The lights are shining bright in East Cowes these days. Despite SEEDA‘s numinous arrival in the town – now revealed disappointingly as all light...

The lights are shining bright in East Cowes these days. Despite SEEDA‘s numinous arrival in the town – now revealed disappointingly as all light and no heat – the brave entrepreneurs behind Saffron in Cowes have thumbed their noses at the economic downturn and opened a stylish restaurant in the town’s historic Castle Street.

Purple Mango

Always up for a nice Ruby Murray, Matt and Cat, loose change and a few bits of folding money in their pockets remaining from pay day, drove to the Island’s northern peninsula. After bimbling about a bit in the cold, they found the new restaurant – the Purple Mango – by heading towards the mesmerising glow emanating from the venue’s picture windows.

Much has been said on this site about the generic refurbishment of the Island’s Indian restaurants; laminate flooring, leather chairs and concealed coloured lighting are ubiquitous. In fact, a ‘traditional’ venue like the Bahar Tandoori stands out from the crowd with its thick patterned carpets and mock Taj Mahal exterior. Would the Purple Mango have its own Unique Selling Point to distinguish it from Monsoon, Cinnamon et al?

Matt and Cat, peering into the restaurant, could see that it was already pretty busy despite it being quite early. Perhaps the punters were drawn to the rather boastful sign outside proclaiming the venue to be ‘The Isle of Wight’s Premier Restaurant’. Not just the best in its category but the Island’s Premier Restaurant. Matt and Cat pushed open the door, eager to experience this self-exulted curryhouse.

Curry

A gaggle of waiters stood around the door ready to greet the new arrivals. Led past the bar and the takeaway departure lounge, Matt and Cat were given the choice of a table by the waterfall or one by a vast mirror. As the water feature was a bit noisy, they parked themselves at the latter and handed over their coats, pleased that the the huge Bollywood TV was out of sight round the corner in the bar area.

The table was beautifully presented; clean starched linen topped with a yellow runner, the regulation amount of cutlery, wine glasses and side plates plus a tiny vase of carnations. Menus were proffered and napkins flicked across your reviewers laps. The menu was extensive with a long list of Purple Mango specialities, some old favourites and specials. Having placed their order, Matt and Cat settled down to munch on the extremely fresh poppadoms. The chutneys consisted of the usual yoghurt and mango (which Cat likes to dollop on her poppadom in that order to make a little fried egg lookalike), onion and cucumber, plus an unexpectedly sweet dish of grated coconut with sugar.

Baileys and chocolates to sweeten the bill

All this time the waterfall was tinkling away to itself; its lights changing colour, fading from red to green, purple and orange. This, plus the gentle lighting and the pulsating music gave the restaurant a relaxing yet grotto-like feel.

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Without much delay, the meals were brought out. Dispensing with tea-light fuelled heaters, the plates were put straight onto the table cloth – innovative for an Indian restaurant but certainly no worse off for this departure in tradition. Cat had rosun chicken, described in the menu as chicken tikka cooked in garlic sauce with mixed peppers and spring onions, garnished with fresh coriander. Matthew had shahi chicken – strips of chicken cooked in a rich medium sauce with green peppers, mushrooms, onion and tomato – proclaimed by the menu as very highly recommended by the chef. This led M and C to wonder why the chef didn’t recommend the other dishes? They figured that if everything was special then nothing would be. Accompanying their curries, Matt and Cat went off-menu and had ordered a mushroom bhagee.

Why, wondered the reviewers, was the Purple Mango a cosier and more comfortable place than other Island curry houses?

Both main dishes looked surprisingly similar, big chunks of extremely tender chicken covered in spicy, slightly oily sauce with a garnish of coriander on both. Their appearance was were the similarity ended. Cat’s rosun chicken had plenty of noticeable slivers of garlic and tasted very fine; nice and tangy without being too hot for her delicate palate. The meat was particularly good – a generous amount of bird. Hotter than Cat’s dish, Matt’s shahi chicken was nice: rich and tangy, but not exceptional. Nonetheless, he managed to polish it off with gusto, along with Cat’s leftovers. He reflected, not for the first time, that these new style Indian restaurant menus are quite cunning. They describe the most expensive and unusual-sounding dishes in great detail at the beginning of the menu. The ‘old favourites’ are rather dismissively left to the back and get no exhortative rubric alongside their names. However those less exciting-sounding dishes are significantly cheaper, and quite probably just as good as their more exotic brethren. Perhaps further experimentation is called for.

Matt and Cat’s bill
2 x papadums £2.70
Rosun chicken £9.50
Shahi chicken £10.95
Mushroom bhagee £3.95
2 x pillau rice £5.90
Beer £4.50

Whilst letting their dinners settle, M and C studied their surroundings with pleasure. The place had a certain welcome intimacy that other similar venues do not have. Why, wondered the reviewers, was the Purple Mango a cosier and more comfortable place than other Island curry houses? Unable to really put their fingers on it, they itemised the differences between this and other venues.

  • The service was friendly but not intrusive;
  • the low lighting was intimate without being gloomy;
  • the tables were positioned so as not to allow interference from other diners.

However, all of this analysis did not really define why the Purple Mango was nicer – it just was! And, whilst Matt and Cat twittered amongst themselves about this matter, the bill was delivered with a flourish along with two glasses of iced Baileys and two little chocolates. These complimentary goodies helped sweeten the blow – the meal was nearly £40. Still, it was pay day and Matt and Cat had eaten some tasty food in what is certainly East Cowes’ Premier Indian Restaurant.

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  • Sue, Roger

    20th September 2011 #1 Author

    Purple Mango do Thai also and we went to their much feted banquet night with everything you could eat for £10.99. What they didn’t say was that the drinks prices were hiked up. We had two soft drinks, a cobra beer (small) and a white wine for the princely sum of a few coppers less than £18! We didn’t realise and had two rounds and were much surprised at the bill when it came. Needless to say we didn’t leave a tip. The food was nice (not spectacular), the service totally forgettable, but I think if we went again we’d starve for a week to offset the hiked up drinks prices.

    Reply

  • Les,Sharon & 5 year old Luca,

    13th August 2011 #2 Author

    Spent 4 nights in Shanklin and eat at this place twice – a great indian fan this place rates up there with the best. Anyone who likes a friendly atmosphere with attentive staff and a great variety of food should try here. Only reason didn’t eat here every night is that we also discovered the Black Cat Thai restaurant just up the road!

    Reply

  • Nic in Cowes

    23rd July 2011 #3 Author

    I was recommended Purple Mango and decided to give the buffet a go. Possibly my error as I hadn’t realised it was just the Thai menu that you could order from. However when given the Indian menu, I enquired about the buffet and received an unintelligible response. They were not keen on us having the buffet and offered us poppadoms. When we asked another waiter, he informed us of ‘our’ error and gave us the Thai menu. We orderd starters and one main each, my friend ordering a mixed platter. When it came it was not as on the menu with items missing. We enquired why and was told curtly that if we wanted the prawn as well, we would have to pay £2 extra. We would have liked to order a few mains and try a few dishes but menus were taken away and we were not encouraged to order more than one main – not much of a buffet. The staff were generally rude and dismissive of any problems – we left just paying for the wine. We wont be returning.

    Reply

  • Sean

    18th July 2011 #4 Author

    We use Purple Mango for takeaways often, and on Friday we ordered at 17:30 and it was delivered within the hour as they said. And they had to come from East to West Cowes. I did ring the Dial-a-curry number not the restaurant (as its a lot cheaper and you get a free bottle of wine), I do not know if that makes a difference? The food was as excellent as always, 3 free poppudums. At about £10 cheaper on a meal for 3 compared to the Indian Restaurant takeaways in West Cowes, and a free bottle of wine, I recommend the Dial-a-curry service as we have never been kept waiting or our letter box force fed! Tel: 01983296678.

    Reply

  • fat frank

    17th July 2011 #5 Author

    Tried this Indian last night,the place always looked smart and well presented(if not a little short on custom) when my wife and i have past the property.We decided on ordering a takeaway meal due to the fact of entering East Cowes always scares my wife alittle.We used the menu that i picked up earlier that day (wife stayed in car, doors firmly locked!)and ordered a generous amount of food for two people eating,the sum totalling £27.30 and phoned our order at exactly 7.Being no further than a 5 minute drive from the town we expected around an hours wait (although we were told half an hour) which would of been no problem,HOWEVER!,3 hours later and 2 phone calls the food actually arrived!.Obviously by this time we decided that the food was no longer required and i politely told the delivery driver this.As soon as i sat down the fun started!,we could here a rattle at the letter box and on closer inspection i noticed that we were receiving poppadoms and not mail!,YES,he was posting them through whilst shouting “YOU RECEIVE ,YOU PAY!!”

    Reply

  • Isle of Wight Bob

    13th July 2011 #6 Author

    Agree with you Teacher … I know it was just before last Christmas when we sampled the Purple Mango, just 2 of us & it stayed like that for the rest of the evening we were there. Just the 2 of us. We will never go back. Tried the Spice Lounge in Shanklin the other week ” Fantastic Food & Service.

    Reply

  • Teacher

    13th July 2011 #7 Author

    I felt I had to write to disuade anyone from eating at the Purple Mango from their Thia menu. As a teacher I have had some fairly bad food in the guise of school dinners, however, the food I experienced at the Purple Mango was diabolical. The starter was still frozen on the inside, the main dishes were greasy, the vegetables were soggy and everything was far too salty! When the waiter asked if everything was OK we replied that it wasn’t, ‘OK’ he replied and walked away. I realise that I was eating Thai in an Indian, however, if you can’t do it even half way edible, don’t do it at all. To be honest I wouldn’t feed this food to my worst enemy!

    Reply

  • Rainbow

    2nd May 2011 #8 Author

    Love Purple Mango. I’ve had their excellent value for money 5 courses for £12 a couple of times. The service was pleasant and efficient both times and the food was gorgeous. I particularly like the fact that there is a mixture of usual dishes and more adventurous choices.

    Reply

  • emma oakley

    9th August 2010 #9 Author

    visited the puple mango this month during cowes week ,although food was nice and have eated at the milton keynes branch before so i know its usualy good value for money i was shocked when the bill arrived and it was over £55 more expensive than expected ,when i asked why the price had gone up so much the only answer i got was ” cowes week everything is more expensive , normal menu price will be back monday!).
    Im not sure how a company can justify doing this! i wont be returning to the purple mango in cowes!

    Reply

  • Sean

    22nd July 2010 #10 Author

    Try a delivery from Purple Mango’s spin-off company ‘Dial-a-Curry’ Ring 01983296678. I find the food is just as excellent but costs cheaper compared to PM’s normal Menu, and if you spend £25 you get a free bottle of wine!

    Reply

  • Reeny

    21st July 2010 #11 Author

    We returned to using Purple Mango after a long spate of using Balti King. We rang up on a thursday evening to place our order and was able to pick it up twenty minutes later. It was just a couple of pounds dearer than BK but was so worth it. Food was lovely! We will stick with them for as long as they keep providing us with food we enjoy, unlike BK nowadays 🙁

    Reply

  • Sean

    24th May 2010 #12 Author

    Eight of us visited for a birthday meal at Purple Mango on Saturday night. The food was superb and we got 20% discount on food and drinks. Only thing I would say could be improved was the service in taking plates away during and at the end of our meal, the place was half full and it seemed they were not coping well, if the restaurant was full you would need to put your marigolds on.

    Reply

  • Sean

    16th March 2010 #13 Author

    Had takeaways recently from ‘Dial –a-curry’ which is a spin-off from Purple Mango, yet much cheaper, and if you spend £25 you get a free bottle of wine! Was impressed the bottle of white was chilled and very drinkable. When the owner Salim delivered he gave us a 20% Purple mango ‘eat in’ loyalty card! So we popped in and got 20% of our food and drinks. Was a great meal and evening.

    Excellent restaurant and superb value takeaway. Well done Salim & team.

    Reply

  • Bernie and Frank

    31st January 2010 #14 Author

    I came to the purple mango last year with my husband ..Never tasted indian food like it absolutley georgous hopeing to come back pretty soon I really wish this restaurant was in Lee on solent

    Reply

  • OC

    24th June 2009 #15 Author

    Great restaurant and local so another plus…
    The economic downturn seems to hit catering businesses most, so no wonder that proprietor here was morning a bit- has no effect on quality of food and added creativity
    Now on offer lunchtime specials (take out only)
    A kebab roll was a nice minced lamb kebap with sald in a mexican style tortilla with a generous salad garnisch and a chicken tikka wrap was a nice difference to the usual sandwich bar style
    freshly grilled generous amount of chicken tikka (still slightly warm) with a fresh yogurth based sauce and some salad- excellent
    Good value, too at around 3 pounds each (hope they’ll beat the recession)

    Reply

  • Trixi

    3rd February 2009 #16 Author

    We had a really nice dinner at Purple Mango before Xmas. It is quite an expensive menu at first sight but if you read through the menu and look for more traditional dishes at the back (as observed by M&C) you can save a lot of money and eat very well. My food was tasty and freshly cooked (e.g. bindi baji, daal). The naan was great and came straight out of the oven. The service was professional and friendly. The owner of the restaurant made as feel very welcome. I particularly liked that the tables were spacious and that the restaurant was not cramped with furniture. The atmosphere was relaxing. I think Purple Mango has added great value to East Cowes which needs a lot of TLC. We will be back!

    Reply

  • Emma and Darren

    4th December 2008 #17 Author

    We were planning to go to Purple Mango as a treat for my birthday on a Tuesday night. This was until we were delivered through our door, a leaflet advertising their Wednesday and Sunday night. 5 courses for £12 (I think) Bargain! We strolled down to East Cowes and could not fault the restaurant itself, or the staff. It was definitely worth every penny and the meal deal filled up the restaurant giving a nice atmosphere.

    Very highly recommended and they even made the whole restaurant sing happy birthday to me whilst bringing out a suprise cake my husband had arranged! Nothing was too much trouble.

    Reply

  • Alexander

    5th November 2008 #18 Author

    Great review. Sometimes a restaurant just has the X factor. I havent eaten here but I have had a takeaway. It was quiet when we went but I think this place will get busy. They deserve it for supporting East Cowes.

    Much nicer than the rather stark and overcrowed Saffron.

    Well done Salim

    Reply