Monday, 28 September 2015

Curry comes to Jeziorki

Great was my joy to come home this evening and find in my letterbox a leaflet announcing the presence of an Indian restaurant 1.1km (two-thirds of a mile) or a 13 minute walk from home. Arriving hungry to find at home a hungry son, I suggested to Eddie that we try out the Garam Masala (ul. Puławska 538), located between the corner of Karczunkowska and Lidl.

The leaflet - and the restaurant's website - are enticing and professionally produced. The prices on the menu are around 30% cheaper than the Indian restaurants in town (Rain by India Curry, Arti, Tandoor Palace, Bombay Masala, Namaste India). And the fact that the owners have bothered to take leaflets round Jeziorki - almost entirely restaurant-free - is a very good thing.

We went. We could not find it, climbing to the top of the empty three-story commercial building at that address. I asked the security guard outside, while Eddie googled the restaurant and phoned a helpful waitress for directions. Turns out the restaurant is not in the main building at Puławska 538, but round the corner from the front entrance to the right, screened off from the car park round the side by a wall of conifers. No signage whatever.

We eventually found the gap in the hedge and through it the Garam Masala. Walking in... oh dear. The design is all wrong. Very little ambience of the Raj. Lights too bright. Décor left over from whatever was here before. A delivery rider in his motorcycle jacket sat a table waiting for an order to deliver. A crying infant in a pram, presumably belonging to a member of staff - and worst of all, no other diners seated (it was just past seven pm). Piped Western pop from the '80s and '90s rather than classic Indian music or Bollywood soundtracks. No alcohol licence (as yet), so no chance of washing back the meal with a Cobra or Kingfisher beer. The waitress said that the restaurant opened two weeks ago.

Eddie ordered the classic Chicken Tikka Masala - Britain's favourite, nay, national dish. I ordered a vegetarian main course (Palak Cholle - chickpeas and spinach in a spicy, smoky sauce) with a Lamb Samosa starter and Keema Nan (flatbread stuffed with minced lamb). When the food arrived, Eddie was disappointed. The CTM was orange rather than red, lacked zing and (to me) the sauce tasted like condensed tomato soup with some added spice. My food was fine - all was very tasty, and the portions were generous, meaning there was plenty to take away for breakfast.

I'm aware that when it comes to going out for a curry, Poles have a lot of catching up on the Brits. But among the rapidly growing Polish middle class, well-travelled, well-read and hungry for new ethnic food experiences, Indian food is becoming increasingly popular. Poles tend not to go for intensely hot, spicy dishes, preferring milder, sweeter tastes.

The bill came - it was totally reasonable. I noticed that the number on the top - this was bill no. 22, suggesting that 21 meals had been served here before ours.

I sincerely wish for the Garam Masala to establish itself and survive long-term to become a local fixture, full every night like the Ganesh on Al. KEN. But to do so, the owners will need to focus above all on interior decor and ambience. Make it more Indian - make the lighting more subtle, fill the place with bronze statues of Indian goddesses, the sounds of the sitar and tabla, and ensure the presence of Indian lagers.

Knowing that there's an Indian restaurant at the end of Karczunkowska, just a few paces from the bus stop, and that it delivers take-aways, is a big step forward for Jeziorki. We hope the restaurant will quickly develop, gain a strong and loyal clientele and flourish for many years to come - but first it must fine-tune its offer.

See this post about Indian restaurants in Warsaw, from five years ago.

This time last year:
Why we should all try to use less gas

This time two years ago:
Polish supermarket chain advertises on London buses

This time seven years ago:
Well-shot pheasants


Bob said...

Interesting to see. If you would like to see them succeed they could use input from someone like you about all the points you raised - maybe set up a coffee with the owner some evening and share your opinions/experience - may develop into a better place

Ian said...

Slowly but surely the choice for food beyond pizza and kebab is reaching us. I will certainly use this but only when my wife is out as she is not a big Indian curry fan!

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Bob, @ Ian,

The vegetarian takeaway ordered by Moni (Shahi Paneer - Indian cheese in a rich, creamy cashew-nut sauce) was a hit, and my Palak Cholle leftovers tasted as good re-heated as they did fresh last night.

Bob said...

Good feedback - Michal - let's go some day - Ewa and I are not curry fans ut perhaps because we only went to poor places and did not know what to order - how about a Sunday lunch one day? Give a call!

AndrzejK said...

I can recommend Mr India on al KEN. They will tailor the srenght of any of the sigabture dishes to meet personal preferences. So if you want a mind blowing CTM just ask.