My lovely friend Nicola went along to try the new menu at Indian Ocean in Ashton Under Lyne last week. I was genuinely gutted I couldn’t make it. I’ve worked in Ashton Under Lyne for ages and have never found the time to visit! Here she is with her thoughts on the food:
When I got the opportunity to go and sample some new dishes at the Indian Ocean I was really excited. I frequently came here when I was younger and was intrigued to see what had changed.
I took my husband with me and we were greeted at the door by Abdul who showed us into the lounge area, where we waited to be seated whilst enjoying a nice cold Cobra Beer.
I didn’t know what to expect and when we reached our table we were presented with a starter that looked very much like a dessert. It was in fact an Indian Salad called Aloo Padi Chaat. It was layered with chick peas, kidney beans, potato and delicately spiced. There was a sprinkling of deep fried roti on top with a swirl of yoghurt throughout. I must admit my first initial thought was that I would never normally order this and whilst examining it I watched my husband as he sampled his. When his face lit up and he exclaimed “oh my, that’s good”, I quickly grabbed my spoon to see what the fuss was about. Surely enough I was pleasantly surprised as this was like no salad I had ever had before. The kidney beans and chickpeas were soft and juicy, the topping added some texture along with finely chopped white onions. There was also a hint of tamarind giving it a sweet and sour flavour. After I finished I was left wanting more. It was so refreshing and light and is most definitely something that I would order in the future. This dish was described as a starter to cleanse the palate and my tastebuds had certainly been awakened and was ready for more action!
The next dish came in two different versions, non-vegetarian and vegetarian. They were presented on trays with five small bowls containing something different along with a helping of rice and a chapatti in the centre. Whilst it looked very appetising, I felt like the chef could have been more adventurous with the presentation as it seemed like there was something missing. I learned that these dishes were called Thalis and was a typical, traditional Southern Indian meal that would be usually served at lunchtime. These dishes are gradually disappearing off the menu due to the fact that they take a lot of time, care and attention to prepare.
We mentioned that the way it was laid out reminded us of a Tapas or Meze selection. The trays contained:
Kala channa chaat
Aloo and cabbage bhaji
Chicken punjabi korma
Lamb desi korma
Desi chicken tikka shashlick
Both were accompanied with a zeera cumin rice and chapatti.
We started with the vegetarian and as we worked our way round the dishes we were soon discussing the different flavours and heats. We thought the kala channa chaat was quite fiery but not unbearably so. It consisted of black chick peas with a dollop of yoghurt and I was surprised that I enjoyed this as my normal strength of curry doesn’t go much past a masala!
The dhall looked like puréed lentils with green chilli. The sauce was thick and creamy in texture and the odd kick of the green chilli helped give it further dimension.
Okra has never been an ingredient that I have had in my fridge and I had no idea what it would taste like therefore the bindi bhaji was a bit of a wild card for me. The okra was tender with a welcoming heat.
The aloo cabbage bhaji was like a deconstructed bhaji with shredded cabbage and potato. I found this dish to be quite mild and maybe not as adventurous as its neighbours.
The raita was a lovely contrast with the heat of some of the dishes.
We started on the non-vegetarian next and was immediately struck by how the intensity of the favours had been toned down. This by no way detracted from the dishes but instead surprised us especially after the dhall. For me the lamb korma had the most kick. The lamb was succulent and the texture of the sauce familiar to what we are normally accustomed too. The chicken Punjabi korma was small cubes of chicken with a taste of coriander and the occasional cardamom pod.
I’m not a big fan of minced beef so I approached the tana keema with reservation. I needn’t have been worried as the mince was delicately flavoured and my childhood memory of mincemeat and onions were banished. I loved this dish in its simplicity and home spun style.
I found the kebab and the shashlick quite similar as they both had onions and peppers coated in a fruity sauce. Again these dishes felt familiar to me and because of this I dipped into them into raita to appease me.
The rice and chapatti helped to soak up some of the sauces. As mentioned before we considered that these dishes had a tapas feel to them and because of this I would have liked to have seen smaller sized sundries such as miniature roti, chapatti and poppadoms to accompany them instead. This would take away the need for a fork and gently push the diner into eating with their hands and experience a more authentic Indian dining experience.
After speaking to the staff I got the impression that these dishes were open to adaptation depending on the taster’s opinions. I can honestly say that my husband and I would now confidently pick out some very different dishes knowing that we would not be disappointed. I eagerly await these new additions to be officially added to the menu and look forward to coming back to re-live my experience of traditional Indian food.