During one of my many journeys down the A428, I noticed a small place called “Spice Box” next to the fast food establishments at the Caxton services. Naturally this intrigued me as it looked like a chain restaurant or some sort of fast food equivalent for Indian food. Sadly I didn’t have the time to investigate further.
I passed it several times again over the past year but again, had no time to actually go in. The place has been teasing me for quite some time!
I couldn’t help but wonder what it was. I had never seen a fast food brand of Indian food before. Could it be what I imagined? If it wasn’t, what the hell is an Indian restaurant doing at a service station anyway? It seems very strange to me!
Well, I finally got my answers, as I was driving past the other day with my girlfriend and I managed to find some time to pop in and see what it was all about!
The place is advertised as “A La Cart menu 7 days a week”, like most Indian restaurants I suppose. They offer delivery and take away with a phone number and website. Nothing different or out of the ordinary here.
Upon entering you notice the place is open, full of light and quite empty. Some might hate this, some might love it, some might not even care. The place looked very clean and well looked after, which was the important thing.
In my head I had this pegged as some sort of Indian fast food/take away, so I was expecting a buffet or something but this came across as just a regular Indian establishment. It is either a very comfortable fast food restaurant or a bland restaurant.
We were greeted and taken to a table by a very quiet but polite woman. She took our drink order and handed us some menus. I noticed the beer looked reasonable in price…until I looked closer and saw that it was only for bottled beer (330ml).
No thanks! Just a coke for me!
Looking at the general menu too, we both realised that the food was about the average price you would expect from a standard Indian restaurant. There was not much choice on the menu either.
I ordered my usual spicy slop in a bucket, the chicken tikka vindaloo.
My girlfriend had chicken korma and rice.
A lot of people have been asking me why I always order the same dish. My answer is that generally I order the same dish so I can judge every place by the same standard. However, if I go back to a place (which is still quite often) I will go for something a little different from the BBQ menu or perhaps one of the chef’s specialties. If I go to a place like the Rang Mohol, which is known for its fish, then I will always try that. Since it is my first time at the Spice Box, I went for the chicken tikka vindaloo.
Chicken Tikka Vindaloo
All the food came out in record time. I would say in, 5-10 minutes? It was presented in basic plates and bowls.
The food tasted ok. The vindaloo was incredibly mild, which was a shame as she asked if I liked it hot when ordering. I cut my chicken in half to see if it had been tikka’d well. I am sad to say it wasn’t tikka’d at all (or very poorly). The chicken was of average quality and had no sign of being tikka’d at all.
My girlfriends korma tasted a bit better than mine, though I put this down to the very nature of korma being very sweet so it can be quite hard to mess up. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near the level of a korma at The Indian House in Newnham though.
The rice was also good with nothing to complain about.
Once we finished we had to call the waitress over and she cleaned up and presented us with our bill. The bill came to less than usual as we didn’t order much, though as I said above, the prices were average on the menu.
We received no hot towels or chocolates.
I really cannot make up my mind about this place. From the outside it comes across as a fast food Indian establishment, yet upon entering it seems to just be a regular Indian. The food comes out very fast, the food is of below average quality and the interior decorating is very basic. If this place is trying to be a revolutionary new style of fast food Indian then I would say it is getting a lot right being fast and convenient, but sadly with one massive floor, the prices are far too high for the quality of food you are paying. If they could nail that and bring the costs down to McDonalds/Subway level, then I would HIGHLY recommend this place for what it is.
However, there were many things which made me think that it was just a floating Indian restaurant in the middle of a service station. Eating at a fully presented table with a waiter who comes to you and takes your order, and the restaurant prices.
My girlfriend suggested that this might have once been a fast food establishment which has recently changed its business model. If anyone reading this who has been before could shed some light in to this I would really appreciate it!
Its always good to have choice and I am certainly the kinda guy who fancies a curry during long drives around the country, so to see more of these would be welcomed. I just feel like they have work to do either way.
Great minds think alike!
Thanks for reading!