Restaurant review: Montaz, Newmarket - 'Quality Indian food with a fine dining feel'
Mark Heath and his wife Liz visited Montaz in Newmarket, which is making a name for itself as one of the best contemporary Indian restaraunts in the region.
As big fans of Daniel Clifford, the man behind the brilliant two Michelin-starred Midsummer House in Cambridge, we were excited to visit Montaz - a restaurant the great chef has often listed as one of his favourite Indian eateries anywhere.
From the outside, it looks fairly unassuming, but once inside you can immediately tell that this is not your run of the mill Indian restaurant – the interior is stylishly furnished and modern, both cool and welcoming.
It’s also clearly very popular - we booked for the first sitting at 6.30pm on a Saturday night and expected it to be quiet, but the place was packed even at that early stage. Usually a very good sign that somewhere is getting things right.
And so to business. Having ordered a pint each of Cobra - when in Rome and all that – we browsed the menu devised by Ramesh Dhinga, a chef with more than 30 years of experience in Indian cooking, who has worked for the world-famous Ashoka Group in India.
The menu itself is a mix of what one would call the expected – the traditional Indian dishes you can find in most places – and the exciting. But more on those later.
Of course, we tucked into the obligatory poppadoms as we browsed - excellently presented, with a nice range of chutneys and accompaniments, the highlight being a fiery but very tasty mango, chilli and lime pickle.
For starters, we decided to go for the tasting platter for two - a nice idea combining a selection of chicken tikka, sheek kebab, salmon tikka, and vegetable pakora.
It arrived beautifully presented, if a little small, and proved a fine introduction to Montaz cuisine. The highlights for me were the salmon and pakora – both gently spiced, well-cooked and delicious.
Onto our mains, and we both plumped for one on the Montaz signature dishes - Liz the duck shashlich and me the Harin Mansh.
Now, if you’re presenting something as your ‘signature dish’, it better be good - and so they proved. Remember the exciting’ I referred to earlier? Well, this was it.
Presented fantastically on matching wooden boards, both dishes scored highly on the Heath ‘you eat with your eyes first’ scale.
Liz’s duck, which was accompanied by roasted peppers, red onions and tomatoes, was cooked perfectly - still pink, perfectly tender and with no fat – and worked wonderfully with the sauce, which balanced sweetness and spice.
My Harin Mansh venison was served with asparagus - something I’ve not seen before in an Indian restaurant, but it really worked. My sauce was slightly hotter than Liz’s and the meat slightly more done than I’d usually like, but it was delicious.
We’d ordered a garlic naan as a side and - on the advice of our excellent waiter – some chilli and lemon rice, which was a brilliant compliment to our main dishes, the citrus freshness of the rice cutting through the heat and richness of our sauces.
Both mains were what I would call gently spiced, more subtle than the sledgehammer spices you tend to find in many Indian restaurants - indeed, if you’re after a ‘traditional’ Indian experience, ie: necking five pints of lager and smashing a jalfrezi, this probably isn’t the place for you!
Montaz also brought us another first from an Indian dining point of view – quality puds! None of your standard ice-cream in weird and wonderful serving pots, here we had a proper dessert selection.
I went for the intriguingly-named chocomosa, while my better half opted for the honey and malteaser cheesecake.
As it turned out, mine was exactly what it sounded like - melted chocolate-filled samosas, served with vanilla ice-cream and a tuile of white chocolate.
It was messy to eat and very rich, but bloody good fun. I enjoyed every bite, but I can imagine that for some it would prove too sweet.
Liz’s cheesecake was also very rich, but nicely presented and again far above what one would normally expect from an Indian eaterie.
An excellent coffee topped off our meal, and we went away feeling like we’d just had a very different, but outstanding, Indian dining experience.
The true measure – aside from the food, of course – of any quality restaraunt, and Montaz passed that test with flying colours.
Excellent, attentive and knowledgeable - the recommendation of chilli and lemon rice to accompany our mains was absolutely spot on.
You need lager when you’re at an Indian, right? Montaz has two on tap – Cobra and Mongoose, plus non-alcholic Cobra too. There’s a good wine list as well - £150 for a bottle of Dom Perignon if you’re feeling flush – plus a decent selection of red, white and rose options.
Montaz is located on one of the main roads in Newmarket town centre and doesn’t have its own car park, which is perhaps a minus point. But we managed to park on the road pretty much opposite the restaurant, so had no complaints.
Cool, stylish and modern - as soon as you walk in, you get the sense that Montaz is a cut above a traditional Indian restaraunt.
Very reasonable. The signature dishes are the most expensive on the menu, but £15.95 is by no means a robbery for food of such quality.
The signature dishes were superb. We’d both happily order them again and polish off every scrap. Again.
Quality Indian food with a fine dining feel in modern, stylish surroundings. If you fancy something a bit different and more subtle, this is the place.