Saturday, January 31, 2009
14. Indian: Spice Merchant
The Spice Merchant
18 West St,
Badgerman and I met a group of ten friends at this newest of the many Lewes Indian restaurants. It is housed in what was the East Sussex Music Service offices and has been very smartly remodelled with deep cinnamon walls, lovely chandeliers and opulent mirrors. We were greeted very warmly on a freezing night; many of our party were obviously known to the staff and received special hellos.
Forget what you may have experienced in other restaurants- the Spice Merchant is more chic: dishes are served in modern, white porcelain, tables are laid with rectangularly folded napkins and Italianate cutlery. Service was always attentive and friendly despite all the 70 plus seats being taken. The menu is extensive with many unfamiliar dishes. Starter prices ranged from £2.75 for Onion Bhajies to Mixed Platters for £4.95, though there is not as full range on offer as I have seen in other Indian restaurants. The choice of starters is more than made up by the huge array of main dishes ranging from many familiar names but a few surprises such as Chingre e Bahar: king prawns marinated and grilled in a tandoor for £13.99.
Bowls of papadoms with accompanying chutneys and dips arrived quickly just after the drinks order was taken. The two lovely ladies on either side of me, both regulars, chose the Chicken Karma Sutra (£9.95), hot and spicy chicken in wine, pictured right, and the Goan Fish Curry (£9.95), white fish in mustard seed , coconut milk, red chilli, turmeric, methie and curry leaf sauce. I chose the Chicken Pasanda (£7.95), chicken in mild spices, almonds cream and wine. Our dishes arrived after a bit of a wait and were all well received. My Pasanda was very tasty! The sauce was rich and thick, not too sweet and the chicken was beautifully cooked and super tender and tasty. I traded bites with the gals and was particularly impressed with the Goan fish. It was much hotter that my Passanda; not creamy but flavoursome and the fish was still large pieces- I’ll try this one next time. The Karma Sutra was a good choice too and the chicken was super tender and tasty like mine. Badgerman, far down the table, liked his onion bhaji, chicken jalffezi and lemon rice and thought them to be very flavoursome. All the table seemed to enjoy their dishes which ranged from my mild Passanda to the volcanic Ghandi's revenge.
Though we were the largest table at The Spice Merchant, there were many tables of twos and fours, all recieving good service and attention. The take-away custom was brisk but we never felt that is was taking precident over seated custom.
The drinks selection is quite good with bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon for £10.95 each, with white Zinfandel at £15.95, 640ml bottles of Tiger Beer for £4.10 and 330ml of Cobra Beer £2.95.
As the table split the bill, it's hard to determine the true cost of our food, but Badgerman and I estimate our bill, excluding tip, would have been £35.00
Food Presentation: 3
Food Quality: 3.5
Value for Money: 2