Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
Cardiff is reasonably well served by what I would call high end Indian restaurants (a significant step up from your late night, after a bucket load of beers, curry houses of my misspent youth – for the young’uns, the curry house was the only place to get a late night beer back in the days of yore when we had last orders), with the likes of the Purple Poppadum and Mint and Mustard (I would have added Moskh to that list, but they seem to have closed for the foreseeable future).
It also has some pretty decent places selling Indian street food, such as Chai Street and the 3B’s cafe (and, the all to rarely seen for my liking, Keralan Karavan – an ideal fit, I would say, for Kongs with Burger Theory’s departure). Add to that, on the pure veggie front, the likes of Mangla’s Spice of Life and the Vegetarian Food Studio and you have a very vibrant Indian/sub- continental scene (and that is without touching on the myriad of places in Roath).
This leads me to the question of the quality of the places that sits in between. It is at this level I have previously been a bit diappointed. Sauces seem eerily similar (regardless of differing names/dish description), the meat non-descript and the meat to sauce ratios all too often very low. As a result I struggle in terms of naming a go to curry house (rather than restaurant) in Cardiff (recommendations of good ones are more than welcome). I have heard tell of both Mowglis and the Duchess of Dehli being quite good, but I haven’t actually been to either to verify such reports, and my previous favourite in the form of Dill Jeera in Llandaf North has changed hands and reports I have heard suggest it isn’t half as good.
Friends, who we arranged a long postpone meet up with, suggested a curry. We didn’t want to go high end and a place that seemed to hit the “nice curry house” spot was Chutney Roti on Whitchurch Road.
Reviews of the place I had seen were promising, with a combo of quality and value seeming to be the order of the day.
Inside it is pretty standard curry house – not too exuberant, so no heavy flock wall paper.
Nice and airy, it is a pleasant enough space for a feed.
At 20.30 on a Saturday it was surprisingly quiet (we managed to book a table at 18.00 that day). When we left we were the last people in the place.
With the good reports, I was surprised and a little apprehensive at the lack of people in the place.
The menu is a mix of the traditional and the more upmarket, both at the starter
and the main course levels.
We started off proceeding, with that curry house stable of poppadums (80p each) and chutneys (£1.80).
Pretty bog standard poppadums (nothing wrong with a, gratifyingly crisp, bog standard one) were uplifted by some rather superior chutneys. The chopped onion number, in particular, had a nice mix of texture and flavours (with a touch of heat), making it very moreish.
On to the starters, I went for battered Amritsari fish (£5.50)
Good size portion, with a light crisp batter and a nice bit of spicing incorporated into the batter. The fish itself was cooked on point with a pleasing flake to it. The only real negative point was an uninspiring side salad, which was hardly worthy of the name (if all you are going to do is sling a few onion slices, a cucumber baton and a cherry tomato – all undressed- on to the plate then you are better off not bothering at all in my opinion). Fairly priced (fish – not sure what white fish was used, but would hazard a guess at tilapa – ain’t cheap) at £5.50 I thought
Mrs. SF and one of our friends went for the samosa chaat (£3.99), a glorious mess (intentionally) of a dish.
Great flavour to this dish, with the tamarind (sour and sweet) really shining through and the pomegranate seeds adding a further refreshing touch of sweetness, with back to touch of sourness from a mint flavoured yoghout.
The samosa element was a very good example, with a light crisp exterior (where not exposed to sauce etc, which made it a bit soggy) and a well spiced and fulsome filling. This dish is one of those rare occasions where I approve of a “decontruction” (usually a “chef can’t be arsed to actually put the ingredients together, so we will charge you extra for it by calling it a deconstructed whatever ” dish.
The star of the show in terms of the starters was undoubtedly a trio of tandoori lamb chops (the rest of us, not having ordered it, looked on in envy when it arrived and the person who ordered went into extreme smug mode).
At £5.99, this was a very substantial portion of lamb. All to often when this dish is ordered what you get is a couple of miniscule lamb chops battered to a inch of their lives and cooked to death in the tandoori.
The chops served up here were (as curry house lamb chops go) monsters, with loads of meat on them. Great flavour to the lamb itself, with the spicing applied really adding to the mix. Cracking value I thought, although I do wonder if we got lucky on the basis of service coming to an end (did they have some cutlets left that usually go into a main dish which fortuitously landed on this starter). I will have to go again to find out I suppose, but hope it is the usually portion size. If it is, my advice is fill your boots with this dish, it is a bargain.
On to the mains, I decided (rather bravely, as I am not great with too hot – as in spicey – food) to go for a dish with the name gunpowder (£10.50 for chicken or Welsh lamb) in it (a very popular spicing mix in southern India it seems).
With Indian food I tend to favour lamb (or better still mutton – which has a stronger flavour and thus to my mind is better suited to a curry than lamb), so lamb/mutton gunpowder it was.
This had quite a thick sauce to it, with plentiful chunks of lamb/mutton studded within said sauce. Gunpowder (the spicing for the sauce) is a ground spice mix (generally, but it is apparently one of those things where every one has a version) of roasted lentils, sesame seeds, curry leaves, kashmiri chillis, black pepper and Asafoetida.
For a chilli wuss like me, incendiarily hot food (in and out) is not something I look for so I sought assurances from the waitress in terms of the heat level. Her response was “it isn’t too hot but we can spice it up for you if you want”.
I assured her spicing it up was not at all necessary and upon her departing my friend pointed out “not that hot” to her was probably wildly different to my idea of “not hot”. He further pointed out that it was likely to be call gunpowder for a reason and it was unlikely to be down to its mild spicing.
I persevered and it was actually very pleasant.
There was certainly a tingle on the lips and tongue from the kashmiri chillis, but it wasn’t ferociously hot. The fact that the chilli heat was somewhat tempered allowed the aromatic flavour of the other spicing, such as the curry leaf, to come through nicely.
A nice dish and one that went very well with the cumin and coriander rice and lacha paratha, which Mrs. SF and I shared with our mains.
Mrs. SF went for a rather interesting sounding hybrid dish in the form of a spinach balti navarin, with chicken (£10.50).
A ragout of lamb with new potatoes (in place of the traditional navet aka turnip) given the balti treatment. Not much heat here, but some nice spicing. I neglected to take a picture (school boy error).
Bearing in mind the prominence of its in the name, spinach was oddly lacking in the dish. Mrs. SF enjoyed it, but wasn’t wowed by it.
A rather good lamb shank rogan josh (£10.50),
offered a very decent amount of melt in the mouth meat. It nice to see it coming with the bone still in and again some nice spicing here. I think this vied with the lamb chops for the title of dish of the meal and was very good value for its £10.50 price tag.
The final dish ordered (by the same person who had the lamb chops) was another lamb dish in the form of Hydrabadi Welsh lamb (£10.50).
Quite a mild dish, but (as with the other mains) the kitchen applied a dab hand to the spicing of this dish.
All the mains were a very decent size, with a good meat to sauce ratio. Based on the size and amount of meat in each of the main dishes we ordered, I think each could potentially have been shared (if you are less of a gannet than we all were), especially if you add rice and breads to the mix.
On the sides front they have an interesting selection of both rices and breads.
Mrs. SF and I ordered the cumin rice (£3.25) and the lacha paratha (£3.00) as sides to our mains. The rice was top notch, with a very good sized portion of fluffy, perfectly cooked, grains into which a liberal amount of cumin and fresh coriander had been applied. The lacha paratha was nice, with a good flavour to it, but didn’t have the layering and light flakiness I associate with a really good one. Seemed more like a naan to me
Our friends shared an onion kulcha and mushroom rice. Both were deemed to be very nice, but the kulcha seem to me to be a bit dense (very pleasant caramelised onions imbedded in it though)
Desserts aren’t usually a strong point of Indian restaurants, but I have heard tell they are not bad here (Gourmet Gorro was impressed with the offering here, so it must be pretty good). Having reached satisfyingly fullness, however, we didn’t even bother looking at the dessert menu.
All in all this was a very enjoyable meal.
In terms of curries, chilli heat and spice can make a wine pairing tricky. My go to wines for Indian food tend to be Austrian grüner veltliners and German or Alsace rieslings (another option is a Loire rosé).
Looking at the wine list it was a bit dispiriting, if I am honest, and there wasn’t really anything on there that took my fancy.
On this basis I defaulted to beer. From a limited choice my friend and I decided on 660ml bottles of Kingfisher (a reasonable £4.95 each) and we disposed of 2 bottle each during the course of the meal.
Mrs. SF and our other friend wanted wine and in these cases every one tends to look at me. As mentioned above the list didn’t enthuse me one little bit, but I narrowed it down to a viogner from Argentina and a chenin blanc from France (the Loire). Based on the fairly good value £15.50 price tag (it retails at around £10) the chenin was the one we decided on.
I didn’t try it, but Mrs. SF said it was perfectly drinkable and handled the spice in the food quite well.
Whilst the ease of booking at late notice and the fact that it was hardly busy on a Saturday evening made me a bit apprenhensive, the food on offer here is pretty good and the prices are very fair.
We paid (sans a tip, but with 4 large beers and a bottle of, not bad, wine) a smidgen over £117. For the quantity and quality of what we got I though that decent value.
Whilst it doesn’t perhaps have as much finesse on offer as the likes of the Purple Poppadum or Mint and Mustard, it sits well about your standard Cardiff curry house.
Somewhere that flies a bit below the radar (although nice to see they are in the Wales Online’s Top 50 places to eat in Cardiff 2018), but it is well worth acquanting yourselves with this place if you haven’t been already.
Would I go back? Yes – good food at a good price, with the kitchen here knowing a thing or two about how to properly spice food. I also note they do takeaways and will probably in the future order one of my infrequent takeaways from this place.
Address: 90-92 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff, CF14 3LY.
Tel: 029 2023 1511
Website: Click here
Opening hours : Mon – Sun: 18.00 – 22.30.