Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
The vast, metropolitan town that is Cowes boasts no less than three eat-in tandooris, the Island’s county town, Newport, has only two, and Ryde,...

The vast, metropolitan town that is Cowes boasts no less than three eat-in tandooris, the Island’s county town, Newport, has only two, and Ryde, Shanklin and Sandown have to make do with one each – oh, and one in Lake. It’s a mystery why, outside Cowes, such busy tourist towns boast so few Indians, when they seem to have pub grub, cafes and burger bars in spades. So, to further research the issue, Matt and Cat invited a couple of friends to join them at Sandown’s only tandoori, the Taj, on the High Street.

Taj Tandoori, Sandown

The Taj is like many tandooris in layout – laminated floor and discreet lighting. However, it deviates pleasingly by eschewing linen cloths and plush overstuffed seating for cafe-style chairs and bare wooden tables. There is also more space than is often the case in some packed restaurants, allowing diners and their food plenty of room. The table Matt and Cat’s party chose was a round one, which is always a benefit for a social occasion. The courteous waiter took orders for drinks but, surprisingly, no poppadums and chutney was produced or even offered. This is normally de rigeur in a tandoori.

The menu was short and simple, with a good selection of staple Indian dishes at reasonable prices. Matt, just recovering from a cold, decided to go for the spicy chicken Madras to clear the passages. Cat picked chicken tikka massala, and they decided to share a sag bhaji between them.

Chicken madras and sag bhaji

The restaurant was busy, and so there was a fair wait during which Matt and Cat chatted with their guests. The place certainly seemed to have a good lively atmosphere, and as the punters poured in Matt and Cat were glad they had taken the time to reserve a table in this popular venue. When the food arrived it proved to be worth the wait. The chicken madras was hot, and very tasty, with some good tender chicken chunks in it. Matt could have managed a bit more of it, but Cat found her chicken tikka massala portion size to be just right. It was a nicely coloured dish; the sauce sweet but not sickly and the chicken beautifully tender. The sag bhaji was exceptional, with plenty of freshly-cooked spinach making a rich and almost sweet-tasting dish which perfectly set off the main meals.

As the meal drew to an end, Matt and Cat and friends became aware of an absence. Apart from silent clearing of dirty glasses and plates, they’d had no attention from the staff at all. Nobody had come to ask them if they’d enjoyed their meal. Nobody came to offer them coffee and desserts. Nobody even offered more drinks. In fact, although the restaurant was emptying and staff were busy cleaning tables elsewhere, nearly an hour and a half after finishing the meal nobody had even brought the bill. It’s very nice to have the time to chat after and not be hurried out, but there is a fine line between discreet and negligent service – a line which the Taj was perilously close to crossing. Eventually one of the party had to stand up and buttonhole a waiter before the bill was produced.

The Taj was a good place to eat, without a doubt. Reasonable prices and very passable food, served in pleasant surroundings. The inattentive service did, however, take a little of the pleasure away from the experience.

  • James says:

    With regards to the Taj Tandoori comments in Cambridge I can vouch for the amazing food and free poppadoms, great place I have been eating there since I was 14, thats a whole 18 years now!

  • Julia says:

    Like Tim, I had a takeaway from the Eastern Eye (as it’s now called) last night. It was swimming in grease and truly horrible. I love my food and rarely leave an empty plate but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat even half of it, and what I did eat has left me feeling quite unwell. Really disappointing.

  • Tim says:

    Had a takeaway from here under its new name of ‘Eastern Eye’. Won’t be rushing back. A very average . My jalfrezi was nondescript and my mum ‘s karma was bland even in karma terms. Plus they used that really fake processed chicken, a bit like tofu. Vegetable sides were greasy and again very bland. Sad as I’ve had good meals here in the past.

  • Syed says:

    Hi Matt and Cat I own a Restaurant in Cambridge ALSO named Taj Tandoori
    We take great pride in giving our customers a service which will always entice them
    back as well as gourmet Indian cuisine so therefore you guys are welcome to the Taj in Cambridge
    and to top it off we will give you free popadoms too!

    Matt and Cat respond: Hello Syed and many thanks for your comment. We’re humbled by your generous offer, and if ever we do make the trek to Cambridge then we’ll certainly bear in mind the free popadoms.

  • Mal the Brummy says:

    Not tried this Indian yet but tried one in Shanklin near to the Coop. Not very memorable!!
    Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that I moved to the island in the summer from the West Midlands. Home of the Balti!!
    A lot of curry/balti houses in and around Birmingham offer free popadoms as an appetizer, maybe the restaurants over here could take a leaf out of their book? Also u can usually eat a 3 course meal for less than £15.00 a head plus drinks(usually take your own).
    I will be trying the Shahanaz in the New Year and also Monsoon which is within walking distance for me.
    Mal, Ryde

    Matt & Cat respond:
    thanks for the feedback Mal – glad to get an expert opinion on Island curries – do keep the comments coming, and let us know how you fare at the other places!

  • alice says:

    Hi, I live in Sandown and was pleased to see an Indian restaurant opening, but on entering my husband and I thought it a bit clinical in its presentation. I suspect it cuts down on cost of washing table cloths ets.
    For a while we were the only customers in the place and were left unattended for some time. Like you we were not offered pappadoms etc, but we did see other customers being brought them. Not to feel left out we asked for some too, only to find at the end of the evening we were charged for them!!! Never before in an Indian restaurant have we been charged.
    Having said that, we did have an excellent meal, however we have never returned even though it is only a stones throw from our house. We prefer to sit on the seafront at the Ocean Deck!!

    Matt and Cat say: Thanks for your comment. We have yet to go to an Indian restaurant where poppadums are free. We’re quite happy to pay for them, but when we visited the Taj they weren’t even offered.

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