Review: How do you decide when the menu is as extensive as that of the Indian Ocean in Bramford?
I always struggle to make a decision when I am eating out. Do I go for an old favourite I know I will love, or should I make a bold choice and opt for something new and exciting? Seafood, anything served with spinach or a coconut-based chicken dish usually jump out at me, and then when everyone else's arrives I kick myself for not being more adventurous.
So walking into the Indian Ocean, in Gippingstone Street, Bramford, I vowed to live on the wild side.
My parents and I were seated in a bright enclave away from the main dining area that seated around 12. This would be an ideal area for larger parties, or those with children, as you can have a conversation right along the table without having to raise your voice and disturb the other diners.
The interior is painted in a fresh white and, despite the weather being warm and sticky outside, the dining area afforded us a cool, calm and relaxed atmosphere.
We were presented with poppadoms and condiments to curb our appetite while we perused the menu.
The lime pickle had a real kick, and the mango chutney was smooth, rich and fruity - the ideal antithesis to the pickle - and the poppadoms were crisp and dry.
The house red was full bodied, sediment heavy and a welcome blend of fruity notes, not bad at less than £4 a glass.
Looking at the extensive menu, the chef’s specialities were given pride of place and it seemed only right to sample one of the many delicious-sounding options from this section.
Each was available with either chicken, lamb or king prawns, and I was torn between the Rajshahi - a fruity curry in a creamy sauce with nuts and raisins, and the Ruchita, a fairly hot and spicy dish, cooked with oriental spices, fresh herbs and fresh mango.
The owner warned the Ruchita can be very hot, so arranged for it to be cooked a little cooler than normal.
My mum ordered another hot dish while my dad opted for the chicken Tikka Masala.
We ordered a garlic naan and some onion bahjis - simple classics yet so often you are delivered a stodgy, over flavoured flat bread and a greasy ball with just a hint of onion beneath.
Keen to further test my taste buds, I ordered lemon rice. The tiny cubes of lemon zest had me slightly worried, but the taste was amazing, fresh herbs took the edge off the bitter lemon flavour to give a refreshing taste that would be ideal with a hot, tomato-based curry.
However, the owner was quick to point out the citrus may overpower the mango in my curry, and delivered a smaller portion of pilau rice - and unsurprisingly he was right.
The best way to describe the curry when eaten with the lemon rice was ‘nice’, but with the plainer option it came alive, the herbs were clearly freshly picked and the taste of the mango came through in every bite, but the richness of the diced lamb was still there.
To put it frankly, it was an explosion of flavours. I was thankful for the cooler option but the mix of flavours warmed me up and next time I would definitely opt for the original, spicier version.
The chicken Tikka Masala, a traditionally mild and dry dish, was just that - and there was plenty of it - a huge pile arrived at our table, meaning there was plenty to share.
It all bode well for the accompaniments we had orderded and again we were not disappointed.
The bhajis came served with a simple salad garnish, they were drier than normal and the onion slices were thick and juicy, with just a light layer of batter coating them.
Fresh from the oven, the naan was sprinkled with fresh herbs, was steaming and light, perfect for dipping into the spicy sauce of my Ruchita.
The dessert menu featured all of the old favourites - fantastica ice cream stack, lemon and orange sorbet served in a real fruit container and Calypso coffees all made an appearance.
I opted for a cappuccino ice cream frozen in a china mug. The coolness was very welcome after our flavoursome meal, and the rich coffee notes overrode the strong garlic flavours of earlier courses. But sadly, it was just a little too rich after our banquet, and I gave up midway through.
My mum went for the lemon sorbet and this was clearly the better option, the tanginess cleansing the palette and aiding the digestion.
We were unhassled by staff and even after finishing our desserts, spent a good half an hour sipping our wine and chatting away before leaving, making the most of the late summer warmth coming in from the open door.
Overall, we were very impressed with the food, the service and especially the wine. Main meals from the chef’s specialities cost around £8 for lamb or chicken dishes and around £11 for prawn choices.
And even better news, the Indian Ocean also do takeaways so if you fancy sampling their exotic cuisine without leaving the comfort of your home, just give them a call.