Royal Spiceland – Sawtry

Advert – We were invited by the team at Royal Spiceland for the purpose of the review. On this occasion we were not asked to pay but no conditions were given on attending. Everything written is accurate and our unbiased opinion’ For more information on our policy, click here.

There was a time when Cambridgeshire was filled with Indian buffets. Cafe Naz and Moza to name a few. Now days, you will be lucky to find one open at all, and even then it will only be open once a week. Namaste Village still offers the buffet experience on Sundays and I think the Tamarind in Teversham still does occasionally. Otherwise, if you are a big fan of the Indian buffet you are pretty much stuck.

It’s a real shame too, as they are very popular across the country and offer great value. More importantly an Indian buffet lets someone explore Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine if they are unsure, inexperienced or just want to sample something without spending a lot of money. I remember buffets being my first experience with so many classic Indian dishes for the first time and it makes me sad to think that others won’t be able to dive deep into what Indian food has to offer in the same way.

Luckily, an Indian buffet restaurant has recently opened…

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Enter, Royal Spiceland. A recently reopened Indian buffet restaurant with new management. Sandwiched between Huntingdon and Peterborough on North Road, just off the A1(M), the team here hopes to keep the Indian buffet alive!

From the get go the restaurant is off to a good start. As you would expect from a place in the middle of nowhere they make sure that there are good parking options available.

Entering, you notice that the venue is also very large with the capacity to seat 50+ people with ease. This would be a great place to do events or live music as it has a lot of disposable space. Luckily, that is exactly what they plan to do with the ‘Rocker Sal Show’ coming on the 9th of June. I have seen this held in some tiny places and can imagine that this would be the perfect place to host a live act like this.

They have done a lot with the restaurant in the 3 weeks they have been open. The entrance feels very modern and new, with lots of light. Better yet, they had an indoor water feature with beautiful fishes who swam up to greet you as you walk over. I took huge delight in this as it is something I don’t think I have ever seen in a restaurant before.

Moving through to the buffet room the place was bare and minimalist. Clearly they have not had much of a chance to work on its interior decorating within this past three weeks. If the entrance and hallway were anything to go by, I have faith that it is going to look very good in the future.

The buffet was fairly standard with a lot of the usual classic dishes you would expect from a buffet. This is not going to test peoples Indian/Bangladeshi adventurousness but they did also have a basic English section and some Chinese options too. So don’t worry, it’s ok to bring grandma!

No alcohol is served here, so you can bring your own. This is a huge boost for the value of the restaurant, especially with the out of control prices of pints at the moment. The buffet comes to around £15 from opening time until 18:30, then goes up to £17.95 afterwards. Kids up to 10 years old pay £7.99. We were told by the team that if you have an older child who does not eat much or who is a picky eater, concessions can be made.

Chicken balti and chicken tikka with potatoes

I started off with their chicken balti. An iconic but very familiar dish. I also picked up some Bombay potatoes and some chicken tikka. The plates were cold, which was disappointing. I overheard a few other customers complain about this too. I would like to have seen the timings put by each of the trays to give you an idea when the food was brought out. This way you know how fresh things are. This is a common practice in buffets in places like Birmingham but unfortunately had no idea how long things had been out.

The chicken balti was a very strong start to the buffet. Arguably the best dish of the evening. Both Cambridge Foodies moderator Gerry and I were in agreement that this was a good take on the dish, especially for a buffet.

Chicken tikka

The chicken tikka…not so much. It looked the part but lacked any real flavour and was quite chewy. The potatoes were quite sad and had a soggy texture. With my first plate finished, a mixed bag.

The onion bhajis weren’t too bad, especially considering these are a dish that is often found to be quite flat and moist at a buffet. I thought that the quality was of a decent standard, especially since they were sat in a tray. They were let down by the yogurt quality, which was quite watery, but in their own right held up well.

Next, I tried the sheek kebab, chicken chilli pakora, and a spring roll. These were unfortunately one of the weakest choices of the evening. The sheek kebab was luke warm and completely flavourless. The chicken chili pakora was slightly better in texture but again, also lacked flavour. The spring roll was an empty dried shell with nothing in it.

Things started to look up with the jeera wings. They are cooked in a clay oven with medium spices and are very tender and fell to pieces with ease. There was still an absence of flavour but the onions and peppers helped give it life.

The korai lamb was a real saving grace but the lamb was a little chewy. I enjoyed it none the less as it had good flavour and a nice texture. This, along with the chicken balti are two great options on the menu that means you can visit and know that you can have a decent curry. I would have liked to see a vindaloo option or something with some kick but considering that this is a restaurant aimed at families I understand why this may have been left out. At least mum and dad can visit knowing that they can always have some good curry options.

The naans in the tray were very disappointing but you can order some from the team that comes out fresh. You can also do this with papadums. This evening we had the peshwari naan and I must admit this was very strong. It was filled very generously with peshwari and was a significant step up from the ones located in the buffet. If you ever visit I highly recommend ordering your own.

This is supposed to be tarka daal. This was one of the saddest examples of daal I have ever seen in my life. I find this strange, as this could be done quite well at a buffet on a slow cooker.

Tarka daal

This was the ice cream selection. There were a few dessert options above but it was mostly fruit and some sweet balls. The team at Royal Spiceland wanted to assure me that they are due to fit a “make your own ice cream machine” very soon. This could be a very exciting addition and would make a huge difference IMO. I look forward to giving that a go in the future.

I really enjoyed my time at Royal Spiceland. It’s early days here but they have got themselves off to a great start in a lot of ways. The restaurant is beautiful and entirely unique, as well as offering some good options in the buffet. I also think this is a perfect place for live events.

With that said, a few things need serious work. There are some great takes on classic dishes but some of them just aren’t up to scratch, the Daal being a perfect example. The selections are also suffering a bit, especially in the dessert section. I have absolutely zero doubt that they will be able to improve this in time and look forward to coming back to visit again when it’s all done again.

Thanks for reading!