Myristica, 51 Welshback, Bristol. Tel: 0117 927 2277
TRULY, A REAL INDIAN
10 February 2007
There are plenty of restaurants in Bristol claiming to serve ’contemporary Indian cuisine’, but none in the same league as the newly-opened Myristica.
For starters, owners Amit and Tosh Lakhani are actually from India (the majority of "Indian" restaurants are run by people from Pakistan or Bangladesh) and that makes quite a difference.
And then there’s the fact that they have recruited a head chef from Madras, who cooks regional Indian dishes with a brigade of chefs from Mumbai and Punjab. Even more exciting is that the head chef in question, Selva Pitchai, arrives in Bristol with an impressive CV, having worked for the Taj Hotel group in India before moving to London, where he worked at the Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant Tamarind.
Selva has recruited his own chefs for Myristica, each one running a different section of the kitchen. The difference this makes is remarkable for it is a well-known fact that most "Indian" restaurants use the same generic sauce for most of the dishes on the menu.
The Lakhani brothers have a notable background themselves. In the Eighties and Nineties, they ran the popular Pushpanjali restaurant on Bristol’s Gloucester Road and since then they have been involved in successful Cardiff Bay restaurant Cafe Naz.
It all makes for quite a team running Myristica, which occupies the former King Street nightclub Brownstones, opposite the Old Vic.
Although the Lakhanis took over the site just before Christmas, they opened quietly and there is still work to do on the look of the place. With its exposed stone walls, ox blood paintwork and red leather-padded bar area, it still looks like Brownstones.
There are plans to soften the look in the next month and to turn the long bar into an open "theatre kitchen" enabling the chefs to cook in front of the diners.
The Lakhanis are eager to make Myristica as different from the bog standard curry house as possible and they’ve pulled this off with aplomb.
If it wasn’t for the modern Indian music in the background, there are very little signs that it is an Indian restaurant at all until you see the menu. They’ve done this by refining all the usual curry house touches. This means pickles and chutneys served in small white china dishes rather than revolving stainless steel trays, main courses served on plates as complete dishes, rather than placed in bowls on candle-heated hot plates, and no steaming hot towels handed out between the main course and the bill.
The menu is also shorter than most Indian restaurants, with everything cooked to order.
There’s a small section of "old favourites and English dishes" which will keep the vindaloo and chicken tikka masala brigade happy, but there are plenty of rarely-seen authentic Indian dishes to tempt more curious diners away from ordering the curry house standards.
After a bowl of bite-sized poppadoms and colourful rice crackers we launched into the starters.
Jeera chicken (£3.75) is a classic Punjabi dish seen rarely in this country. The pieces of tender, juicy chicken had been marinated with yoghurt, chillies and cumin and then cooked in the tandoor oven, which gave the meat a slight smokiness, but then it was drizzled with a vibrant garlic, lemon and coriander sauce that was light, fragrant and utterly delicious.
Hara lamb tikka (£3.95) was also a new dish to us. The rosy pink cubes of lamb were coated in a light green sauce of ginger, garlic and chillies that was creamy and almost Thai-like in its delicacy, as was the accompanying fresh coconut chutney.
Main courses range from £5.45 to £19.95, with plenty about the £7-£9 mark, and there’s a good balance between meat and poultry, seafood and vegetarian.
Lamb chettinadu (£7.45) is another dish seldom spotted on menus outside Madras, which seems a pity for it was one of the tastiest lamb dishes either of us had tasted. The lamb had been cooked on the bone, taken off and then mixed with a dark, rich, thick sauce of tomatoes and red peppers with the distinctively musty flavour of turmeric.
At £19.95, the lobster labdar was the most expensive item on the menu and although it was a fabulous dish, the amount of lobster didn’t really warrant such a hefty price tag. There were only five smallish pieces of lobster, each one coated in a light, dusting of ground cashew nuts, nutmeg and ginger and smothered in a delicate sauce of coconut, lime and coriander. That said, the lobster certainly tasted fresh.
From the short choice of side dishes, darl makhani (£3.50) was an incredibly rich bowl of slow-cooked lentils bathing in a cream sauce and khumb pulao (£2.95) was a generous helping of fried basmati rice jewelled with slices of mushroom, chillies and fresh coriander.
Desserts are often an after-thought in Indian restaurants and are more often than not bought-in and presented on the same old laminated menu with pictures that rarely look like the dish put in front of you.
Not here. Each of the five desserts is made on the premises and the two we ordered were a revelation: a creamy, nutty pistachio, almond and saffron ice cream (£2.75) and a blancmange-like Shrikhand (£3.50) - which consisted of thickened yoghurt flavoured with saffron, nutmeg and sprinkled with crushed, flaked pistachios and rose water. It was the best Indian dessert I’ve eaten and one that will make me think twice about ordering mango kulfi in future.
This was a great meal and arguably some of the finest Indian food either of us had experienced. The fact that Myristica is still building up speed before its refurbishment and proper opening made it all the more remarkable.
If I were you, I’d head for Myristica before the word gets out. After that, it may be difficult to get a table.Mark Taylor
Bristol Evening Post 10/02/2007
Mon-Friday Lunch 12.00 - 2.00pm | Mon - Saturday Dinner 6.00pm - 11.30pm (last Orders 11.00pm) | Sunday Dinner 6.00pm - 10.30pm (last Orders 10.00pm).
Designed and hosted by Whats on Group - www.whatsongroup.co.uk