I finally tickled my last box in St Ives after dining in at Dhaba last night, so thought it would be fun to do a top 5 Indian restaurant list.
Now, I know what it’s like when you do a top 5. People get bent out of shape because their favourite did not get rated as high as they wanted but this is just a little bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously. I have not visited some of these restaurants in years and I am having to go by old reviews, memories, and from what I’ve heard from other people in the Cambridge Curry Community. Generally speaking, St Ives does very well for Indian restaurants and most of them are very good, so it is really just a list of winners.
So, without further ado, here are my personal top 5 Indian restaurants in the town of St Ives!
5. The Sultan – London Road
The Sultan has been a family favourite for decades and we’ve had some great memories here over the years. Unfortunately, due to a very basic interior and slightly below average food, it falls short when compared to the very stiff competition in the town.
Montaz is quite popular in St Ives but my visits have been inconsistent. One night it will blow you away, the next will disappoint. Maybe I need to visit more frequently but I can only call it like I see it. Hopefully if I visit again it might drag itself further up the table but until then it’s 4th.
PR Masala has a cult following and I completely understand why. It is consistent with its food and has marvelous customer service. It’s a beautiful restaurant too, which is very large when you get in, which means it can host large parties. Best of all, it’s competitively priced. It’s great to see both Cobra beer and a Kingfisher on tap also! The food is always good but it just never seems to stand out when compared to some of the others, like it’s missing that x factor.
I recently declared Dhaba my favourite Indian restaurant in St Ives in a previous review but after reading through my previous visits to other Indiana in St Ives, I decided to put it second to Zzohanna. Dhaba gets so much right. It’s modern, atmospheric, has some of the best lime pickle and yogurt, and does a mean vindaloo. It just missed a few very trivial things which made it lose out on 1st place (by the skin of its teeth). I still highly recommend it to anyone!
It’s been a while since my last visit but Zzohanna made quite an big impression on me. I am not alone in thinking this too, with dozens of people also telling me that it is their stand out favourite in the town. The food is simply excellent. Portions are a little small but otherwise you get all the bells and whistles you have come to expect from an Indian restaurant which you might not get anywhere else, such as chocolates, a hot towel, and Kingfisher beer on tap.
For a population of 16,000 people, St Ives does really well for Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants, with a total of 5 (excluding takeaways). Places like Ely and Huntingdon, which dwarf it in size only have two each, which gives you an idea of how lucky the town is.
After my visit to Dhaba tonight, I have now reviewed all five restaurants in St Ives and I have been incredibly impressed with what I have experienced at Dhaba. Could it be that the new kid on the block is giving its rivals a run for their money?
Walking down Bridge Street, it is an easy restaurant to spot, with a very distinctive neon blue glow which lights up the street. The neon blue continues into the interior as you enter, giving the restaurant a dark atmosphere which is great for a Saturday night, though unfortunately it makes photos for the purposes of this review very challenging.
It’s a very modern looking restaurant, with a stunning bar which is lit up by the neon lights. Even the walls are painted blue giving it a real distinctive theme.
We were seated at our table and given a menu. It was great to see kingfisher on tap which came to a reasonable £4.50.
We ordered some papdums while we went through the menu. They came out with three sides – mango chutney, onion salad, and yogurt. We had to order the lime pickle separately but they were more than willing to bring some out.
All the side sauces were absolutely excellent. Their yogurt was some of the best I have had in a while, as was their lime pickle. The mango chutney came across as a little processed but tasted great with a really nice texture. No complaints all round!
The menu had a modest selection but everything you would expect from a British Indian restaurant. They had their signature ‘chicken Dhaba’ under the specials menu. This is “a flavorful light curry with baby potato” and boasts to be one of the most famous dishes in the roadside kitchen of Punjab.
My son was delighted to see Makhani (butter chicken) on the menu, which is now his favourite dish, thanks to his visit to The Shilpa the other week. The neon lights makes this dish look more vivid than it actually was but it still had a very bold colour to it. This was a far cry from the Makhani he had at The Shilpa recently which was more of a pale yellow. This didn’t stop him from devouring the dish none the less but after trying it myself, I must admit, it tastes very different from what I remember. The Makhani came with a block of butter which melted into the sauce, which I have never seen before.
My dad had the lamb biryani which was beautifully presented in a pot pie and included a side curry. Again, the neon light does not do the photographs much justice and the side curry looks almost radioactive but it tasted fascistic.
My chicken vindaloo had a beautiful colour and a delicious deep flavour. It had a really nice warm spice to it which slowly built up over the meal. I didn’t go for tikka’d chicken but it was nice and tender none the less. This was the nicest curry I think I have had in St Ives.
The bill came to about what was expected for three people. A service charge of 10% was automatically included but the staff were very polite and attentive throughout. We were given an After 8 mint but no hot towel was included.
The vindaloo was the real star of the show tonight. It is hard to find a restaurant which does one which ticks all the boxes. I also highly recommend the lamb biryani for anyone who is a fan.
Indian restaurants frequently use base gravy to speed up the cooking process by creating a curry stock, which can be turned into any curry from the common ingredients shared by all curry types.
It’s a great thing to have laying around, so you can use any left over meat by turning it into a curry. Throw in some chicken, use the stock, and then add any extras which will then turn the stock into a Madras, vindaloo, or Jalfreizi sauce.
You’ll never have an excuse not to have a curry again!
• Veg oil
• 100g cabbage
• 1 pepper (I’d have used green but I only had yellow)
• 1 carrot
• 700g onions
• 1L stock (ideally chicken, I only had beef, used 2x pots)
• 6 cloves garlic
• Thumb size piece of ginger
• 100g potato
• Tin chopped toms
• Half tube tom puree
• Half block of creamed coconut
• Garam masala
• Ground cumin
• Ground coriander
• Ground turmeric
• Mustard powder
“Chop all the veg up coarsely, chuck all of it plus the sugar and minus the potatoes in a large deep pan with the oil on medium heat, stir it about for 15 mins or so until it softens then add the stock and potatoes and simmer gently for an hour.
Add all the spices, tomato puree, tinned toms and coconut plus a load of water, bring back to boil and cook for another half hour. Blend with hand blender until smooth. Done.
Ready to portion up and freeze for use when needed with any “BIR curry base style” recipes.”
Don’t forget to check our recipe page for more recipes from our Cambridgeshire foodies!
Update: Ollie made butter chicken with this base and it looks utterly fantastic!
“I made this butter chicken using my base gravy.
The hours spent making a base gravy at the weekend and the chicken tikka I prepared the other night means I was able to knock up one of the best curries I’ve ever cooked in a little over half an hour on a week night.
I was lucky enough to be invited by Akram from Curry Walla Media to join the celebration of their recent award for ‘Restaurant Of The Year’ at the Bangladesh Carters Association (BCA). It was an opportunity I was not going to pass up, not only because it had been AGES since my last visit to the Shilpa but also because I knew that it was a fantastic restaurant which thoroughly deserved the award.
It was a dark, cold, and a very rainy evening, so we all had to run from our car into the restaurant. Luckily we were greeted by a very warm and friendly staff team who showed us to our table and took our coats. The place was packed and full of other customers enjoying their meals and having a good time. We were then treated to a selection of different dishes between us from a set menu.
First up, we were presented with a lamb chop and a tandoori mixed platter served with a side salad. All done to a great standard. The sheek kebab especially stood out as particularly succulent.
For mains, we were given a selection of different dishes to share between us. The star of the show was the Makhani curry. This was something we had never tried before and made a real impression on the table. This is more commonly known as ‘butter chicken’ which is a lovely thick creamy taste. When you are mixing butter and Indian spices, you can’t really go wrong!
I have heard that since our meal that the Makhani is now my sister in law’s new “go to curry”. My son even said that it was “the best curry I’ve ever had”. I must admit, I share their enthusiasm and I am going to start recommending this dish to more people who enjoy the milder creamy curries.
An often overlooked dish is the mixed vegetable bhaji. This added some diversity to a meal dominated by meat and carbohydrates. The team here weren’t just about creating delicious food but also thought about balance. This was really appreciated after a weekend of eating nothing but curry!
The rice was fairly standard but got the job done. The naan was absolutely excellent. It was a plain naan but was incredibly buttery, exactly as it should be!
To end the evening, we were given a show on a large TV of the Bangladesh Carters Association awarding the team at The Shilpa with their award. This was then followed by a speech by the owner and the rest of the team on how much work has gone into making their success.
It was great to see customers and others getting up and speaking to get an idea of what they thought made the restaurant so special. We even saw an appearance from Cambridge Foodies co owner Sean Figura saying a few words.
It was great to come back to the Shilpa after all these years. The place has always impressed me but it has refined its quality even further since my last visit. You can really tell by listening to their speeches that the team had put everything into the restaurant. The award is truly deserved and I look forward to seeing what else the restaurant can accomplish in the future. I wish them the best of luck!
If you ever feel the urge to try the butter chicken then keep the Shilpa in mind. The Makhani will blow your socks off.
It is no secret that the Tamarind Indian restaurant is one of my favourite restaurants in Cambridgeshire. I have been coming here for nearly a decade. My family have visited on numerous occasions and we have never had a bad meal. I took my wife on one of our first dates to the restaurant before we got married and we have even had a Cambridge Curry Community event back in 2015.
So you can imagine my worry when I had heard that the restaurant had been taken over by new management. A restaurant which had been consistently excellent, with a long personal history with myself, was now at risk of change.
With the skills of chef Musharof Hussain, the team at the Tamarind were able to win a live cook off competition which led to the prestigious award by the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA) at their 16th annual awards ceremony.
It is impressive stuff, especially considering that they have only been running the restaurant for a year, and the team quite rightly wanted to celebrate their success with a big party. All their most loyal customers were welcomed as a thank you for their support and to share the dish which had won them the award. It was also fantastic to see other restaurant owners turning up to show their support, showing a great solidarity within the restaurant community.
Curry Wala Media was there to set up the screen, so the team at the Tamarind could show their Chef Of The Year award being presented to them. They were also taking photos, filming the night, and interviewing guests, which are likely to be posted on the Tamarind Facebook page very soon. You may see a familiar member of the Cambridge Foodies bumbling his way through a speech too.
Sitting at our table, we were presented with a selection of dishes, clearly specials which the chef wanted to boast. I always love being taken on a culinary journey at a restaurant, as I am frequently guilty (as we can all be) of sticking with the same dish every visit, and sometimes I need the occasional kick into a different part of the menu.
The service was impeccable, as it was the week before my initial review of the restaurant. We never had to wait long for anything and there was always someone close by to wave down if required.
I was eager to try their now famous Tamarind Jalfrezi Special which had won them the award. The Jalzrezi is probably my least favourite curry, so it was going to be something special to win me over.
They brought the dish out served with lamb, which was a great start. It was a visual feast on the eyes and looked absolutely incredible on the plate. Their take on the Jalfrezi had less of a char flavour and went much easier on the peppers, which are two of the things I struggle with in a Jalfrezi. It was absolutely incredible and the table was universally in agreement that this was a superb take on a Jalfrezi, and for me, probably the best I have ever had. They even managed to remove that sharp taste with the spice which always disagrees with me and replaced it with a warm glow. The dish was faultless.
The food was outstanding, as we have come to expect from the Tamarind over the years. The food has always been great and my worries about new management somehow compromising the quality were long gone. If anything, they have taken it to the next level. As you can see from the pictures above, everything not only tastes great but was presented so well.
After dinner we were invited into the next room for the initial celebration. We watched the videos of the awards and got to meet the team behind the magic, such as the waiters, manager, and of course, the man of the hour, Mr Hussain. It always surprises me how many people go into running an Indian restaurant and I consider it remarkable how they manage to keep the costs of the cuisine so low when compared with food from other parts of the world. It was also a great opportunity to meet members of the Bangladeshi Caterers Association (BCA) and CurryWala Media such as Akram who presented the evening.
I want to thank the team for a wonderful evening. The atmosphere was fantastic, the food was immense, and we all had a lot of fun. It was great to meet so many new people and bump into familiar faces. I wish the Tamarind the best of luck in the future, though I am certain they will not need it.
I’m not surprised I keep coming back either as it never fails to give us an excellent meal at great value. Even my friends who aren’t heavily into Indian restaurants have told me that they are big fans of the establishment.
So, to say that the Tamarind was one of my favourites is an understatement. Like a protective parent, when I heard that the Tamarind had changed management, I was keen to visit and make sure that one of my most treasured restaurants was being looked after by a capable pair of hands.
We have been working in partnership with the team at Tamarind over the past few months, as they have wanted to take advantage of our new Cambridge Foodies advertising packages. You have likely noticed their adverts across our groups which has helped us fund some of the blog over the past 6 months. This made me want to visit even more to make sure that a restaurant meets the standards of what I think The Cambridge Curry Community represents.
From the outside the restaurant has not really changed since its previous management. It was still the same beautiful historic building with bright blue neon lights lighting up the village. I was pleased to see that they have kept the wheelchair ramp making disabled access possible.
Upon entering you get a very clear idea of the style they were going for. Tamarind has always had a modern interior and no changes have been made here. They have put in those trendy table lights which can be found at other contemporary style Indians such as Lalbagh. The place is spacious (which is another point for wheelchair access) and feels very clean throughout.
The menu can be found here. Considering the rate of inflation, restaurants are understandably raising their prices across the board at the moment but personally, I feel prices here are fair. I was a little disappointed in the beer prices which came to approximately £4 for 330ml (which comes to around £5.68 a pint!). There was also no draught which was also disappointing but they did have a good selection, with Cobra, Tiger, Kingfisher and some generic beers available.
I honestly thought the only Indian restaurant in Cambridgeshire which still did a buffet was the one in Sawtry, so I was pleased to see that this is still going here! For anyone looking for a buffet option in Cambridge, this is the only place which I’m aware of which does it.
Naturally, we ordered some papdums while we discussed what to order for our mains. The place was quiet but the service was very polite and attentive.
We ordered ten papdums but got a few extra free for our troubles. The lime pickle was superb, as was the onion salad. It was also worth noting that they gave us two pickle trays between the six of us, which is more than the usual one stretched across as many people as possible like in other restaurants. The mango chutney and the yoghurt were both very nice in their own right but a little runny.
My wife ordered the chicken tikka masalas which she thought was “really nice and the chicken was incredibly tender”. My sister had the lamb biryani which she described as “a top contender” and “one of the best Biryani’s i’ve had, I’d definitely go back”. As you can see, they were both excellently presented and the biryani especially was a large portion.
Needless to say, I went for the lamb tikka vindaloo with saag aloo and pilau rice. It’s my usual benchmark to compare restaurants which gives me all the right things to test an Indian restaurant in one meal – lamb quality, heat/spice balance of a dish, and use of colourings.
My vindaloo was fantastic! The vindaloo sauce was a healthy colour and it had a heat to it which I could really feel build up slowly over the meal. For regular readers, you’ll know that I’m always complaining about mild vindaloo’s served in restaurants to prevent customers sending them back, but they really respected the dish here and served it as it should be! After all, it’s a vindaloo! The lamb portions were very generous and cooked perfectly. It fell to pieces on my fork and was very succulent. Top marks all round!
The saag aloo was a good portion and absolutely delicious. It’s a hard dish to get wrong but they did a fine job none the less.
The Tamarind has recently won “chef of the year” at the BCA Awards for their rendition of Jalfrezi, called Tamarind Jalfrezi, which is pictured on the right in the picture above. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Jalfrezi dish myself, finding it quite sharp, but this had a much smoother taste from what I’ve had in the past and I must admit, I was won over from the sample I tried. My step dad who ordered it thought it was very good and said it had a fair kick to it.
The naans at the Tamarind were excellent. Like a fool I forgot to take a photo of the keema naan but it was one of the best I’ve had in a long time and was one of the highlights of the evening.
One common problem with keema naan is getting that horrible dry slice of meat cut through the middle of the bread but this was done almost like a light kebab with small slices laying on a very succulent naan. It was superb! Pictured above is my wife’s garlic naan, which she said was also very good.
We were offered a dessert menu after our meal which was the usual generic dessert menus you get in most restaurants. Nothing too exciting but nothing offensive either.
Our meal came with some heated wipes. It’s always sad to see the hot towels disappearing across Cambridgeshire but I suppose this is slowly becoming an inevitability these days. They were good quality none the less and very thick, so they get good points for that at least!
Overall, we were unanimously in agreement as a family that the Tamarind’s high standards were being honoured by the new team. The service was attentive, the food was excellent, and the interiors was pretty much unchanged. There were a few little niggles which aren’t enough to ruin and evening and the price easily reflected the quality.
I am really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions on the restaurant, so don’t forget to share on the Cambridge Curry Community!
The Cambridge Curry Community member Lee Heryet has been on a holy quest to find what he considers the best biryani in Cambridge.
It’s a tough job with so many great places in the city but after a lot of searching he’s finally been able to list his top three.
“I have been on a bit of a mission trying to find the best Biryani in Cambridge.
My top 3 so far;
Sparkles Sri-Lankan food van on Cherry Hinton Road. 🇱🇰 This is a great little food van that sells authentic Sri-Lanken food. I had Lamb Biryani with a side of chicken and lamb curry. The Biryani had amazing flavour but the lamb was a bit chewy. Will try the chicken next time. I think it was £7.99
Namaste Cambridge (Not Namase Village). This is a takeaway and delivery place tucked behind Chicken Cottage on Mill Road. Amazing on the bone chicken Biryani. The chicken curry in had with it was also very tasty (also green in colour..) the Biryani was £7.50 for a huge portion it was very good value.
1st place – The Brook Pub, Mill Road.
I love their authentic curry’s anyway but their Biryani blew me away! They only do it in a Saturday. It’s the best Biryani I’ve ever had. The on the bone chicken and spices infused into the rice to make it so tasty. It comes with some kind of Raita which complements the curry so well. £12.99 with a free beer is exceptional value. My Mrs had a curry so I had a bit of her curry sauce as well. The landlord has really turned this pub around and is now a great place to go and have a beer so to have these amazing home made curry’s makes it even better!”
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.
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!