Review of Old India Restaurant in Bristol

As we have indicated, we plan to broaden the food and drink content of the website and to start off here is an article written for the recently-launched Bristol food and drink website Bristol Bites.

We went out for a meal in Bristol recently with some friends.  Some of our party had been to Old India a few years back and enjoyed the experience, but we were keen to see how it measured up now.  Old India is located in St Nicholas Street and promotes itself as a purveyor of “avant garde Indian cuisine”, served in a mahogany-panelled converted Grade II Listed building to create a colonial atmosphere.  When it opened, its main point of difference was some unusual dishes on the menu and a claim that diners would be treated to specially-prepared meals, rather than the standard curry house format.

First impressions were that the decor still conveyed the colonial feel, but it was looking a bit tired. However, the service was attentive without being overbearing.  It probably helped that we dined early and they weren’t busy.

I chose Murg-chat-puree to start.  This is roasted diced chicken and potato masala chat in wafer-thin puree.  A very substantial starter served with salad.  Subtle sweet and sour spice flavours and enjoyable.  Our wives both started with Seekh Kebabs, spiced roasted mince lamb with coriander leaves and they both enjoyed them.   My friend selected Hashi Chops with a pomegranate sauce as a starter.  Portion size was good but he said he spoiled the background pomegranate taste by swiping some sauce from another dish.

On to the mains.  I wanted to try something different, so opted for Crab Massalla, which is fresh crabmeat cooked with hot spice, curry leaves and mustard seeds.  To accompany this, I shared a pulao rice and plain naan with my wife.  The Crab Masalla came in a generous portion and was indeed quite hotly-spiced and strongly flavoured.  However, the crab flavours still came through well.  An interesting flavour combination, but by the end I was beginning to struggle with the richness of the dish.

My wife and both our friends had Nehari Gosth (lamb shank) with fresh herbs in an aromatic sauce – again portion size was good.  Our friends’ mains were accompanied by some pilau rice, okra and Peshwari naan.  The Okra was cooked to their taste, sliced thinly and almost to the point of al dente. The Peshrawi naan was acceptable, but the lamb shank was slightly chewy, but not so bad as to be tough.  My wife thought the spice flavours in the sauce were pleasant, if somewhat bland.  Our friends’ verdict on the Lamb Shank was that it was not as good as the “melt in the mouth” Lamb Shank at the Kohi Noor restaurant on Black Boy Hill that also includes a small portion of rice on the platter.

My friend and I washed the food down with the ubiquitous Kingfisher lager and our wives shared a bottle of the house red, which I believe was from Southern France and quite palatable.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit to Old India.  It was a pleasant, if not outstanding meal, generous portions throughout, attentive and efficient service and in a distinct, if somewhat, austere atmosphere.

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