Simon’s top Indian dishes worth seeking in Cambridge.

I have been around the block a few times when it comes to curry in Cambridge. In that time, I have had the pleasure of sampling some truly special dishes which stand out from the rest. Here is a list of some of my all time favourite experiences that you should go out and try RIGHT NOW!

8. Masala Dosa @ The Banana Leaf – Milton Road

It’s hard to find a good masala dosa in Cambridge, with Vedanta offering a rather anemic take on the dish and other restaurants falling flat on either quality or consistency. Banana Leaf always knocks it out of the park and even gives a generous portion to boot!

If you are one of those people who always goes for the usual British-Indian dishes and is looking to branch out and explore more traditional Indian cuisine, then this is an absolute must!

Full review of our visit here

7. The lime pickle @ Curry Palace – Cottenham.

It feels strange having a side sauce to a papadum on the list but the lime pickle at Curry Palace has always had a special place in my heart. The owner has told me that he goes to London especially to pick it up especially and it is clearly worth the journey (in my opinion). My wife is a lime pickle connoisseur and she absolutely loves it too. It’s chunky, salty, zesty, and sour – everything lime pickle should be! It may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it is certainly ours!

Full review of our visit here.

6. Ox cheek @ Montaz, Newmarket

I have only had this dish once but it’s all I have ever needed. Till this very day, I have no idea how they managed to make such a tough cut so tender.

The dish is ox cheek in slow roasted spices, aloo chole and chickpeas, in an onion and tomato sauce, with greens, rice, and served with a honey and ginger naan.

The flavour, the presentation, the colour… absolutely remarkable! An absolute must for anyone who enjoys fine dining.

Full review of our visit here

5. Chicken Ruby @ Khaani takeaway – St Ives

It’s not often I try a dish for the first time and rush back within a week because I can’t get it out of my mind! That is exactly what happened when I visited Khaani in St Ives and tried their chicken ruby! So thick and creamy, bursting with flavour, and best of all is accessible to everyone! A chicken tikka masala on steroids!

Full review of my visit here.

4. Russell’s infamous lamb tawa @ Cam Spice – Great Eversden

Everything at Cam Spice is cooked to perfection and is consistent in doing so too. One thing which always stands out for me is Russell’s lamb tawa. It’s delicious and very exciting when brought out on the sizzling platter (which livens up any evening out) but can also be ordered ‘vindaloo hot’ for that added kick!

Just go for it!

Full review here.

3. The dreaded Bengal Tiger @ The Taj Tandoori – Cherry Hinton Road.

Warning: May melt spoon!

The Bengal Tiger is infamous with the regular customers at The Taj Tandoori. Nowadays, it is off the menu but Syed and Jools are more than happy to accommodate on request. Slow cooked mutton in a naga sauce! Need I say more?

Not for the faint hearted but still equally delicious. I have it every time I visit!

Review of our last visit here.

2. Rhubarb seabass @ Lalbagh – Bourn

Their seabass special
Rhubarb seabass

Lalbagh are well known for their seabass dishes and one of my favourite dishes of those is their legendary rhubarb seabass. This pan fried seabass fillet is sweet, sour, and refreshingly unique. It’s the sort of thing many people wouldn’t order by themselves but I assure you that if you take the plunge then you will not regret it!

If you order their seabass special then it’s even served in an adorable fish shaped dish, d’awww!

Full review here.

1. House black daal @ Dishooms takeaway – Cambridge

Dishooms is legendary for its Black Daal. It took the city of London by storm and is now available in Cambridge through a takeaway set up. It is not often something like this lives up to the hype but this truly does in this example. My biggest gripe is that it is not served in bathtub sizes, as I would be more than happily to bathe in this thick and creamy daal. It compliments everything it touches, so just a humble naan will do to accompany it. It is utter heaven in a pot and only costs £4. It’s just a shame that it only delivers to Cambridge. 😭

Review of our last visit here.

Mamas – Huntingdon 🇮🇳

Indian buffets used to be everywhere in Cambridgeshire. There was a point in time where every other Indian restaurant would offer some sort of buffet in one form or another.

Those times have long passed now and you will be hard pressed to find one close by, unless you are lucky enough to live near the Teversham Tandoori or Royal Spiceland in Sawtry.

I was delighted to hear of a new place called Mamas Indian, located in Huntingdon, which claims to offer an unlimited buffet for £20pp (£22 on weekends). Most buffets are much less than this, with historic places ranging from £6.99 to £15.99. Granted, we have had some significant inflation since then but it will still be interesting to see what that extra cost gets you today.

Mamas works differently from other Indian buffets, which are usually set up with an open buffet table in the restaurant. Usually customers are free to serve themselves as they see fit but at Mamas Indian restaurant you are given free unlimited access to the menu and they bring out whatever dish you wish, upon request.

This has several advantages, with one being that the food is being made fresh to order and not kept under a hot lamp all evening. It is also likely to be more hygienic too, as people aren’t all serving from the same plate of food. I like the concept and it was something I had never tried before, so I was looking forward to seeing how well it worked in action.

The menu was a decent size with lots of choice. This really makes a difference when compared to other buffets as most are very limited in their options, with places like Cafe Naz historically only offering 6 main options.

Unfortunately, they do not serve beer on tap at Mamas. The only options were beer bottles of Cobra and Bangla. I was pleased to see that they serve 660ml bottles but they came to a whopping £6 each 😱

We ordered papdums, which was included in the buffet price of £22. This came with Mango chutney, onion salad, and yogurt. The mango chutney was very thick and full of sweet flavour. It won’t win any awards but it served us well. The onion salad was bleak with the entirety of it being onion and nothing else. The yogurt was very nice with a good texture. All the portion sizes were fantastic.

The best thing about having a large menu which you are free to order from for a fixed price is that you can really explore and try new things. My son has been a seasoned Indian/Bangladeshi enthusiast for years but due to his age has not had a good chance to branch out. This provided him with a real opportunity to go wild and open him up to an entire world of cuisine without having to worry about spending a fortune or wasting food.

We decided to order a few things from the specials, including the Mamas Goat. This is described as a spicy goat in a rich yogurt and onion sauce. We also ordered the Mughal E Azam which is chicken cooked in an onion, nut, and chilli sauce.

We ordered a starter plate before the mains arrived to give us a varied idea of what Mamas has to offer. It came with meat samosas, sheek kebab, tandoori chicken, and onion bhaji’s.

The meat samosas were filled with a bland mince covered in a rather plain outer shell. The portion sizes were quite good and it held together well while eating but this was not enough to save it. I ordered a side of yogurt to try and make them work but failed to change my feelings.

The sheek kebabs were a little better and a great size. Very juicy and succulent. Overall a fairly average example of what a sheek kebab can be but were cooked well.

The tandoori chicken was absolutely superb. They were incredibly juicy and was one of the stars of the mixed starter. If you are looking at their starter menu and unsure what to order from Mamas then this would be my recommendation.

The onion Bhajis were also excellent, especially considering it was a buffet. So many onion bhaji’s from buffets are left under a hot lamp or in a tray which leaves them to dry out or go soggy. Score another point for having an ‘order as you eat’ buffet menu!

Eyes bigger than our belly

Once the starter plate was finished we ordered a few sides to go with our two mains. This consisted of Bombay Aloo, Saag Aloo, Saag Paneer, and Daal. We also ordered a peshwari naan and rice to accompany them. The food took a while to come out, which was quite reassuring in my opinion. This, for me, implies that the food was made fresh to order. Portions were small, no doubt from a history of customers ordering huge amounts of food and being unable to eat it and wasting food. This also made it easier to fit more dishes on the table at once which gave an almost tapas feel to the experience.

Bombay Aloo

The Bombay Aloo was quite ordinary and lacked any real flavour. I haven’t had this dish in a while but I remember it being prepared in a more dry and crispy style in the past. This was presented with a small amount of masala sauce which is a little different from what a lot of regular Bombay Aloo diners may be used to. Some may enjoy this but I preferred the crispy style.

The Saag Paneer was a decent addition to our meal. It was very smooth and creamy which also mixed well with other dishes. My son had his first Saag Paneer experience this evening and thoroughly devoured it. This is always a solid vegetarian option for any Indian meal.

The Daal Tarka worked great with the peshwari naan and was a worthy side to go with our mains. On its own, it didn’t particularly stand out but was good enough to justify being part of a buffet.

The peshwari naan was absolutely excellent and one of the best examples I have had in a while. It was packed full of delicious and incredibly sweet peshwari and the texture of the naan was perfect. I highly recommend!

Saag Aloo

The Saag Aloo was another great example. The potatoes were nice and crispy and the spinach was a generous portion. The spices and herbs really came through on this dish which made it one of my favourite of the starters.

Mughal E Azam

The Mughal E Azam was a superb dish with beautifully succulent chicken. All the chicken at Mamas has been excellent tonight and this dish was no exception. The Mughal E Azam was surprisingly spicy (which was no bad thing) and made the dish more exciting. The nut paste gave the dish a delightful flavour which is not often seen on a lot of local menus. This was a very welcome twist and one of the highlights of the evening.

All the portion sizes were quite small tonight. I hope when ordering the Mughal E Azam outside the buffet promotion that the sizes are a little larger, as it costs £12 separately. Delicious or not, I would be quite miffed at paying that kind of money.

Mamas Goat

The Mamas Goat was also fantastic. The meat was very tender and the rich onion and yogurt sauce was incredibly flavourful. I would almost certainly eat this again.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Mamas. The service was very good and the menu had a great selection. It was a liberating experience being able to explore the menu without having to worry about the cost and the meat quality tonight was better than anything I have had from a buffet before. This would be a very good place to bring someone who is looking to explore Indian cuisine without wanting to break the bank.

With that said, £22 for a buffet is more than I have ever paid. Prices have no doubt inflated over the past few years but this still feels higher than it could be. I put this down to the unique style of the buffet which gives you more choice, freshly prepared food, and a system which is more hygienic. Historically, places like Cafe Naz have been about £6.99 and other venues like Moza used to charge around £12-15. You were significantly limited on your choices of food with these restaurants and the food was not always made fresh, so it depends on what you value more from a buffet. I know a lot of people would rather pay a bit more for this.

The beer was very steep. With drinks, the total meal came to over £60 for two people. Granted, we did eat a lot but we did not leave feeling any fuller than a visit from any other Indian restaurant which could have satisfied us both for £20 less. This is likely due to the small portions at Mamas, which might give the illusion of better value than it actually is.

If you decide to visit Mamas then I would highly recommend the tandoori chicken, both the Mughal E Azam and Mamas Goat from the specials, and the Saag Aloo. The naan was also a stand out favourite. There are some great things on this menu though there does appear to be some inconsistency with other dishes. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about it as you can order what you like at a fixed price.

Have you visited Mamas before? What did you think? Let us know in the Cambridge Curry Community Facebook group!

Thanks for reading!

Cambridge Samosa’s – Ely Market 🇮🇳

After many months of walking past, Jack and I finally decided to try the Mix & Match deal from the Indian food van. ‘Cambridge Samosa’s’ has been at the Ely Market for a while and despite absolutely loving all forms of Indian and Bangladeshi food, we have never managed to actually try out their offerings.

I was excited to see what they had on offer. There was a menu with a choice between Samosas, Pakora, Onion Bhajis, Aloo Tikki, Paneer Spring Rolls & Naan bread, which were a mix and match deal at 8 for £10 👍 You even got a choice of curry and naan which also came to a tenner.

The team was excellent. The two young girls working there were very helpful and quick to serve us. The main chef in the van is called Sudesh, he was one of the kindest and most polite men I have met in a long time – a real character. He was a real market guy and was great at pulling in the customers.

Everything was so good. My boy demolished his share without taking a single breath between. It was nice to eat something entirely vegetarian for a change too.

This was a takeaway van, with no seating, which meant that unfortunately details and photos are a little light but both Jack and I would thoroughly recommend!

Thanks for reading.

The Maharajah’s grand reopening – Castle Street 🇮🇳

My dad and I have been counting down the days to the grand reopening of our favourite Indian restaurant, The Maharajah. We have both been coming here for well over a decade for some good old fashioned father son bonding and were both left devastated after learn that it had closed.

It felt like forever but tonight it had finally reopened with a complete reinvention from top to bottom. For those of you who remember The Maharajah was always a very vivid and boldly decorated restaurant with waiters wearing outfits reminiscent of Captain Scarlet. They used to be known as “the rudest Indian in Cambridge” due to their argumentative staff and frequent stories of trying to rush you out the door but the place was always bustling with customers because they always did a mean curry which was always served flaming hot!

The first thing you notice when walking in is that the place is completely unrecognisable. The days of bold vivid colours are long gone and the place now has a contemporary feel with a sharper and much cleaner look to it. This is likely to split opinions as people who loved the old look are going to really miss it but people who were put off are going to likely prefer it.

Looking at the menu the restaurant has a really wide choice to pick from. You have all the classic curries which now come to around £11-12 each.  There was everything else you’d expect from a British Indian restaurant too, including papdums, biryani, and saag aloo. There was a particularly wide selection of specials which will be exciting for anyone looking to explore new dishes.

We ordered some beers while we studied the menu. They had both Cobra and Kingfisher available, as well as the Thai beer Singha. They were served in the small 330ml bottles at £4.50 each with no option for draft. This was disappointing as there is nothing quite like draft but I’m hoping that this is rectified down the line. In my experience with grand openings it often takes a few weeks for draft taps to be put in, so watch this space. A classic example of this was when Sutton Spice first opened last year.

The papdums were excellent. The tray came with mango chutney, onion salad, yogurt, and pickle. All were executed perfectly. The yogurt especially stood out for me but the mango chutney was also done to a high standard. The onion salad was chopped finely and had a real good mix to make it pop. The pickle was also decent but portion was quite small so it had to be used sparingly.

I ordered my usual benchmark to compare with other restaurants. A chicken tikka vindaloo, mushroom rice, and we split a saag aloo mains between the two of us. My dad had the lamb biryani.

The food was excellently presented and portions were generous. We didn’t have to wait long for our food either, which was a good sign on opening night. They are clearly well organised and had a very high ratio of staff on shift to make sure everything ran smoothly.

The staff were very attentive, incredibly polite, and chatty. A far cry from the old reputation of the old restaurant. They were very good at keeping us updated on the progress of our food and were very quick to help if we needed anything. In terms of customer service, they were flawless.

The saag aloo was visually gorgeous and absolutely perfect. In fact, I’d say that it was one of the best I’ve had in a while (and I’ve had a few good ones lately!).

The chicken tikka vindaloo was as visually welcoming as the saag aloo. All the food here has real care taken into its presentation. I was again pleased to see a generous portion size and the chicken was superb and very succulent.

The food had less of a bloating feeling than a lot of Indian restaurants too, which is always a sign of quality. One thing which stood out was the colour, there was no sign of colourings and everything looked like it was cooked fresh from scratch.

For me, the vindaloo could have been hotter but I could tell by the way the restaurant presents itself that the days of super spicy slop in a bucket from the Maharajah are long gone. This is gourmet and they weren’t interested in pretending to be anything else.

My dish was a sight to behold! It was utterly beautiful! Chicken tikka vindaloo with mushroom rice and saag aloo. Everything came together so well and complimented eachother perfectly.

My dad thoroughly enjoyed his lamb biryani. He was kind enough to let me try some of his lamb which was incredibly soft and tender. It fell to pieces and I was pleased to see that the lamb had some fat left on it to really give it that extra flavour. Some restaurants desperately try to keep lamb lean but in my opinion this is the way lamb should be done.

We were treated to some home made desserts which were “on the house” for the grand opening. This was a really nice touch over the usual pre ordered desserts you get in a lot of places and they were all executed really well. The ice cream partially stood out as thick and creamy and I hope this is something they continue. My dad was very fond of the cheese cake which I struggled to get off him to try.

My dad and I thoroughly enjoyed our meals at the new and improved Maharajah. It’s a complete reinvention from head to toe, going from the vividly decorated restaurant which serves blinding hot curry which will blow your head off to a more modern and up market gourmet restaurant which prides itself on the high quality of its cuisine.

The service is impeccable and a million miles better than the reputation it used to have. It will be interesting to see what people think of the changes made here as they have been bold and will likely divide opinion.

You might hear someone familiar yammering away.

I wish them the best of luck and it’s great to see the Indian restaurant scene slowly coming back to life on Castle Street. It’s been a long time coming!

Thanks for reading!