As regular readers of Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide may have deduced, the eponymous writers live in Ryde and work...

As regular readers of Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide may have deduced, the eponymous writers live in Ryde and work in Newport.

Bengal Palace, Shide, Newport

This geographical predictability means that the reviews on these pages have a tendency to cluster around these conurbations. And, dear reader, you can be pretty sure that if a new place opens or changes hands in either of the aforementioned towns, Matt and Cat will sooner or later make a visit.

As it was when one of Cat’s colleagues idly mentioned a new Indian restaurant in Shide. In typical caulkhead fashion, the venue was described as ‘where the Barley Mow used to be’. It often seems that Islanders will give directions using defunct landmarks. Take, for example, the time when Cat rang a shop in Sandown to find out its exact whereabouts. “It’s in Avenue Road, opposite where the post office used to be and where there was a chemist on the corner”. Not very helpful, unless you’ve lived on the Island all of your life. And, as if to establish her IW credentials, Cat did not need any further directions.

Service couldn’t be faulted, and it was a nice enough venue once the rather dismal exterior was overcome

After a gruelling day breaking metaphorical rocks, Matt and Cat had worked up an appetite for a curry and, as it was a Monday, they knew that their favourite takeaway would be closed. How handy then, that a new Indian restaurant had opened not a couple of miles from their office. With a hop, skip and a jump, M and C arrived at this once grand old roadhouse. From the outside, it looks like its best days are behind it; the metal-framed windows seemed rusty and ill-fitting, there were visible cracks in the walls and the gas meter’s door had swung open in despair. Still, inside, the old pub looked quite smart, and a friendly welcome waited. The cheerful young waiter greeted his first customers of the evening and showed them to one of the neat new tables before hurriedly changing the ambient rock music to something a little more gentle and oriental in tone.

Chicken tikka massala, Bengal Palace

The menu was comprehensive, and showed some unusual departures from the standard Indian fare. Ayre tikka (Bangladeshi fish) was on the tandoori selection, as well as an entire fish specials section and a pleasingly broad vegetarian range. Intrigued, Matt – never one to turn down a new experience – stepped forward to try lamb jaipuri, described as ‘Authentic Maughal dish cooked with onion, yoghurt, jeera, coriander, tomato, fresh herbs, cream. Medium‘. Not tempted by any of the novel offerings, Cat pointed her finger unerringly at chicken tikka massala. A spinach bhaji was ordered to share.

Whilst they nibbled on the poppudums supplied, Matt and Cat relaxed and enjoyed the tasteful interior. Still recognisably a pub – and indeed one regular patron popped in for a pint later on in the evening – the Bengal Palace manages to be a reasonably well-turned-out modern Indian restaurant, with laminate flooring, soft lighting, and the ubiquitous leather-backed chairs. It also benefits from its main-road location: anyone approaching Newport from the Sandown direction will hit the Palace before almost anything else.

As M & C chatted, the next customers of the evening wandered in – or, in this case, waddled in. A chap was solicitously shepherding his colossally pregnant partner, whose drum-tight belly was largely unencumbered by her garments. To the credit of the Bengal Palace, this unusual entourage was politely and swiftly accommodated in a comfortable seat, with the utmost courtesy. When the pair explained their mission, it’s possible that a flicker of excusable concern passed across the face of the hitherto unflappable waiter. The local maternity unit had given the young lady an injection to induce her baby, and sent her off to get some supper. She had decided to try that well-known folk remedy for inducing birth – a good hot curry. This also perhaps explained her scanty attire – she proudly displayed her hospital admission bracelet on her wrist. As she chirpily asked that the meal be served soon, she declared that her baby was due in three hours time. Yes, assured the waiter hurriedly, the meal would be served very quickly indeed. Probably best for all concerned.

Soon after this diversion, the food arrived at Matt and Cat’s table. Cat’s chicken tikka massala looked good, and came with plenty of big pieces of sliced chicken tikka, rather than the usual chunks. It was pleasant, sweet but not too sweet, but ultimately she concluded that it was an average dish of no great distinction.

Lamb Jaipuri, Bengal Palace

Matt was looking forward to his authentic Maughal dish, but found himself a little disappointed. The lamb was served in small fragments, and these apart, the rest of the sauce was bland, runny and more-or-less featureless. If there were any fresh herbs in it, they were pulverised beyond recognition. Whilst not at all unpleasant, it was simply sweet and smooth. In fact, in a blind taste test this meal would pass easily for lamb tikka massala. If it had not been yellow there really would have been little difference.

The food was bland and unexceptional and couldn’t even be called particularly cheap

As they waited to pay, Matt and Cat had an enjoyable chat with the proprietor, who explained a little about his new enterprise. He made a great point of the fact that all his staff and the chef were from London – an accolade that went entirely over the heads of committed Islanders M & C. But he was pleased that his guests had noticed, and sampled, the new dishes on the menu, and with justifiable pride he pointed out that many could not be had at any other restaurant on the Island.

So, how does the new addition to Newport’s curry houses fare? Certainly service couldn’t be faulted, and it was a nice enough venue once the rather dismal exterior was overcome. However the food didn’t light any fires for Matt and Cat – nothing wrong with it, to be sure, but really, despite the commendable efforts to create a diverse menu, it was bland and unexceptional and couldn’t even be called particularly cheap. Let’s hope that the recently-imported chef is just finding his feet on the Island, as there’s no doubt that the Bengal Palace has the ingredients for a success, if they can but manage to blend them together.

Revisit, December 2011: We visited the Bengal Palace again for Christmas dinner. You can see what we thought in our Christmas Dinners post.
Bengal Palace, Newport

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  • les

    19th December 2011 #1 Author

    I agree that M & C should go back again, abdul who owns it treats you like you are the only customers in there, even when it’s packed out, his staff are excellent, & the food is the best we’ve ever had, and we have been to indian restaurants all over england. when we lived in Derby, we travelled to the curry house in leicester, because it was the best indian ever, having tried all in Derby, and believe me, the Bengal Palace beats them all. We just leave what we’re going to eat to abdul, and he never disappoints us, fantastic, try his tandoori chicken it’s heavenly. His food is always fresh, on sunday’s he does a banquet for £9.99 per person, eat as much as you want, but he doesn’t lay it all out to go dry, it’s cooked fresh to your taste. A selection of starters & 3 or 4 main courses, perfect, mmmmmmmmmmmm yummy! please don’t let the bad remarks put you of, try for yourself the refurbishments are nice also. les & pete cobain, & tom mahy.

    Matt & Cat reply: funnily enough, we had supper out there just last week, and wrote it up. You can see what we thought in our Christmas Dinners post.

    Reply

  • Colin Lynn & Jennie Baker

    23rd August 2011 #2 Author

    Oh,M & C, go back there again, they are having a refit and the interior is coming on great. I’m sure the outside will soon look a lot better. Our Darling Daughter Jennie, lives in Birmingham, right in the middle of the Balti Triangle, and her comment to the staff was that she had eaten curries at many places in Birmingham and none of them came anywhere near as good as the food at the Bengal Palace. If you are not a regular or keen curry eater, then give this palace a try, as they will not only suggest meals for you to try, but if you do not like what they produce, they will make you another dish. Lynn does not like hot spicy, yet tonight, she not only cleared her plate but also asked for seconds, most unusual. I thought Lynn might balk at the cost, but she said it was well worth every penny. A feast for the three of us including drinks came to £54, more than we would normally like to pay for 3, but worth every bit of it. We are saving for a return visit.

    Reply

  • M. Linnell

    5th August 2011 #3 Author

    Ordered a meal to be delivered and was told “up to an hour” no problem as it was a friday night, obviously busy. Phoned after an hour and a half and told it’s left the restaurant…….it turned up after 2 1/2 hours and only warm…not happy and WILL NOT be using again.

    Reply

  • Sarah & Mark Lawn

    9th December 2008 #4 Author

    Well what can we say, as being brought up in Shide, this is the best the best thing to hit Shide & Newport in years..!!
    We have been going since it opened for sit downs and
    take and have NEVER had a bad meal.
    Abdol,Hassane,Jaffa and the rest of the staff are
    brilliant,they make you so welcome each time you go in
    and the service is second to none, what we did notice
    is that they dont hoover over you all the time throughout
    your meal which we use to find in another local Indian
    restaurant.
    The food is fantastic and what I like is that if you want
    it slightly spicer, then they will cook it to however you
    want it. I also like the fact that if you want something
    different, but not sure what, if they suggest
    something and you dont like it, they will replace it with
    something you do like.
    All we can say is to all of you that havent yet visited
    this great new restaurant, do so now, as you wont be
    dissapointed.

    Reply

  • lisa

    9th November 2008 #5 Author

    Tried the foods superb.excellent service.I would highly recomend.extensive menu

    Reply

  • andy

    2nd November 2008 #6 Author

    check out there web site for information
    http://www.bengalpalace.webs.com
    you will find menu and offers

    Reply

  • den and gill

    9th October 2008 #7 Author

    we dont live far from this new indian so we thought we would give it a try when it opened, first of all with a takeaway and then with sit in, take away really good (with complimentry bottle of wine i must add) everything as we asked with extras chucked in. since then 2 a week they are costing us a fortune, not really, it is reasonable and have a beer at pub prices while you wait, sit down excellent with service to match staff cant do enough, well thats how we find it, best in town without a doubt.

    Reply

  • Dreama

    26th September 2008 #8 Author

    Hi

    Any information on the prices at this place?

    TY! 🙂

    Matt & Cat respond: we said “it was bland and unexceptional and couldn’t even be called particularly cheap”

    Reply

  • Kat Young

    8th September 2008 #9 Author

    I have been to bengal palace a number of times and have had numerous take aways (yes i am a take away addict) and i have not one bad word to say about Bengal Palace. I recently found out that they do a buffet style day from 12 noon onwards on sunday for £11.00. Bragain!!!

    i have not one bad word to say about Bengal Palace.

    To start with we had two popodoms each (sure i spelt that wrong lol) with chiken tikka and onion bhajee (helping yourselves to as much as you wanted) as soon as we ordered the buffet the man taking our order called to his colleague to sort out the curries and he explained to me that they do not like to put them out until someone has ordered it as otherwise it gets old and stale in the containers. Once we finished our starters we went up for our mains. It consisted of pilau rice, two side dishes and three curries (one mild, one medium and one hot) once we sat down with our plates almost overflowing we were brought out a piping hot fresh naan bread that had been made once it had been noted that we were helping ourselves to the curry that had been brought out whilst we were eating our starters.
    All together it was another thoroughly enjoyable indian and both me and lewis will be frequenting the place a lot more from now on. the staff are friendly, but not too much, and the food is delicious. All i can say to matt and cats comments is that they must have been there on a really off night.

    I hope that others will have a try of this food. the buffet changes each week and you can obviously order anything that is on the menu to go alongside your buffet should you wish to.

    Give it a go. I love it. It is certainly my new local indian. All the better for the bar with english beer in it and not overpriced!!!

    Reply

  • The Wildlife Gardener

    12th August 2008 #10 Author

    The thought of pushing a baby out while full of curry!! Bleugh.

    Reply

  • bushy

    12th August 2008 #11 Author

    Do we know what happened to the pregnant lady?

    Matt & Cat respond: she tottered off happily enough, and later on that evening M & C noted the time and realised that by now, all being well, she’d be a mum. We know she’s from Ryde, but nothing more than that. We send our best wishes… and wonder if anyone knows her, or her partner, and can update us..?

    Reply