Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Ah, Ventnor. Yes, the magical town where unicorns roam across the sparkling beach; and pixies giggle behind every corner. Or something. The Guardian pronounces...

Ah, Ventnor. Yes, the magical town where unicorns roam across the sparkling beach; and pixies giggle behind every corner. Or something.

Chutney Express, Chicken biryani

The Guardian pronounces “the place feels apart from the Isle of Wight, let alone the UK“. The Telegraph dashes up to claim “Ventnor has got its va-va-voom back“. Every street is cluttered by rubbernecking DFLs clutching cuttings from Sunday supplements. Locals waft by in clouds of patchouli and wind chimes, distinctive in hand-tooled sandals and flowing garments. One thing has long been missing from this idyll: a curry house. But now the picture is complete – Chutney Express has opened on Ventnor High Street, providing not only a take-away service but a small restaurant too. Matt and Cat, keen Indian fans, paid it a visit.

Chutney Express is a shining new establishment, with a few little tables positioned overlooking the High Street. M & C were the first customers of the evening, and the cheerful lady behind the counter leapt to her feet and enthusiastically welcomed them. Chutney Express hasn’t yet got its drinks licence, so the diners settled for iced water as they studied the menus. Standard Indian fare was on offer, with a few unexpected surprises – give 24 hours’ notice and you could order Chutney machli for two. For £55 you’d get ‘a whole fresh Bangladesh fish marinated for several hours with a secret combination of herbs and spices‘. Intriguing. But Matt and Cat were intent on something more immediate and, perhaps, more predictable. Cat chose chicken tikka biryani, and Matt went adventurously for nariyal ka gosht – lamb and coconut. To share, a side-dish of bindi khumb – okra with mushrooms and green beans.

Chutney Express, Ventnor

There was plenty to watch whilst the diners were nibbling on some poppadums and waiting for their main course. Locals trotted in to order takeaways with obvious delight – being a new place there were quite a few passers-by just looking in. The cheery assistant at the counter was chatty and welcoming, and seemed to be doing a great job in persuading casual visitors to place orders. One very well-to-do lady who tottered in was obviously unsure about the whole thing. “You don’t deliver, do you?” she demanded. But they did. “But you won’t deliver late, will you?” she continued. They would. “But you can’t deliver to Niton, though.” she asserted. They could. “Of course you won’t deliver to Upper Niton…?” she almost pleaded. But naturally, they would. The lady left her address, and, unable to resist the Chutney magic, placed an order to be delivered later that evening.

Matt and Cat’s bill
2 x poppadums £2.90
Chicken tikka biryani £8.10
Nariyal ka gosht inc pillau rice £12.50
Bindi khumb £4.50

Soon enough, the kitchen door opened and out came the main courses. Cat had to ask for the vegetable curry that came with her biryani, and it then arrived almost immediately. Otherwise the presentation was pretty good. The biryani was offered on a plate of shredded iceberg lettuce, and was a colourful sight. Cat dug in and found it packed with plenty of chicken tikka pieces – and pleasingly, the tikka bits for this dish were smaller than the usual ones, which was better than just normal chicken tikka bits with extra rice. Matt’s nariyal ka gosht was a subtle and creamy dish with a mustardy tang. There were simply piles of succulent lamb chunks in the tasty, smooth sauce. Most satisfactory.

Nariyal ka gosht

The bindi khumb was also a cut above the normal bindi bhajee. Okra with mushrooms and green beans has a more complex and pleasing texture than just okra by itself. Matt and Cat often like to supplement a straightforward main dish with some vegetables, and this dish achieved that goal very well.

It was time to pay, and so Cat made her way up to the counter and chatted to the friendly lady again. She was a little abashed when Cat pointed out that on the restaurant’s receipt was a big typo: ‘Chutney Expres‘ was apparently the name of the place. But worse was to come: on the credit card receipt the establishment was entertainingly named as ‘Chunty VENTNOR’. So, Chunty it is then. Now M & C will probably always call Chutney Express ‘Chunty’. It’s such an endearing moniker, bringing to mind perhaps the loveable sidekick that accompanies the less earnest brand of superhero: ‘Tune in next week for more adventures from Pruneman and Chunty!’

M & C sat replete in the window seat, watching the world of Ventnor go by. Gaggles of teenagers ambled past, fiddling clumsily with cigarettes. Old couples strolled purposefully along, taking the evening sea-air as holidaymakers have at Ventnor for generations. A big convertible car drew up and disgorged some young professionals in sunglasses and unlikely outfits. The driver was seen to fix a crook-lock to the wheel: wiseacres M & C nodded sagely to each other. Londoners.

  • Brenda says:

    This place is now red chill and I must say since it’s changed I eat here a little too regularly. It was taken over last October by a lovely young couple and at the beginning as the last poster commented it was a little plain but it now looks absolutely fab! There’s a lovely little bar and they serve alcohol OR allow you to bring your own CORKAGE FREE!! The food is fantastic with huge portions and a variety of unheard of dishes. Service always fantastic- I always have a glass of water with my meal which arrives before I even think to ask. They do desserts now too, menu looks fab but have yet to try them as I tend to overfill myself on the main course! Well done red chilli!

  • da yw wyth says:

    Now further re-launched as the “Red Chilli” – the quality continues to be fine, and there is an array of interesting and sometimes unusual menu choices. It is handy to find somewhere that starts serving meals from 5.00 p.m.

    However, the atmosphere now seems oddly desultory. Gone is the fresh, clean and welcoming approach of yesteryear, and everything has now become rather bleak and tired. There is an aroma of the floor having been mopped half-heartedly with cold murky water, and shabby hand-scrawled notices on the wall about the drinks choices.

    A sad decline, but still worth a visit for the great food.

  • da yw wyth says:

    Just re-launched as the Eastern Eye, new owners but same staff. Layout changed to allow for more tables, and a little less flimsy.

    A buffet is now done from 5.30 on Sunday evenings. Quality is better, if anything, than before. One of the best, if not the best, on the I.W.

  • Ben says:

    I have been to chutney. I have noticed Toilet is well clean. I am just wondering how could the above comment poster manage to see whether staffs wash their hands or not?? I have been to chutney many times their food is brilliant and the restaurant is nice little area. Always recommend people to try chutney!

  • Bentley says:

    One of the worst places we have eaten toilets SMELLY with URINE staff need to learn to WASH HANDS AFTER USE OF TOILETS Staff should understand their CUSTOMERS & treat them with CURTESY & get CUSTOMERS ORDERS RIGHT

  • Rath says:

    A visit to the Chutney is always a must, the food is fabulous. We also recommend the Chutney to our guests and they all praise it. Can’t wait to go back.

  • diane hawkes says:

    have spent weekend in ventnor had a brill curry here. living in bradford i like my curries and they served an amazing and tasty curry well done

  • FinchyVentnor says:

    Those in glass houses…you follow up your whine about the typo on your receipt with ‘apparantly’ rather than ‘apparently’. Tut tut!

    By the way, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed their food. Takeaway veggie curry came with lamb chunks in it and was missing rice. All the rest seems like that generic Bengali frozen stuff that you get from big warehouses on the mainland. As a Ventnor hippy I know my stuff. Staff very friendly though, and hopefully karma will recognize this. Peace, man!

    Matt and Cat respond: Hi FinchyVentnor, thanks for pointing out our typo. How embarrassing! However, the joy of the virtual, rather than printed, word is that it can be corrected without delay or expense.

  • Laura says:

    Just had a delivery from them now, the food arrived stone cold and inedible, yet when I rang to complain they claimed I would get food on the house next time I ordered. Why do I want to order AGAIN?

  • Annabelle , Lucie , Aggie, Moo, Lollypop says:

    The most wonderful curry possible and such lovely staff, one of whom watched over our dalmation in the car.
    We are surrounded in London by well known curry houses but they are not a patch on the Chutney Express in Ventnor.

    Even my fussy husband had nothing but praise!
    About to see if you are open for New Year !!!!

    We miss you and beloved Ventnor/ Bonchurch

    love xxxx

  • geoff says:

    We had a take away delivered and were pleased with the quality and the quantity (we thought we had enough just for one meal, but there was sufficient for two!) Quickly delivered as well.

    Good value- we will order again.

  • ventnorian says:

    DLF – Down from London i presume?. Well we do
    get a lot of them on the island in general ,not
    just Ventnor. I think they are entitled to enjoy
    Ventnor and the Island as much as we all are
    and i guess they do bring a lot of revenue tothe island but yes your depiction was quite accurate!

    Anyway back to food. I ate inside at the weekedn
    and it was again very nice indeed and very

    Just dont forget that you need to bring your

  • tim says:

    whilst it is true that ther are a lot of hippies in ventnor, Ventnorian is right when s/he claims that Ventnor is a diverse town. There’s a strong hip hop scene, loads of ravers, even a few mods!

  • Ventnorian says:

    “Locals waft by in clouds of patchouli and wind chimes, distinctive in hand-tooled sandals and flowing garments” I resent the inference that
    every ventnor resident fits into this catergory ( i hasten to point out there is nothing wrong with this image) However , Ventnor is a very diverse place and feel you are somewhow not doing out town justice by refering to it as in such a way! Incidentally the food at the Chutney Express is fanstastic!

    M & C respond: Oh, yes, we should have added in about Ventnor’s famous self-deprecating sense of humour, too. Sorry – not sure how that one slipped our minds. Anyway, what about the DFLs? Presumably that depiction is OK?

  • tim says:

    their set menu for 2 is superb value, enough for 3 and very tasty indeed. my only criticism could be that the first time we had it it arrived (very quickly) but barely luke warm. still, a curry house in ventnor is most welcome!!

  • Matt says:

    Indeed it is. They own both the Nabab and Tamarind in Newport.

  • Wendy says:

    I heard it’s owned by the same people as the Nabab in Newport (one of my faves). Is that right, do you know?

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