Discover the exciting tastes of India in Verwood
My first experience of Indian cuisine was as a student living in Leeds. Going out for a curry was a regular event, with my friends, especially the men, vying for who could eat the hottest. However, when I accepted an invitation to dine out at Spice of India in Verwood, I realised that times really have changed – and definitely for the better.
Being greeted at the door by the restaurant’s owner Shahik Miah who accompanied us to our table, my friend and I instantly felt at home. Little touches such as fresh roses throughout the restaurant proved that you really do eat with your eyes and we were both keen to choose our meals. The aroma coming from the kitchen certainly appealed to our sense of smell as well. Sitting in the window opposite the kitchen meant I could see in when the door was opened and I was not surprised when Shahik told me later that the restaurant has a five star hygiene rating.
What to eat? Papadoms enjoyed with an accompaniment of mint sauce, mango chutney, onion salad and Spice’s own red sauce gave us chance to study the menu but where to start? Indian cuisine has moved on since my student days and the menu reflected the wide range of regional and traditional cuisines native to the country.
The country encompasses a variety of cultures, ethnic groups, climates and soil types which is reflected in the food. The locally available spices, fruits, vegetables and herbs in India have influenced the flavours. The cultural differences and the country’s history also contribute, and by studying Spice of India’s menu diners can almost trace the history and geography of the sub-continent.
Tandoori, passanda, karai and kurma dishes come from the north. Balti from the northwest, biryani and phindi from the south. Rogan josh from Kashmir and Madras, Bengal and Ceylon are selfexplanatory.
Of course every curry is different but the menu makes it clear whether the dishes are mild, medium, fairly hot, hot or in the case of vindaloo very hot.
With over 200 main dishes on the menu, no one could possibly complain about the restaurant not offering a choice. And that’s before the side dishes, rice, bread and starters.
I was quite willing to let Shahik guide me through the tempting array of flavours.
As a starter he suggested my friend and I try the Spice of India special – whole green pepper stuffed with finely chopped chicken and vegetables with medium spices and cooked in a clay oven, and the dumm aloo, scooped out potatoes packed with fresh vegetables and herbs then deep fired. Both were delicious and beautifully presented.
My friend decided on the jalfrezi chicken, a dish that originally appeared in cookbooks of the British Raj. Using aromatics spices, tomatoes, green chillies and green peppers in a sauce, it is classed as fairly hot. She thoroughly enjoyed it declaring it to be “perfect”.
Shahik, after listening to the type of food I liked, suggested the chicken exotica, one of the chef’s special dishes. This was chicken cooked in a sauce of coconut with mango and pineapple. Delicious. Not too sweet and the large slices of ripe mango complemented the chicken. What amazing flavours.
We accompanied our main courses with pilau rice, peshwari nan, sag aloo (spinach and potato) and aloo chana (potato and chick peas).
Going back to the eating with your eyes theory – this beautifully presented food made our mouths water and the taste just confirmed everything our eyes had promised.
We’d managed to order too much to eat and Sam, our attentive and charming waiter, offered to pack what was left of our meals for us to take home.
There was a large party in the restaurant with us and I watched with interest the number of dishes they’d ordered. As colourful plates of curries, vegetables and rice were delivered to their table, I couldn’t believe that they’d manage to eat it all. It says something about the qualtity of the food that I saw very little left over and there was certainly no need for takeaway containers for them.
Spice of India is always highly rated on Trip Advisor and many of the clientele are local, coming back time and time again to their favourite restaurant.
Open every day at lunch from 12noon-2pm and evenings 5.30-11pm, the restaurant is licensed. Our Cobra beers were spot on.
There is a dessert menu but while being tempted by the choice, I eventually ended my meal with a coffee. Hot towels to freshen up and time to sit and soak in the relaxing atmosphere ended the meal perfectly.
Spice of India has been open in Verwood since 2009, and has a sister restaurant in Wallisdown.
It’s the special touches that help make Verwood Spice so popular. There are gluten-free dishes, my meal was cooked using no garlic (my choice) and there are no nuts in the recipes, except coconut.
Tuesday nights feature a six course buffet meal for £12.95 and there is a piano night once a month.
Shahik is also a chef and has 30 years’ experience of running a restaurant. It clearly shows.
He recommends that diners make a reservation but says the staff will always try and make room for a few more if they are full.