Myristica, 51 Welshback, Bristol. Tel: 0117 927 2277
Great tandoori nightsC’mon, keep up. Brownstones nightclub is no longer; where once you might have bounced along to the summer house of Norman Jay on a trashed night out and then perhaps stumbled to an Indian restaurant afterwards, now you can have your Indian during your night out in the former club. It’s enough to make your head spin.
But Myristica is not your run-of-the mill tikka and tandoori reserved for after-pub sessions. Moreover, it’s doing its bit to change the face of cuisine from the subcontinent.
Though still a while off from achieving the greatness of Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Tamarind restaurant, it helps that Myristica’s head chef, Pitchai Selva, used to work there. He has also recruited a large kitchen team including chefs from Punjab and Mumbai who make each sauce to order; instead of the common practice of using one as a base for all the dishes.
Very gradually this new venture by brothers Amit and Tosh Lakhani, who also run the contemporary Bangladeshi Café Naz in Cardiff, is throwing off the mantle of the building’s previous occupants. Four months after opening, a wall is decked in bright turquoise flocked velvet wallpaper - very retro, very now - lit with candles. The bar, which stretches the entire length of one wall was, in the grand plan, supposed to be an open kitchen by now, but the spanner in the works has been getting planning permission for it in this listed building. Myristica seems confident that this will happen; it would certainly change the atmosphere and inject some much-needed pizzazz into what is, at the moment, a solemn room the size of a barn.
The great thing is that there are exciting things afoot in the kitchen. Selva has come up with a menu spanning all compass points of India, with classics and ostentatious new dishes to keep everyone happy. How about the starters of garlic lobster (£10.95) and jumbosized tandoori prawns (£8.95) slowly cooked in a tandoori oven and glazed with honey? But where were the big crispy popadoms precariously balancing on each other awaiting their fate of being gleefully smashed? In their place we had small pieces of popadom and neoncoloured rice crackers that just weren’t the same. The chutneys were fantastic, though; a tangy lime one with bite, finely diced onion, yogurt and a lovely mango chutney full of fruit and not cloying or sweet.
From the reasonably priced wine list that gives recommendations of which wines to drink with spicy dishes, we had a glass each of the Chilean Valdevista Sauvignon Blanc (£3.50), which was actually nothing special. It would have been nice to see at least one wine from the burgeoning Indian wine industry.
The starters took us into another realm, though. ’This is the first time in ages I’ve eaten really good Indian food,’ said my companion through a mouthful of her starter of chilli paneer (£3.75), which was by no way an misnomer. Cubes of fried cheese were doused in a sticky sweet chilli sauce that had the kick of a mule. My balls of lentil dahl and vegetable and onion pakoras that formed the mixed bhajias (£2.95) were mild little things in comparison, made more so by the soothing coconut accompaniment.
The kingfish moilee (£8.95) was a couple of meaty, pink fish steaks paddling in a lemon-coloured coconut sauce flavoured with coriander and mild chillies. It tasted authentic, transporting the eater to a beach in Kerala. My prawn bhuna (£8.50) was small nuggets of fish in a rich tomato-based sauce, with handfuls of fresh coriander and a not inconsiderable amount of chilli. I get the impression that Myristica intended this - and many other of their dishes that have a lot of fresh chillies - to be super hot, which all comes down to your own preference. This is no nicely-nicely approach but bold and brassy flavours. The only concession to another palate is to one that’s even hotter, with a section of the menu marked as Old Favourites & English Dishes including the tongue-burning vindaloo - originally from Goa but after Fat Les’s 1998 World Cup song of the same name, it’s become a national dish.
As for the sides, the fried bhindi (lady’s fingers or okra, £3.50), stuffed with spices and sprinkled with fennel seeds, were totally delicious, as was the Goan rice (£2.45), jam-packed with garlic. And the desserts - at last, no bought-in Vienetta but some real Indian delights - include chocolate and milk balls dipped in rose syrup (£2.95), and the house speciality of shrikhand, made from cream, milk, saffron, nutmeg and pistachios. We ate the carrot halwa (£2.95), which was like a spicy, soft carrot cake, served warm with vanilla ice cream.
There is opulence in the kitchen set-up, ingredients and ambitions of Myristica. Once the dining room is completed to its original design, and perhaps with some partitions to break up the space, it will surely be fit for maharajas and their maharanis.
March 14, 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).
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