Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge #4 – President Lounge Review

Note: This review is split into two parts. The opinion of curry-lover Swill, and the opinion of curry-liver, Evo.

Situated on Bridge Street, the President Lounge is located in the ideal place for a curry after an evening in Walsall Town Centre. Opposite Master’s Snooker Club, and formerly the home to the Silver Sea Chinese restaurant, the President Lounge now serves up Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine. Adopting the tag-line “Exclusive Cuisine,” the restaurant opened in November 2015 and is up against some hot (and spicy) competition with numerous Indian restaurants, including Golden Moments, Shimla Peppers and Cumin, also located within a few minutes walking distance.

a walsall indian restaurant with a touch of style

Click here for full details on the Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge.

4. President Lounge

Tameway Tower, 48 Bridge Street, Walsall, WS1 1JZ

Phone – 01922 474148

Food Hygiene Rating – Not yet submitted

Date visited : May 29, 2016

Who visited: Swill, Evo

Written by Swill

Visiting on a balmy Sunday evening, having tanked ourselves up first on lager and ale from nearby boozer, The Victoria, the location of the President Lounge immediately scores some bonus points. With a good variety of local pubs in the vicinity, including the middle-class setting of Lyndon House, the ‘working-class’ charms of Flan O Brien’s, and ale-drinker’s paradise, The Black Country Arms, its prime spot in Walsall town centre is ideal.

Soft lighting and a variety of Asian trinkets ensure the restaurant has a fairly romantic ambiance, while the immaculate white-washed walls gives the impression of cleanliness, and contrasts nicely against the oak-coloured tables and jet-black chairs of its seating area. A bit of glitz and glamour is provided courtesy of the small chandeliers that shine down over guests, while a fish tank (with a suitably exotic collection of marine life, and a couple of not-so-exotic goldfish) is something fun to look at when you’re on the way to the loo. Simple yet elegant is probably the best way to sum up the restaurant’s overall style.

the president's lounge interior

There’s a small bar (unlicensed, but you can bring your own booze) and enough seats for around 40 guests in the main area. The tables are spaced out nicely, ensuring you can have an intimate conversation without anyone overhearing. Style points are slightly lost on the toilets where it would have been nice to see some of the artistic flair from the main restaurant spill over (an Asian-themed picture, or a colourful toilet seat like you find in Golden Moments perhaps), but the lavs were absolutely spotless.

best walsall curry house

Impressed by the décor, cleanliness and the extremely comfortable high-backed chairs, I was slightly miffed at the fact that Radio One was playing in the background rather than traditional Indian music, which always gets me in the mood for a curry. However, the warm welcome, and good company, soon made up for the lack of bouncy bangla or the soothing sounds of a sitar.

Read more Walsall curry reviews

Welcomed by a very attentive and friendly waiter, it was mere minutes before a couple of poppadoms were delicately plonked on the table with three bowls – onion salad, mint sauce and a nice hot and spicy red chutney.

walsall poppadom

Three pots of poppadom condiments

The menu was vast with a variety of very reasonably priced (approx. £5) curry-favorites (Madras, Bhuna, Rogan etc.) and some delicious looking specials, such as Royal Tikka Bhuna (a chicken and lamb tikka combo with king prawn) and Chingri Karahi (Tiger king prawns cooked marinated & slow cooked with capsicum in special herb sauce with fresh green chillies) priced at around the £8-9 mark.

I decided to opt for the £9.95 special, which turned out to be great value, consisting of: poppadoms, a starter, a main meal, a side dish, rice or naan, and either coffee or ice-cream.

president's lounge menu

The special offer available at the time

What I ordered

1 x Chicken Tikka Starter

1 x  Chicken Kahari

1 x Mushroom Fried Rice

1 x Mushroom Bajii

1x Coffee

The Chicken Tikka starter was served with four delectably moist chunks of chicken with a moon-shaped piece of cucumber (must have been running low on the phallic-shaped vegetable), a sprinkling of salad and a slice of tomato. It was fairly small, even for starter standards, but I put this down to choosing the ‘special’ cheaper menu. The tikka was mildly-spiced – I usually prefer this particular starter with a bit more kick – but with the accompanying yellow onions, which deliver a more pungent taste than your standard white onions, I thoroughly enjoyed it and wolfed it down before Evo was even halfway through his starter.

chicken tikka

Chicken Tikka – with yellow onion surprise

The Chicken Karahi arrived in its standard metal dish with a mushroom fried rice accompaniment, which was lovely and fluffy with a decent amount of sliced mushrooms adding to its flavour. The Karahi Chicken was an average-sized potion with a handful of coriander sprinkled on top. The meat was lovely and tender and had soaked up all the flavours of onion, tomatoes and peppers very nicely. Spicy without being too hot, the Karahi was flavoursome, filling, and largely faultless in terms of taste, though it once again lacked the spicy kick that was missing in the tikka starter which I usually expect from this dish.

chicken karahi

Chicken Karahi – rich and flavoursome

The side dish of Mushroom Bhaji wasn’t as impressive. Having not eaten a bhaji before that didn’t come encased in pastry, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this was more like a vegetable curry dish. However, the slices of mushroom felt a little slimy, and conjured up the image in my mind of eating chopped up slugs. Having cooked a fair amount of mushrooms in the past, it seemed like they had been boiled, or defrosted, rather than fried. Luckily, the sauce was very flavoursome with its mild chili kick and, despite being a little oily, I soaked it up with the warm, fluffy rice and gobbled it down.

To top off the evening, a generous pot of steaming hot coffee was served. It was proper coffee too. A complimentary chocolate and some wipes to freshen up arrived, though the latter was more like a baby wipe than the steaming hot flannel or moist cloth that I prefer.

Final thoughts – The President’s Lounge review

The service at the President Lounge was exemplary throughout the evening, though considering we were the only people in there I wouldn’t have expected anything less. An attentive waiter and the friendly boss came over a few times during the evening to see if everything was okay, and he even overheard my comments about being freezing at one point, and swiftly headed over to turn the electric fire on next to me, and closed the main doors. The place heated up immediately. That’s great customer service.

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Rating in terms of thumb angle and facial expression

The food was largely delicious without being spectacular, only slightly spoilt by an oily side dish with a mushroom texture I didn’t enjoy. Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the President Lounge, which offered good service, an excellent £9.95 special, and ( overall) some tasty Indian cuisine. Unspectacular, yet tasty, the value for money was tremendous.

SWILL’S PROVISIONAL MONOPOLY BOARD RATING – VINE STREET

vine

Written by Evo

Hi all, Evo here. I didn’t go out for curry on this particular evening, Swill announced he wanted one whilst we were out and I certainly didn’t expect to be resurrecting the marvellous Monopoly challenge, so I didn’t make too many notes but here goes.

It’s strange being in an empty Indian restaurant as Swill said.  Without the chatter of fellow dinners the backing music of Radio 1 was as audible as surprising. After a couple of dodgy songs though we were treated to some classic Biffy Clyro and then the superb current song from Blossoms so I was relaxed as the speedily delivered poppadoms were demolished.

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I’d joined Swill on the six course meal offer but was slightly dismayed that all the side dishes were of vegetarian origin. I was still pondering and watching passers-by (including one chap who wandered up Goodall Street and came back down a minute later looking more relieved), when the waiter came to take the order and I panicked and opted for chicken tikka masala.

The starter was ace. A superb piece of tandoori chicken and yes it took me longer to eat than Swill his, but when you have to strip every morsel of flesh off the leg like a ravenous vulture it does take time. If it was a Crystal Maze challenge yes I’d be locked in every time.

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The curry itself was slightly sweeter than I usually like, but it went down well with a great naan and some lush orange juice. Yes, you read right,  it is unlicensed and my take is that if you haven’t had enough alcohol in the pub beforehand then you really haven’t tried hard enough.

presi11

Due to the sweetness I left some of the sauce but it was only around the same amount that Swill had got all over the pristine white table cloth and then quickly hidden with a napkin.

Then followed an ice cream. I never order ice cream. I don’t like ice cream vans as they make noise and I’m a miserable old sod, but for the final course it was a choice between coffee and said dairy product. I didn’t go for coffee as I can have that at home so vanilla goodness it was. And it went down in about 30 seconds. Ice cream after curry. It’s the future and cleaned my palate ready for the final pint of the night at The Wheatsheaf.

walsall indian restaurant

The toilets were spotless which was good as the cleanliness inspection check sheet was dated around the middle of January. The down side was the lone hand-wash had just a small dribble in the bottom. I have five hand-washes in my home bathroom and I get far less visitors than The President Lounge.

Conclusion

So in summing up, I like this place a lot. This was my third visit since it opened and I’ve not been in Nessa’s during this time so my sub-conscience is maybe speaking. The food was great, staff were very friendly – the door was opened for us on the way out and that’s not happened since the days of Planet Spice. It was excellent value too – especially as Swill paid for it as a late birthday present. Torn between where to stick it on the board. Most expensive yellow – Piccadilly or cheapest green Regent Street? Yeah, I’ll go for green at the moment and I hope it stays there for the final board, but we’ll see.

EVO’S PROVISIONAL MONOPOLY BOARD RATING – REGENT STREET

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Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge #3 – Desi Haveli Restaurant Review

Previously named Golden Valley Spices and, prior to that, Caldmore Balti, Desi Haveli opened its doors in 2013 and is the one of the last surviving Indian restaurants in Caldmore Village, an area that was once known for its multitude of Balti houses. The word ‘Desi’ means a person who is from, or has relatives from, India or South Asia, while the word ‘Haveli’ is a term used to describe a private mansion that has historical or architectural significance. With the words ‘Pakistani Cuisine’ daubed across the windows, we guess then that the English translation of the restaurant is ‘South Asian mansion’.

Desi Haveli Caldmore

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3. Desi Haveli

110 Caldmore Road, Walsall, WS1 3PD

Phone – 01922 638773

Food Hygiene Rating – 1 Star

Date visited : Jan 15, 2014

Who visited: Swill, Evo

Written by Swill

 WELCOME

With its new black, glossy frontage, Desi Haveli sparkles like a diamond in the rough amongst this particular row of shops and takeaways along a busy stretch of Caldmore Road. The restaurant certainly isn’t a mansion as its name suggests, but it is quite large inside, divided into two sections with a sizable seating area at the front and a smaller, more intimate area situated under a bricked archway to the rear. Laminate flooring runs throughout, while the brickwork and arches give the place a rustic feel.

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If you ignore Evo perusing the menu for a minute, check out the brickwork. It’s like Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s wine cellar.

There’s also fish to stare at, which I did, while wondering whether Koi should actually be in a pond rather than a small tank. Nevertheless, I like fish and think a tank makes  a nice centre piece in any restaurant. Tonight, the restaurant is deathly silent. There are no customers (mind you, it was 10.30pm on a miserable Tuesday night) but more bizarrely, there is no background music playing. As such, the sound of Evo scraping his balti dish like a man possessed seemed so loud it probably woke up the neighbours. I’m guessing the lack of music isn’t usually the case as I spotted a stereo system behind the reception desk, but still, it was a little unnerving.

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Gotta love fish in a restaurant

Consequently, I found myself deliberately lowering my voice so I couldn’t be heard by the solitary waiter that was sitting at the reception desk. The restaurant doesn’t have an alcohol license but you can bring in your own booze or soft drinks, which I’d certainly recommend unless you fancy drinking either Coca-Cola, water or Rubicon, an exotic, fruity, Halal-friendly fizzy drink.

There were no tablecloths, which I guess saves on the laundry bill, and serviettes were just thin paper napkins, but overall the restaurant was richly decorated with plants dotted around and pictures on the wall of waterfall scenes set against a variety of dramatic backdrops. It was great to see some local art too, which provided a talking point, with a painting right next to us of Caldmore Village Green. I still have absolutely no idea why it’s called a village, a word I’d usually associate with old folk playing bowls on the lawn and a postman on a pedal bike whistling a happy tune. Though the village in Midsomer Murders does have its fair share of crime, just like Caldmore.

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Realistic painting of Caldmore Village. So realistic it even has a police car

What I ordered

1 x Chapatti

1 x Chicken Jalfrezi

1 x Mushroom Fried Rice

The menu was extensive with all the usual old favourites such as Masalla, Korma and Bhoona, all of which were reasonably priced from £4.75 upwards. There’s also range of higher-priced Haveli specials, some of which combine chicken, lamb and prawns. My usual dish, Karahi chicken is served on the bone here, which I don’t like, so tonight I reverted back to my second favourite dish, Chicken Jalfrezi.

The dips with the poppadoms were decent enough. The Raita was green coloured and watery rather than the white, thicker creamy dip that we’ve had at the previous two restaurants in the challenge, which I prefer. However, the onion salad was as expected and the spicy red dip was suitably peppery. As mentioned in other reviews, I’d prefer to have four choices of dip with mango chutney being one of them, but the poppadoms were still wolfed down with the same enthusiasm as always.

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The Chicken Jalfrezi was superb. It tasted very fresh and full of flavour. I like a hot dish but not too hot and some places overstep the mark with a Jalfrezi. At Desi, however, they got the balance just right. It was hot enough to make my eyes fill with water but not so hot that I had tears streaming down my face and I was begging for mercy. The dish came with healthy dose of onion and green peppers, while the cumin, coriander and turmeric flavors were well-balanced giving off a delicious aroma and providing an even better taste. The mushroom fried rice was delightfully fluffy and absolutely delicious while the chapatti (indian flatbread) was soft, light and savoury and perfect for mopping up the remaining sauce. The only minor complaint I have is that it was slightly oily near the bottom of the dish.

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Chicken Jalfrezi. Hot, spicy, delicious.

Overall

The food was fantastic and I’d have no hesitation in coming here again, though I did feel the restaurant needed some background music to stop me from feeling a little awkward each time I spoke. The chap at the front of house was very warm and welcoming and after our meal we chatted about his fish tank and the pets he keeps at home. Turns out he keeps chickens as pets and once rescued a chicken before it got taken to the slaughter house. I did wonder if his fond feelings for fowl meant that he didn’t actually eat the meat himself, but I didn’t want to ask. For a similar reason, I’m not too fond of eating duck because I adopted one when I was younger.

The one star food hygiene rating does worry me; especially considering the last visit from the Food Standards Agency was only in September. There was also an unflushed poo in the toilet which made my stomach turn before I ate, but I flushed it so Evo didn’t have nightmares on his visit. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting the quality of the meal which I thoroughly enjoyed. Stick some music on, jazz up the table decor and  I’m sure the experience would have been heightened, but overall this was an excellent trip that I wouldn’t hesitate to make again.

PROVISIONAL MONOPOLY BOARD RATING –Strand

strandWritten by Evo

Hi all Evo here again. I must have looked cold upon entering the restaurant. I spotted the radiator, the waiter read my mind and we were plonked right next to it. This was a good start. It was my own fault for looking cold. In my haste to get out to The Fullbrook, I had forgotten to put my fleece sweater on, and thus had to go to the Walsall match with far less layers than your average Viennetta.

However The Mighty Saddlers won, and coupled with the news that Hyde, everyone’s favourite non league team had won for the first time this season we were in a jovial mood. The restaurant was deserted and as the waiter nipped into the kitchen Swill went in to paparazzi mode, and snapped pictures left right and centre. He then disappeared for the toilet visit and the waiter approached. “Why is your friend taking pictures of the restaurant?” came the question, catching me totally off guard. Not wanting to blow our cover, I just meekly replied “he likes taking pictures”.

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One of the many pictures taken, arousing suspicion from the waiter. Hey, there’s the stereo!

Right, food. As it was a bit late we didn’t bother with starters and I again went for golden chicken curry (advertised as being with an omelette this time), egg fried rice and then came the big bonus. You can have buttered chapatti’s. This is rare and when you do see it, the buttered option usually costs more. Not here. Where do I sign? The restaurant is unlicensed so we had a coke, which wasn’t a problem as I am trying to cut down on the booze. No really, I am.

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Delicious Chapatis, though this was Swill’s butterless version

We didn’t have to wait long for the food. Now the rice comes with onion and you may know from previous reports that I am not keen on this in curry but in rice I can just about take it. Maybe it’s because it looks the same. Here it didn’t matter at all as the rice was superb. The best yet and I was shovelling it down. Visualise the scene when The Simpsons are eating and you’ll get the picture. I was enjoying the rice so much I forgot the chapatti’s. Talk about kid in sweet shop. The chapatti’s were buttered. My god they were, they certainly hadn’t been shy with the dairy product. It went all over my fingers and I felt like a 5 year old. It was fabulous.

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Menu sample

The curry itself was hotter than usual, but really enjoyable. Swill reckoned I was struggling to eat it all, but within minutes I was considering fracking the bowl to try and extract more.

Not much else to report. The restaurant is bare brick, a style I really like and the toilet was spacious. So much so you could probably have a game of Monopoly in there. Might be a bit cramped if all the pieces are being used though. Please note that I am baggsying the dog token should this game ever happen.

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Golden egg curry. Mmmmm

I think this was the fullest I have been yet on the challenge. It was a great visit. We left warm, full and the waiter got a bigger than normal tip as the Saddlers had won. Everyone happy. Verdict? Another must re visit place. Thinking yellow and maybe top billing in the group.

We still have many restaurants to visit in the borough of Walsall. If you want to join us give us a shout, or follow our progress by subscribing to the blog.

Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge #2 – Shahi Grill Restaurant Review

Formerly known as Planet Spice, Shahi Grill has been serving Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine to the residents of Walsall since 1979. Established by the Hussein family, the restaurant was originally called Shahi Grill but was sold and rebranded following the death of a family member. In 2011, a new generation of Hussein’s bought back the property, and the original name, with the aim of putting it firmly back on the map. Shahi Grill sits in a prime area of Walsall town centre in close proximity to many pubs and nightclubs.

Click here for full details on the Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge.

2. Shahi Grill

89 Bridge Street, Walsall WS1 1JQ
01922 624079

Food Hygiene Rating – 5 Star

Date visited : Jan 10, 2014

Who visited: Swill, Evo and guest (Mark Jones)

Written by Swill

 WELCOME

Within walking distance of many pubs, such as Flan O’Briens, St. Matthew’s Hall and the Tap ‘N Tanner, the location of the Shahi Grill is superb and late night opening on weekends means you can guarantee a seat well into the early hours. However, potential customers are also faced with a dilemma as the Shahi Grill is one of six Indian restaurants in the same vicinity.

shahigrill

When we arrived at Shahi Grill around midnight, the greeting was warm and friendly and we were immediately ushered to our table. One thing that strikes me about the interior of the restaurant is the layout, with three lanes of tables running from front to back offering three different kinds of seating arrangements depending on the requirements of your party. On the right-hand side are booths, ideal for cozy, romantic or intimate conversations, while situated down the middle are larger tables for seating bigger groups. On the left-hand side, where we sat, perched up against the picture-laden walls, are smaller tables for four people or less. Overall, the restaurant can cater for around 60 customers.

tasteofindia

 Thumbs-up for the Asian-themed art

The décor is typical Indian restaurant fare with some eye-catching pieces of art on the wall representing a range of Asian themes from elephants and temples to a dreamy beach scene, while the  wall-lights dotted around the restaurant give off a soft, warm glow which gives the Shahi Grill a calming and welcome feel. The open brick work around the front window conveys a nice homely feel, while an impressively large bar, offering an excellent range of drinks,  gives it a modern touch. The table decorations (obviously not the most important part of a trip to a curry house) are slightly underwhelming with two  carnations protruding sadly out of a tiny white vase on each table.  I feel candles would fit in more with the overall ambiance at the Shahi Grill rather than a limp table display, but then romance wasn’t really on the cards tonight.

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No time for romance over a pair of sorry-looking carnations

The atmosphere is buzzing with an eclectic mix of inebriated Saturday night townies creating a lively yet nonthreatening vibe. As Shahi Grill is near to most of Walsall’s night-time hotspots, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll witness something strange on a weekend visit. On this occasion, a man eating on his own fell off his chair, and I don’t think it was because he was shocked at the size of his bill. Personally, I think incidents such as this provide some added entertainment beyond table banter, though it does mean it’s probably not the sort of place I’d bring a first date. The background music was a strange choice with garage/dance music beating away, though it wasn’t too loud that it drown out conversation.

The menu is extremely diverse and full of tantalising options. The likes of King Prawn Palak and Checken Pearsee share space with a range of attractive-looking gourmet appetisers, including Duck Modhu, spiced Sea Bass and Fried Rupchanda; a popular South Asian fish found in the Bay of Bengal – pan-fried with herbs and spices. A wide range of traditional dishes, such as Bhuna, Madras and Masala, are also on offer.

I plumped for my usual order…

 What I ordered

2 Poppadoms

Chicken Chat starter

Chicken Korai/Karahi

Mushroom Pilau Rice

It was a little bit pricier than our last Curry Challenge , costing around £2 more than the same meal at the East End end a couple of weeks prior to this visit, costing £8.25. In fact, all the house specialties are priced around that mark, though a traditional Balti dish was priced at £5.25 and upwards.  The service was generally excellent throughout our stay, though on previous visits here (when it was named Planet Spice) the waiter always rushed to the door to open it  when he saw us put our coats on, to wish us a fond farewell, but on this occasion they were too preoccupied. Nevertheless, we didn’t have to wait too long for our meals and our waiter was always attentive to our needs, making sure we were okay for drinks and checking that everything was fine with our food.

poppadoms

Lots of onion salad and good raita, but mango-less mango chutney

The poppadoms arrived and the dips consisted of Raita, Mango Chutney and a spicy red dip. You get a good portion of onion salad , which was tinseled with small pieces of cucumber, tomato and carrot. The mango chutney didn’t have any chunks of mango in it – it was  more of a sauce than a chutney – while the red dip was a little too watery than I’m used to, vacant of onion that helps to thicken it up. However, it tasted nice and had that spicy kick that I enjoy from this particular dip. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed, though I’ve had much better quality dips at other restaurants.

The Chicken Chat starter, which arrived with a portion of salad consisting of lettuce, red onion, tomato, cucumber and a slice of lemon, was far bigger than I expected. The sourness of the lemon drizzled over the sweet, tangy sauce complimented it perfectly. The coriander and garam masala flavour powered through the Chat and it tasted delicious with the succulent cubes of chicken.

chickenchat

Chicken Chat is not pronounced ‘shat’ as I’ve found out a few occasions, much to my embarrassment.

The Chicken Korai on the other hand was a big disappointment. Though it was once again a very generous portion, with nice big chunks of onion and lots of chicken, the flavor of the sauce was overpowered with spices. I can’t quite put my finger on what spices were over-riding the taste of the sauce but it literally felt like I was eating mouthfuls of spices. Consequently, the curry was tasteless. The mushroom pilau rice was also a little dry. This is usually one of my favourite dishes when I go out for an Indian, but I didn’t finish my main meal.

koraichicken

Looks good, but lacked any flavour apart from spice.

When the bill arrived, we were given the cheaper equivalent of After-Eight mints, but didn’t receive any hot towels to freshen up. Whether they’ve stopped handing them out or simply forgot I don’t know. Either way, it’s the first time I’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant where we didn’t receive something to clean our hands and mouths afterwards.

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After-eights are so 1980s

Just before we left, I popped to the toilet and discovered that the floor was soaking wet and there was also a small, rusty metal pedal bin in the corner that looked it had been there since 1979. On a positive note, staff were quick to close the men’s toilet and start mopping up as soon as they found out. I’ve no concerns over the cleanliness of the restaurant at all with it gaining a full five stars from the Food Standards Agency on its last inspection and, apart from a rusty bin, Shahi Grill looked well-maintained and spotless.

Conclusion

Overall, what started off well with an excellent starter in a nicely furnished restaurant with attentive waiters, ended up a little disappointing thanks largely to a poor main dish. Quality should always override quantity but in this case it certainly didn’t. However, there are a lot of attractive dishes on the menu that I would still like to try and I’m hoping tonight’s blip was just that. My average experience tonight wouldn’t discourage me from coming back but I’ve got a feeling there’s much better to come just around the corner.

Incidentally, the following day my bottom was making noises like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s exhaust pipe and, yes, they smelt spicy.

PROVISIONAL MONOPOLY BOARD RATING –Pall Mall

pallmallWritten by Evo

Greetings curry lovers. Evo here. Well, last night was a bit odd. Every year in January our quiz team meet up and have beer followed by curry. The quiz team I may add is now dormant but the annual get together certainly isn’t. Despite Pelsall not making the initial list of curry houses, it was decided that the night out should be held there, and suddenly Moghul Palace became our second visit rather than Walsall town centre as previously posted. Sorry for sounding like a BBC continuity announcer, but we apologize for the change to the advertised programme.

After a few pleasant hours in The Railway (during which time I had a toilet door smashed into my elbow, don’t ask) it was pointed out that Moghul Palace shuts at 11. I found this out at 11.03. We finished our drinks (obviously), ordered a taxi and finally made it to Shahi Grill just shy of the witching hour.

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Evo and special guest Mark Jones in The Railway

For the former Walsall residents amongst us, Shahi Grill was around in the early 90’s, became Planet Spice and then changed back to it’s former name in 2011 (I think).

When it was Planet Spice it was my favourite town curry house. I was gutted when it changed.

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Arriving at Shahi Grill

So we get in and there are three other diners. We got our menus straight away and the dips quickly followed. Mint dip good, mango chutney (which I actually don’t like) was nice and the red stuff peppery. As we polished these off the waiter came to take our orders and as at East End he was sent away. However a platoon of seven or eight diners marching in forced a rethink as we didn’t want them jumping the queue. Waiter summonsed and orders placed.

I went for the Nargis kebab starter. This is the snack of kings, and where my Twitter name of Lord Nargis derives from. It was bang on. Think a scotch egg with lamb tikka meat and an omelette on top and you’ve got it. For main Golden chicken curry, chapattis and chicken fried rice. This curry also came with an omelette on top which was a surprise.

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Nargis kebab, you can’t go wrong.

The curry was nice enough, plenty of meat but, and I’m going to sound odd here I like just sauce and meat – no added extras and this had mounds of onion in, something I’m not keen on. The sauce ran out quickly leaving nothing to entertain my last half of chapatti.

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Golden curry, with more omelette

There was a bit of a disaster going on as we ate as one of the toilets flooded and I was told by the waiter to use the ladies, but these things happen. No points lost for that.

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The toilet is flooded, but not with piss, we hope.

All in all it was a decent enough visit. I’d go again but a couple of small points. We got no towels to freshen up, and had to open the door ourselves on the way out which would never have happened under the Planet Spice regime, but the waiter was a bit pre-occupied with the mop so we can forgive that. The monopoly board then? Thinking one of the orange set at the moment.

The next round will take place in the next couple of weeks, though we haven’t yet decided where we’ll be heading. Get in touch if you’d like to join us.

Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge #1 – East End Tandoori Restaurant Review

Click here for full details on the Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge.

1. East End Tandoori Restaurant

9 Hawes Clo, Walsall WS1 3HG
01922 614800

Food Hygiene Rating – 1 Star

Find EastEnd Tandoori on JustEat for menu and delivery details.

Date visited : Jan 1, 2014

Who visited: Swill, Evo and guest

Set back from the road off the busy Broadway West in South Walsall, smack bang in between the Co-op and The Fullbrook Pub, the East End can be easily missed with its black and white illuminated sign which blends in inconspicuously with half-a-dozen or so shops (with much brighter frontages) either side.  As the only pub within reasonable stumbling distance, pre-curry drinking is restricted to The Fullbrook, which makes it the kind of restaurant that you’ll either want to drive to, or pop in after a few beers at the boozer just a few hundred metres away.

On our New Year’s Day visit, we headed there from Bescot Stadium after watching Walsall win 2-1 against Sheffield Utd 2-0.  After a couple of post-match celebratory jars, we kicked off our Monopoly Curry Challenge by visiting this traditional Indian restaurant which has been established for over 25 years and still has one of the original owners in charge, who now works alongside his son at the front of house.

Arriving at The EastEnd

Written by Swill

WELCOME

Braving the stormy weather, we arrived at the East End bang on 6pm. Unless you know where the restaurant is located, it’s particular hard to spot if you’re just driving past because it’s set back from the road, while the weird font underneath the brand name (describing what kind of establishment the East End is ) is hard to read even when you’re standing underneath it. The stenciling of the East End logo on the window is starting to look worn and tired too and could  do with an overhaul, but inside it’s a different picture altogether.

The East End was refurbished in October 2013 with a new lick of paint and new furniture, which includes very comfortable faux-leather chairs, new flooring, and a black and white design. It’s a minimalistic and rather executive kind of look with the plain white walls, devoid of any pictures or paintings, exuding a bright and airy feel to the place.

We’re welcomed in with open arms and a warm handshake and the owner even pops out of the kitchen during our meal to say ‘hello’ and wish us a happy new year. The sound of sitar-heavy instrumental music trickles out of the sound system providing a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in this small, compact, yet very warm and cozy, restaurant.

The East End is a small tandoori restaurant seating around 30 diners with a tiny bar at the back that doesn’t offer draught beer or lagers, but bottles, spirits and wines only. The menu is extremely varied, offering a blend of traditional Indian cuisine, including classics like Korma, Tikka Masala and Madras, though there’s more exciting options in the list of Chef’s recommendations and East End signature dishes. It’s all very reasonably priced too with traditional curries costing upwards of £4.70 and more adventurous dishes weighing in around the £6 mark.

sample

Sample of extensive menu

What I ordered…

2 Poppadoms

1 x Korai Chicken

1 x Mushroom Pilau Rice

2 x Bottles of Cobra

You can’t bring your own drinks into the East End so bear that in mind if you’re on a budget. My main meal cost  around £8.25 with a portion of rice, which is fairly standard for Walsall. With drinks, my bill came to around £15. Three dips accompanied the poppadoms, including a basic onion salad, raita and a red Indian chutney. I do like to have mango chutney or lime pickle with poppadoms, and I definitely expected a larger portion between the three of us, but the red chutney had a nice spicy kick to it which complimented the creamy raita very nicely. I was surprised at the lack of onion with the red dip, an ingredient that usually accompanies this particular dip in other restaurants – plus there was little else in the onion salad apart from onion – but there were no complaints and I wolfed them down with great enthusiasm.

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For the main meal I ordered Korai Chicken, also known as Karahi Chicken due to the wok-shaped pan that is used to cook food. In some other restaurants, I’ve found Korai Chicken to be very onion-heavy but this dish, said to be a ‘secret recipe,’ was almost totally devoid of the eye-watering vegetable. The sauce was fairly thick and rich, extremely aromatic and full of flavour. A distinct taste of capsicum (a little sweeter than a chilli) gave it a nice spicy kick and a blend of other spices ensured a strong flavour and left a very pleasant after taste. The most visible of the spices were two fresh bay-leaves and a roasted cinnamon stick.

The oblonged-shaped pieces chicken were succulent and delicious, though once again I feel they were a little stingy with their portions as I gobbled up every last bit (with a generous portion of delightfully fluffy mushroom pilau rice) and still felt that I had room for more. Overall though, the quality of the dish was unquestionably good and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and eat it again on my next visit.

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The bill arrived with a nice surprise;  a small white tablet which I stared at for a few seconds trying to work out whether I should eat it or not. Emblazoned with the word ‘Mii’ across it (which looks suspiciously like the same branding Nintendo uses for its customisable Mii characters on Nintendo Wii) it also arrived with a shallow bowl of water.  It turns out that you have to place the tablet in the water and it then expands and turns into a moist towel so that you can freshen up. Apparently, these tablets have been around for years but I’ve never seen them before. They certainly beat a handful of rock hard mints or those roasting hot, wafer-thin towels in plastic bags that we used to get.

Here’s the tablet in action, as well as a random lady slightly spoiling a mesmerising moment.

CONCLUSION

Such is the small, intimate space, the soft music and the friendliness of the staff, the East End exudes a certain charm that some larger, much busier restaurants fail to achieve. In many ways, it feels like you’ve been invited into a family home. The food was fresh and extremely tasty and the pleasant flavours stayed on my palette throughout the rest of the evening.

The 30 minutes or so that we had to wait in between the arrival of our poppadoms and main meal may put people off who are looking for a faster service, but it reassured me that it was being cooked fresh rather than in batches; and when it arrived I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

I’m surprised at the 1 star rating from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which initially made me wary of coming here, but I’m glad I did. It’s also worth bearing in mind that its last review was in 2012 and work has been done since then so I really wouldn’t let that put you off.  It’s a testament to the fact that we enjoyed ourselves because we stayed in the East End for close on two hours, and time flew by.  With good food, engaging conversation and a relaxing atmosphere in such an intimate setting, I certainly left satisfied.

PROVISIONAL MONOPOLY BOARD RATING –Leicester Square

leicester

Hi all. Evo here, and time for my thoughts.

I’m not going to lie to you. I like this place. I have been using East End since the early 90’s and only stopped when moving to other parts of the borough.

The door to get in has always confused me. It has a handle, says “pull” on it, but looks like a door that has to be pushed. I have never got it right, didn’t on my most recent visit 2 weeks ago, and considering that Swill has been using the place as long as me, it was nice to see him also make the same error.

We walked in and before I’d even got my hat off, I’d smacked my knee into a table leg. Great start to the challenge but I won’t be knocking marks off for this.

We got the usual friendly welcome and got down to business.

The poppadums and sides arrived swiftly, and more importantly so did the bottles of Cobra. Having stood in the wet at Bescot Stadium for 90 minutes, it was nice to get liquid inside us rather than on us. The poppadums were bang on, mint dip quality and the red liquid (sorry, don’t know it’s name) was nice too. We were having such a nice leisurely time munching these that we hadn’t even picked up the menu’s when the waiter came to take our order. We sent him away and continued snacking.

I went for a normal chicken tikka curry, which was superb. Rice and chapattis were good too. They could possibly have snuck a couple of extra chicken chunks in the curry but for the decent price I was paying, I wasn’t about to have the place up.

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The big excitement as Swill says was for the towels. They bought the same items out a fortnight earlier, the waiter asked if I knew what to do but I didn’t want to sound thick so I just said ‘yes’ and then sat there like a contestant on the Crystal Maze wondering what was going on. This time there was a tutorial and all went to plan, apart from when me and Swill decided to have a fight with the towels, one which I comfortably won, I may add.

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It was a very pleasant hour and half in there, the ambiance was good and the place has recently been refurbished giving it a nice modern feel and the music was proper curry house fare.

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Clean but no hand dryer

Only negative point really was the lack of a hand dryer but if that’s all you’ve got to moan at, then it’s been a good visit. Where will it end up on my final board? Not sure, I’d probably make it a yellow now, so we’ll see where it finally goes.

For details of our next visit, stay tuned. It’s likely we’re heading into Walsall town centre on January 10, 2014. If you’d like to join us just give us a shout.

The allocations…..

Find out what the Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge is all about.

Every four years FIFA have a little meeting to sort out how many spots at the World Cup each confederation will be allocated. We had to have a similar meeting to decide the amount of visits each area in Walsall would get. This was not straightforward.

I had note pad in hand and Swill was scouring on his phone for the number of restaurants in each area. We then set about the allocations. We had rough lists, proposals, counter proposals, heated discussions and the odd threat but we eventually cracked it.  We are still undecided about the stations….

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A serious discussion requires a notepad, pen, a phone and a candle

Anyway, here are the allocations.

Walsall town centre x 7, Aldridge x 2, Caldmore x 1, Bloxwich x 2, Pleck x 1, Park Hall x 1, Bentley  x 1, Fullbrook x 1, Brownhills x 1, Walsall Wood x 1, Streetly x 1, Darlaston x 1, Willenhall x 1 and Alumwell x 1. If you have any suggestions as to where we can go for each area, please shout up. Shout louder if ya wanna join us. Please note that if you do suggest your favourite place and then join us, bribery to try and influence the scoring is strictly prohibited. Unless it’s off the record…..

We are starting the challenge on January the 1st after Walsall v Sheffield United match.

What’s it all about?

Hello folks, I’m Steven (aka Swill), one of two intrepid adventurers about to partake in a new challenge in 2014. My right-hand man is Evo, a childhood friend, top geezer and all-round good egg (view drunken embrace here).

As we’re both hitting 40 in 2014 we’ve decided to have some fun by setting ourselves the following challenge: to eat curry,  blog about our experiences and rate restaurants in our beloved borough of Walsall in the West Midlands, the true home of sexy football, Miss Popov from RentaGhost and Lucas Johnson, the prostitute murderer from Eastenders who grew up in Caldmore; an area of Walsall which is also renowned for its ladies of the night as well as its baltis.

In Walsall there are a lot of Indian restaurants, but I’m sure I’m not the only person to stick to one or two local places that I like and trust to consistently deliver a satisfying, quality meal without venturing further afield. That’s a crying shame when we live in a borough stocked full of restaurants that claim to offer delicious Indian cuisine. This challenge will help broaden our curry-stained horizons.

The idea for the Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge began with a chat in the pub a few weeks ago, but now it’s about to become reality as we get set to embark on the first of at least 22 visits to curry houses throughout the borough of Walsall. Not only will we learn more about what Walsall has to offer the curry connoisseurs within us, but we’ll be able to form some clear judgements about the best and the worst places to eat these spicy dishes in the borough and let you know what we think of them.

The idea is simple: to rate restaurants by placing them in strict order on a Monopoly board at the conclusion of the challenge. The better we rate the curry house, the closer to Mayfair it will be placed on the board. With different likes and dislikes, it makes sense that Evo and I write-up our individual opinions about our experiences and at the end of the challenge  we’ll make a final decision as to exact board placements, see how our results compare, and, excitingly, have our individual Monopoly boards made by professionals.

Along the way, we will provide write-ups via this blog in the form of mini-reviews and opinions of each restaurant, which will hopefully come in handy for anyone  looking for a decent place to eat. It should also act a quick guide for those wanting to avoid restaurants that simply aren’t up to scratch or leave you with the shits the following day. These reviews will be brought to life with pictures, anecdotes and any funny stories or characters that we meet along the way. So, this challenge is not only meant to be informative, with insights into each restaurant visited, but there will be plenty of light-hearted commentary too, probably from Evo (the funny one), not me, who is  more of a semi-serious, reporter-type.

There are just two rules that we’ve agreed to stick to…

1. We must order at least a main meal and test out the poppadums and accompaniments. A lot can be said about a restaurant by the quality of its mango chutney and onion salad.

poppadums

2. Opinions of the restaurant must be written up and published within two (working) days of the visit.

I’m also trying to persuade Evo to let me tell our hosts that it’s my birthday on every visit we make. Will we get any special treatment? Complimentary drinks would certainly  come in handy.

So, if you’re looking for an insight into the curry houses of Walsall, or simply just want to come along for this spicy ride, then subscribe to the blog and watch out for regular updates of what is sure to be a fascinating and random journey into curry heaven, or hell.

Also, if you want to make suggestions, or join us at any point, then just let either us know via the blog.

Our first visit will be:

1st January 2014 – EastEnd Tandoori Restaurant – Approx time 6pm.

You can follow Evo on Twitter – @EvoBoozySaddler. You’ll discover he’s very interactive and social.

You can’t follow me, or Facebook me . Though I’m very sociable in real life, I dislike unidentified stalkers of the social networking kind.

May the curry Gods look favorably upon us and protect  our bottoms from any pain and/or leakage the morning after.

Where it all began……

Well it was roughly a week before Christmas 2013, Swill and I were having a Monday night drink in The Victoria on the outskirts of Walsall town centre. These meet ups normally involve some sort of random discussion and tonight was no different.

evoandswill

To cut a long story short, there is a possibility that I could be taking a lady out for curry soon so I sought Swill’s opinion on the best venue. We discussed suitability , locations, amongst other important details, and at this point one of us, to help whittle down the options classed one of them as being Mayfair and the other as Regent Street.

I say one of us. I’m a proper Monopoly geek, so the finger of blame should be pointing in my general direction. We then started to discuss where other curry houses would go on this mythical board.

“What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster?”

I then put this on Facebook and others waded in. It was decided that we needed to research this properly. Swill and myself both turn 40 in 2014 so we decided we would visit the amount of curry houses in the Walsall borough necessary to fill a Monopoly  board during this momentous year, and then properly allocate them.

Every corner of this fine borough will be visited. From Willenhall to Brownhills, Delves to Streetly. Of course, not everywhere will have a curry house. We will find this out. We have no details yet, it’s still all so fresh but stay with us, and we’ll keep you updated.

Every great challenge starts with a chat in a pub…….just ask Dave Gorman. He got a book deal and a tv show out of his.