Disclosure: I was invited to Purple Poppadom to try this new ‘tapas’ menu with a guest . All food and drink was complimentary. No blog post was stipulated or requested: verbal feedback on the menu was asked for, and given, on the night.
Ah, the irony. I’m on record as hating the term ‘tapas’ applied to any non-Spanish food. It’s annoyingly common (‘Korean tapas’, ‘Welsh Tapas’) and makes me want to howl OH FOR PITY’S SAKE INVENT YOUR OWN SMALL PORTION NAMES. It’s a perfect storm of linguistic pedantry and Castilian blood.
But if anyone gets a pass, it’s Anand George.
More than anyone, he has opened the eyes of Wales to the possibilities of ‘Indian’ food and broadened our vistas. He has liberated us from dull dopiazas and predictable passandas, and seduced us with the power of coconut and curry leaf, of mustard seed and tamarind. This new (grrr) ‘tapas’ menu is the logical next step from his widely admired street food which has become essential at various events around the region.
(In fairness, the team here did try to think of a more accurate label, but settled on this as the easiest way to convey what they are doing here.)
We eat the whole menu. Proper research, that. You’d expect no less, and I am aided and abetted by an able trencherman in the form of Bradley.
Bombay fries combine a chilli kick with coconut and curry leaf for a distinctively Keralan twist on a sweet potato fry. Although the flavours are spot on, this batch could do with being a little crisper, though the thick, tangy spin on Thousand Island is more than decent.
Cauliflower can carry spicing so well and here in the achaari gobi it is blistered from the scorch of the tandoor and carrying a stealthy heat. The pink pickled onions and mint chutney are a clever touch: the high temperatures have successfully brought out the nuttier notes with a good ‘bite’.
Next is a revised version of aloo chat: here, new potatoes are served in their skins before being slathered with a tangy yoghurt and dotted with pomegranate seeds. It is all underlined with a little tamarind sourness and the subtle spicing of the chickpeas.
As ever, a kind way with squid tells you so much about a kitchen. Here, it’s marinated and lightly coated before being served with a boldly spiced mayonnaise for a Keralan twist on calamares.
If you’re looking for vivid scarlet hues, the chicken tikka will disappoint. For anyone else it’s a trademark dish which packs some insistent heat from Kashmiri chilli, faultlessly tender from its time marinating in spiced hung yoghurt.
The fish in the cod Amritsari is lightly spiced before being meeting the fryer in its garam flour coating. Again, this could have done with a few seconds in an even hotter oil to hit the mark, though the flavours are lovely.
From this very good selection we agree on nanza as the one you’d really want to trough out on. It is billed as a leavened naan, and arrives as something approaching an Indian pizza. The unexpected sweetness of tomato, melted cheese and spiced lamb make for superb comfort food.
It’s far closer to the Turkish lahmacun than the doughy breads you get from your high street tandoori. Chilli pork looks like a Chinese dish. It’s a good example of culinary cross-pollination, its spring onions, peppers and onions with a sticky sauce
I’m told there is a marked Indo-Chinese influence in Keralan cooking, and it’s at its most obvious here. The meat- pieces of shoulder- is as tender and as sticky as you’d hope (and expect).
Vermicelli noodles with curry leaf, reminiscent of a classic thoran, would work well as a breakfast dish, with its fried egg and the sweetness of slow cooked onions. Another vermicelli, loaded with chicken in a hefty sauce aromatic and spiky with black pepper, is a substantial dish.
Three dishes will set you back £12.95, or go for four dishes at £15.95 (or five at £18.95) and there are no hidden surcharges or exemptions. This represents solid value for cooking of this quality and quantity. The portion sizes are larger than a typical ‘tapa’: after five each we felt like gavage geese.
Anand George has met the challenges of a changing market, and the chill winds of a recession in the industry, with another success. Tuesdays is 25% off your bill, Thursdays sees a menu of regional thalis which look very accomplished. This is an intriguing menu with enough variety of textures and flavours to ensure that spice fatigue never sets in.
In the words of the late, great Mark E Smith- check the record, check the record, check the guy’s track record.
185a Cowbridge Rd E,
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:
This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.