From Our Foreign Curryspondent ... Dateline: Barcelona!

(The TATTGOC brotherhood extends around the globe, and we welcome reports of curry expeditions beyond Glasgow – in this bulletin, Lord Of The Dansak experiences some of the magic of Bollywood in Barcelona ... it turns out to be a tale of two naans, but is it worth making a song-and-dance over it?)

Restaurante Bollywood by Lord Of The Dansak
 
The Time: June 13, 1pm

Booking Name: Booking would have required more Spanish than the party could muster. Also more forethought. So let's just pretend it was something vaguely appropriate, like Javier Bardem. Yes, that'll do.

The Pub Aforehand:
For the name alone it was nearly Gran Beer on Gran Via, but in the end there wasn't enough time for a drink before lunch.

In Attendance:
Thali Ho, Lord Of The Dansak.

Expectations: Muted but hopeful. The internet was broadly positive about it.

The Experience:


It is a truism that the Brit abroad, whether he loves the local cuisine or sees it all as funny foreign muck, soon craves traditional British food – and not haggis, fish and chips nor roast beef, but curry. Whether this arises from our much-vaunted love of irony or simply the addictive endorphin release triggered by ingested capsaicin is unclear. But it is also true that curry outposts can be found in the farthest flung of places (see Foreign Curryspondences passim) and large, cosmopolitan cities are almost guaranteed to offer a choice of several.

So the Brit pining for a curry may not need to wait until returning home, and thus it was that – less than 24 hours before their repatriation to Blighty – the Thali Ho could take it no longer and dragged the Lord Of The Dansak to Restaurante Bollywood in Barcelona.

(This, incidentally, was less extreme than the occasion on a previous holiday when she had sought out a curry barely 24 hours after leaving the UK. That was in Lisbon and the resulting curry was fantastic. Thanks to their long history with Goa – and, perhaps, their national cuisine based on salt cod not putting up much of a fight in the flavour stakes – the availability of curry in Portugal is second only to Britain in Europe. There's a top tip you won't get on the Holiday programme.)

After a week of negotiating Spanish menus and taking pot luck with unidentifiable pinchos in bars, everything at Bollywood looked reassuringly familiar. You don't need to dig out the Spanish phrasebook to know what you're getting with channa masala or muttar paneer. Starters included pakoras and samosas, mains included vindaloos and biryanis, and there were thali options. The Lord Of The Dansak was sold.


Inside, the decor is faux-Moghul, there are pictures of "traditional" Indian scenes on the walls and Indian music plays constantly – so reassuringly curryhouse-ish. The tweaks for the Bollywood theme are that the walls are also adorned with posters of Bollywood stars (presumably), and the music comes from TVs showing a loop of Bollywood greatest hits. The parade of colourful, kinetic dance routines was instantly distracting and a frequent conversation-stopper, although it also started a few, trying to answer questions like: "What are they doing on the back of that motorbike?"; "Are those bagpipes I can hear?"; and "Why is she driving a tractor?"

The main giveaway that the restaurant is Spanish not British is the presence of a large rack of red wines and a large chiller cabinet of white wines. Beers are also available, including Cobra and Kingfisher, although the default cerveza is the local Estrella Damm.

Given that the young waiter's first language didn't appear to be Spanish and his English was excellent – and that we were in any case ordering Indian food in Catalonia – it would probably have been appropriate and acceptable just to stick to English. However, a chaotic garble of Spanglish was understood just fine.

Having lived for a week on a diet comprised almost entirely of pig, the Lord Of The Dansak wanted as many vegetables as the restaurant could offer and went straight for the vegetable thali, or "Menu de degustacion vegetariano". The Thali Ho toyed with taking the thali option but couldn't resist the call of a chicken jalfraizi, supplemented by a starter of aloo tikki and a naan. Dishes were offered in "normal" and "spicy" variants, but the chance to find out what a non-spicy curry might taste of was brusquely declined.

The Ho's starter arrived accompanied by three sauces described as "mild" (raita), "spicy" (tamarind) and "hot" (not entirely sure, to be honest). Whatever this last one was, it saw much service as a condiment to add some punch to dishes that were, overall, rather less fiery than the British average. Before the addition of the hot stuff, the aloo tikki was pronounced "pleasant but rather bland".

The Lord's vegetarian thali ... tray chic!
A similar verdict greeted the chicken jalfraizi, which was disappointingly light on the whole chillies that can turn the dish into a spicy Russian roulette. A touch of the special sauce (actually more of a paste, to be honest ... and, come to think of it, rather more than a touch) made it more to her taste.

The vegetable thali received a warmer welcome from Lord Dansak. Although the vegetable biryani was an undistinguished mix of rice and veg, the dal makhni was a savoury delight and the palak paneer was pungently spiced and delicious. A little extra heat from the hot sauce did neither any harm, but they were almost as good unadulterated.

Pakoras were good; a samosa was decent but oddly enormous. And so we come to a tale of two naans: Thali Ho's à la carte naan huge, fluffy and chewable; the Lord Of The Dansak's thali portion thin, tough and rather oily. What does a kitchen do to produce two such different versions of the same order for the same table at the same time? On which naan should they be reviewed?

In the end it makes sense to review Restaurante Bollywood on both, as they reflect the rest of the meal. This is a restaurant capable of fairly good food and fairly average food. Nothing was bad but nothing stood out either. Every dish hovered around "okay".

There are hundreds of similarly mediocre curryhouses around the UK and they're not really worth a second visit. But it's always a pleasant surprise to get a decent curry on the continent, and two punters left Restaurante Bollywood reasonably satisfied.

Range Of Drinks: Lots of reasonably priced Spanish wine; Cobra, Kingfisher and domestic beers; also several whiskies and other spirits.

Highlights: Palak paneer; the special sauce; fascinating procession of big Bollywood numbers on the TVs.

Lowlights: Several dishes skimped on the chillies.

The Verdict:
It's not going to be taking over from El Bulli as Catalonia's foremost culinary attraction, but it still serves a decent curry.

The Damage: €30.55 plus tip for two. 

SOME PREVIOUS FOREIGN CURRYSPONDENCE
Dateline: Hong Kong!
Tikka MaBaws Versus "The World's Most Dangerous Vindaloo"
Dateline: Buenos Aires!
Dateline: Birmingham Backlash!

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