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 Bengal Spice, Wolverton
 Friday, 25 August 2000
 Bengal Spice is now Café Balti

We'd booked a table for 8:30 expecting the Bengal Spice to be busy on a Friday evening. However, when IanD arrived (early for once!) there were only three other customers in the building and by the time the others arrived, the place was empty. It's not the biggest restaurant we've been to with only 8 tables each capable of seating four. The recently applied décor was minimal with cream coloured walls and few 'ornaments'. There was evidence to suggest that the refurbishment was ongoing with an unpainted plywood partition screening the kitchen. The manager was extremely friendly and welcoming and asked lots of questions - it was almost as if he knew we were there to review his restaurant! The ordering process was unusual - after 10 minutes reading the menu we ordered our starters which were served before the main course was ordered.

For starters, we ordered onion bhajis and sheek kebabs. The sheek kebabs were excellent and arrived on a sizzler. There was a big choice of condiments, all very good but the best by far was the sticky red tamarind sauce. The bhajis were small balls and there were four in a portion. They were not very pleasant (the word revolting was used more than once) - they were very crumbly making them difficult to eat and the insides were severely undercooked. Obviously, you need a vast array of condiments to hide the taste of the bhajis!

There's a generous selection of main dishes from which to choose so the delay in taking our order proved quite useful. We'd never heard of a Chicken Jaflong but the description sounded good. Lots of chunks of tender chicken in a spicy sauce bursting with onions, tomatoes, green peppers and chillies. The Chicken Tikka Sri Lanka was not as hot as expected but was nevertheless fairly tasty and obviously made a lasting impression on PhilS. SteveB diverted from the norm and ordered a Chicken Tikka Biryani - believed to be the first biryani to appear in an Onionbhaji review. It had a good sized portion of rice - a generous assortment of vegetables and plenty of small, juicy chicken pieces. The accompanying veggie curry was also generous and fairly spicy hot. The nans weren't too bad but both plain and keema were a bit burnt underneath.

We asked the waiter if he had any Kulfi and he said he'd have a look. He returned with two of the mango variety, although we'd ordered three, as that was all that was left after the 'freezer had broken down'. He then brought out two freebies which had obviously thawed and been refrozen. The kulfis were fine but the freebies were revolting. Had we been told that there were only two kulfis left, we probably would have skipped dessert.

Apart from the raw bhajis and the free desserts, the food at the Bengal Spice was really good. To be honest, we'd rather have ordered the whole meal at once as the delay between starters and main courses was too long. A second visit is a distinct possibility but we think we'll skip the afters.

The Scores

Food3.5
Service4
Ambience3.5
Value4

Which gives an overall rating of 4 bhajis.

DishRatingBy
Chicken Jaflong5IanD
Chicken Tikka Sri Lanka3.5PhilS
Chicken Tikka Biryani4.5SteveB