Cat and Matt have been off the scene for a week or so; confined to barracks with, respectively, a cold and Man Flu. Without any sense of taste and likely to be felled by fits of coughing, M and C decided that they were not in any condition to eat out whilst the symptoms still raged within their contaminated bodies. However, an email from Matt & Cat reader Pinky perked them up out of their combined stupor – a new Indian takeaway has opened in Ryde.
If there’s anything that will help relieve the snifflings of a cold, it’s a good curry. So Matt and Cat, much cheered by the thought, dragged their weary carcasses to the top end of Ryde’s impressively long High Street. The further south they went, the dimmer were the shops’ lights. They crossed the Rubicon at the junction of West Street and Green Street and staggered into the gloomy upper reaches, finally spotting the welcoming glow of Spice Express.
Entering the takeaway, Matt and Cat found themselves in a bright and cheery waiting room. Fellow customers paused to chat to the newcomers, a TV chuntered away to itself in the corner and the staff proffered menus. Your reviewers had obviously come at a busy time – the phone rang regularly, people turned up to collect their pre-ordered meals and several people were waiting. It seemed that it hadn’t taken Spice Express long to make its presence known.
There was a lot to chose from on the menu: restaurant-style starters prominently labelled as ‘Non-vegetarian dishes’, the usual range of main courses, and a big section of vegetarian fare – including, unusually, some veggie set meals. All dishes were well described, and most came with some accompaniment such as salad or rice.
Matt, lured by the promise of wild Bangladeshi lemons, had a dish he recognised from the (very similar) menu of Cowes Tandoori: murgh sat kora. Cat played safe with her tried and tested favourite chicken passanda. Two portions of pilau rice and a side dish of spinach bhajee completed the order -all of which came to £18.15. Although the sofa and free copy of the Daily Mirror looked inviting, Cat could not drag herself away from the counter, for through its vast porthole was a view into the engine-room of the venue. The Spice Express bills itself as an ‘Indian Takeaway with Open Kitchen’ – and so it proved. The brightly-lit kitchen was immaculate and clean, and everything was on view. Chefs bustled about tossing mysterious ingredients into hot pans, cartons of sunset-coloured meat waited to be processed into curries and the World’s Longest Tandoori Skewers were wielded at perfectly formed chicken breasts. A fascinating insight into the workings of a takeaway as you watch your dinner being made.
Realising that she was clogging up the counter and flagging from the strain of suppressing a cough, Cat made her way to the comfy sofa where Matt had installed himself to watch some sport. Their dinner was brought to them by a cheery chap who waved them off.
Chicken passander £6.95
Murgh sat kora £7.25
Spinach bhajee £2.60
2 x pillau rice £4.50
Poppadums – free
Arriving back at the Cat Basket the goodies were unwrapped. Atop the bundle of food was an unexpected bag of poppadums which were pleasingly grease-free – perhaps cooked in an oven rather than fried. Also, to accompany the free wafer-thin bread, a carton of yoghurt-based dip plus a small bag of sliced raw onions and cucumber. Nice touch. The curries were very well presented – the passanda had a handful of flaked almonds and what may have been coriander under its lid, whilst Matt’s curry had big chunks of tomato and cucumber and slices of pepper slowly sinking into the sauce.
However well the food is presented, the test, of course, is in the tasting. Despite their taste buds being dulled by the cold virus, both Matt and Cat were very pleased with their dishes. Matt’s certainly was unusual – the wild lemons gave it a tang. There were both big and little pieces of chicken in the meal which gave the impression of the meat having been cooked in with the sauce; it was a good, tasty meal which Matt enjoyed.
Cat’s passanda was delightfully creamy; big pieces of chicken bobbed in the thick almondy sauce. The spinach bhajee was a very generous side dish – almost as much as a portion of curry in quantity. It was a bit sloppy but added a good visual contrast to the other dishes.
So, having eaten their meals Matt and Cat were pleased to detect that the takeaway had done the trick. Curry-therapy certainly did seem to be efficacious. They patted their full tummies and blew their noses, knowing that their colds were fading into memory. Spice Express gets top marks: another gem in Ryde’s very well-endowed takeaway crown.