were crispy, light and melt in your mouth.
No plain or garlic paps here, marsala is our new favourite flavour.
Next up we received a platter of three different types of Indian snacks called the 'Thick Edge' in honour of the cricket. It included Delhi Chaat Samosa, Dahl Wada, Aloo Tikki and Spinach Pakora with green and tamarind chutneys; served with a scattering of chickpeas. The pakora was definitely the favourite of the platter, served fresh and hot with a delicious crunchy texture. The chutneys went especially well with the samosa too.
Well presented, this selection of starters kicked things off nicely.
For the next course we were treated to a tasting plate of Indian-style fish and chips and a 'make-your-own' tandoori chicken wrap, known as the 'Finger Spinner' and the 'Catch It' respectively. The fish and chips are traditionally called Punjab Fish Amritsari. The fish while tasty, was not the standout of the dish - it was the sesame cashew chips for their amazing flavour, and all hand cut of course.
Both dishes came out on the platter and were more than enough for two people.
We had fun with the chicken wraps, which are also called Kolkata Kathi Kababs. The fluffy parathas were made from egg and easy to wrap the chicken and salad up with. The tandoori chicken was cooked to perfection - crispy on the outside and still juicy on the inside.
Tandoori chicken that is cooked to perfection.
The main course(s) for the evening was The Spice Kitchen Thali - an elegantly presented board of chicken, beef and vegetarian curries served with delicately flavoured saffron rice and dipping bread. The vegetarian dahl was our favourite out of the selections. The other dishes, while very tasty were not quite up to our spicy heat levels. Next time we'll make sure to ask for that extra chilli hit. However we do think it's great that the curries can be toned down for those who can't handle the heat. There are also gluten free and vegan options available on the menu or upon request to make sure no one misses out on these delicious delicacies.
The main curries packed a flavour punch, but not too much heat. Great for those looking for mild choices.
For those who do like spice, we recommend accompanying your meal with a large cup of strawberry lassi. Lassi is a yoghurt based drink mixed with fresh fruit. The more common variety is a mango lassi, but we thought we'd mix things up a little bit with the strawberry which was very cooling and came in a generous serving.
Strawberry lassis are perfect to put out that curry burn.
Our final courses of the night consisted of a combination of deep fried chocolate samosas, cardamom ice-cream, savoury banana chips and slow cooked pear in cinnamon and other spices. The variety of flavours on the platter were very complementary. The ice-cream went well with the samosas and pears, while the banana chips were good in between to reset the palate.
For the sweet tooths, this dessert platter is for you. A great mix of flavours all in one.
Access to Dhaba at The Spice Kitchen can be via the front entrance on Kensington Road, although car parks are few and far between. We recommend going down Tusmore Avenue, then turning left onto Godfrey Terrace before taking another left at the first gravel laneway which takes you around the back of Dhaba to their small carpark. Once parked, there is a small laneway along the right hand side of the shop to walk down and enter via the Kensington Road entry.
The front of the restaurant on Kensington Road.
The small but very convenient car park at the rear of Dhaba.
We give Dhaba at The Spice Kitchen 4/5 Wanders for their delicious Indian street food snacks and house made (non-mass-produced) curries that are served up with traditional flavours and contemporary flair.
Where 1 Wander isn't worth getting off the couch for and 5 Wanders should leave a trail of dust in your wake: it's that good.