Slightly off Newport's beaten track of mobile phone shops, coffee houses and chain stores you can find the Nabab. Surprisingly Matt and Cat made their first visit there only recently - despite its good reputation amongst their friends.
On arrival there was a very warm and attentive welcome from one of the many waiting staff - Matt and Cat's coats were taken and they settled into a comfortable window table. The menu has the traditional favourites, korma, dhal and balti, alongside unexpected items such as sea bass and swordfish. Cat chose Murgh de Gama, an interesting hybrid of Portuguese and Indian (according to the informative notes on the menu) which promised to be chicken breast stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and cheese. Disappointingly the chicken breast had been cut into tiny pieces and all of the ingredients were combined to make something not unlike pasta sauce (but green). It was an extremely rich dish with an unusual juxtaposition of flavours. However, despite being one of the most expensive items available, the portion was unexpectedly small.
Matt chose lamb curry which, again, was rather expensive - particularly when compared with similar dishes in other Indian restaurants on the Isle of Wight. Nonetheless it was a fair sized portion and the meat was very nice. Matt heroically (greedily?) finished Cat's Murgh de Gama which she declared to be distractingly cheesy: cheese in an Indian restaurant somehow seemed, well... wrong. Cat did not go hungry though, dear reader, as she finished off a companion's very nice chicken khorma - big and succulent pieces of chicken in a delicious and plentiful sauce - which offered much better value for money. In fact, your reviewers concluded that although the expensive and unusual dishes draw the attention of the neophyte diner, it may be the more conventional meals hidden away at the back of the bill of fare which are the gems in this establishment.
The restaurant itself was a very enjoyable place to eat. Well set out and not too crowded, it was very clean and had the requisite piped Indian music. Also, despite having to leave promptly to make way for a second sitting, Matt, Cat and friends did not feel harrassed by the friendly staff. At the end of the meal, the ladies in the party were presented with red roses (nice touch) before being politely seen out into the February night.
UPDATE: The Chicago Rock Cafe has closed its doors. The building is now home to the William Coppin. The review below is for archive purposes only.
Well, another day, another food chain. Senses dulled by unsatisfactory experiences in many franchise eateries, Matt and Cat had low expectations when they ventured into the Chicago Rock Cafe, which, despite its name, is known as a kind of hangout for young folk 'on the pull' more than as a restaurant. But, splendidly, they were wrong. Very wrong. It was great. And here's why.
It's set out as a 'vertical drinking' establishment, without doubt. But that's not a problem if you don’t want any of that. It's open all day, and your reviewers went in the early evening, long before the place had any hardened teeny alco-pop swiggers in there. It was spacious, clean and inviting, and the staff were very attentive. Shown to a table, they were given a menu, and immediately had their attention drawn to the very reasonable 2-for-1 offer (valid until 7pm), which not only applies to food but also drink, so for the price of a pint of beer, you get (can you guess?) two pints. Matt, sadly, did not work this out and so ordered a pint, and got two pints. As he was to drive home shortly, he then had the agony of sending one brimming pint glass back. Such sacrifice. Don't make his mistake - order a half pint and get a whole one.
The food soon arrived, and it was fresh and appetising. A very basic menu served well has to beat fancy food messed up any day. In the Rock Cafe you won't find much to challenge the palette, but what there is you will be very happy to try - every dish on the menu looked eatable. Cat's lasagne was hot and fresh, not microwaved until curled at the edges as is so often the case in pub grub, and Matt's salad was freshly cut, with no dried edges or brown lettuce.
The ambience was slightly curious, with the venue set up to appear to be an 80's themed nightclub, the staff seemed to be waiting around for the dancers to arrive. From the kitchen emerged the loud but irregular sound of BBC Radio 1 on a radio which competed uncomfortably with the pop videos playing on the main screens. Relaxing and intimate it was not.
At the end of the meal, the best part of all – the bill. It was so tiny Matt and Cat had to query it. It has to be said that they ate very well, and drank, for less then the cost of a takeaway at KFC, or indeed pretty much anywhere. For two dinners plus drinks it was less than the cost of a single dish with rice at the Balti King. This place is cheap – but only in price. The experience is better than the price might lead you to expect. If you can cope with the venue it provides some of the most outstanding eating out value for money in Newport.
The place that is known as KFC. After work, evening meetings looming, a quick meal necessary - somehow KFC has a sort of eerie attraction when you are in a rush. Unlike other fast-food franchises the food is not unpleasant. However, the food is not really the issue with a drive-thru restaurant. You know what you are going to get, and get it you do. The environment in which you have to make the transaction is perhaps more significant. In Newport, the restaurant is a hideous, breeze-block building with a tall chimney that really does look like an abbatoir. As you approach the pedestrians' door you have to navigate the in-route for the drive-in customers, and you get to enjoy the spectacle of the bulging, greasy rubbish bins. Decorating the vehicle access ramps are coloured plastic boxes that many will recognise as rat poison.
Once inside, the odd, rubbish strewn lobby navigated, the whole place is designed to ensure you get fed and out as quickly as possible. Luckily, this is an aspiration that from time to time we share with KFC, and at those times, we are happy to indulge it. You do not expect a fancy restaurant, and you don't get one. Frantic thrash metal plays soothingly on the PA, competing with the manic bleeping of the tills. The seats are battered, the floor worn, the toilet powerfully scented with military-grade air freshener. And yet still we return. We eat, we emerge, fed and content. Like a spotty teenager who's fascinating but kind of worrying, we can't help liking the place.
Yes, they sell real olives. The place seems to have a Greek or possibly Cypriot theme. Definitely Mediterranean. But apart from the deli business this place is also a café. Strongly recommended by friends, Matt and Cat thought they'd give it a go.
Upstairs from the deli counter is a pleasant room overlooking the street. It seemed promising, but perhaps they'd come on a bad day. The food was nowhere near as good as the surroundings. The waiter needed reminding what they'd ordered, but even when this was done it might have been better if they hadn't bothered. Cute earthenware crockery did nothing to hide the measiliness of the tiny portions. 'Large Greek beans in tomato sauce' turned out to be about a dozen sorry-looking cold baked beans with a sprinkling of parsley. A main course of halloumi and cous-cous was just about enough to cover a small saucer, and consisted of only the items in its description - no seasoning or indeed anything to garnish it. The salad, albeit a rather elderly one, was a better effort for size but, like everything else, it seemed possible that the ingredients had all come from nowhere more exotic than the nearby Somerfields supermarket. A big disappointment.
UPDATE: The place has now closed. No flowers please.