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.
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!
We have reviewed The Sylhet before but it’s been a while since our last visit and I had started to miss the place. We managed to pick up a quick takeaway a few months ago but otherwise it’s been over a year since our last sit down meal.
Our Cambridge Curry Community moderator Ollie made a fantastic point today about making sure that we support our local Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants during these hard times.
In this current financial climate, it’s understandable that restaurants are struggling.
It’s important to remember this is temporary, we will get through this and when we do, we want all of our favourite restaurants to get through it too!
If you can afford to, go out and eat at your favourite restaurant, if you can don’t just order a takeaway, go and support them and eat there.
I couldn’t agree more! This evening he decided to go to his local Indian, Cam Spice, so I decided to go to my favourite local, the Sylhet.
When you run an Indian restaurant blog, it is very easy to get carried away chasing every place you can to make sure you don’t miss a thing, but it’s important to make sure you support your local in the process. These are the essential back bone restaurants of your day to day life where memories are made. If they go, a big part of your life goes with it. So it’s important to support them as much as you can.
The Sylhet is one of my all round favourite Indian restaurants. Not because it stands out with a gimmick, a novelty, or concentrating on doing one particular thing very well, but because it gets everything right and is consistent in doing so.
I am always warmly greeted at the Sylhet. The staff always remembers me and takes the time to chat with us at the table. They even remember the dishes I like and it’s these little details which make all the difference. They have all the classics on the menu, both Cobra and Kingfisher on tap, and really prompt and attentive staff. They even have good wheelchair access. There is nothing I can fault.
We ordered some papdums while we had a look at the menu. Going back to my point about how the Sylhet gets everything right, this was one of the first examples of this. The papadum side sauces were excellent. One thing I’ve noticed lately is how Indian restaurants are giving away measly little portions of mixed pickle, mango chutney, onion salad, and yogurt. Not only was each and every one of them perfect at the Sylhet but the portions were HUGE!
We had some onion bhajis for starters. I don’t usually go for these but we fancied a change and they didn’t disappoint.
These were incredibly meaty bhajis reminiscent of the giant bhajis from Mo Malik’s before it closed down. There is a time and a place for the light and delicate bhajis but if we are really honest with ourselves, this is exactly how they should be! The yoghurt here is absolutely perfect and they were so good for dipping.
After our visit to The Shilpa, my son was shown a wide range of new dishes during his visit, so he was feeling adventurous and decided to choose something different from his usual. After speaking with Zahid, he managed to convince him to try the ‘Sylhet Murgh’. This is a medium chicken dish cooked ‘desi style ‘ where the ingredients are stewed or reused in the cooking process to make the most of the flavour.
I apologise for the photos but the light in my seat was not very good (though it did add to a nice atmosphere in the restaurant!). The dish had a bold flavour and the chicken was very tender. It was presented with a boiled egg which is something I have only ever had with a biryani. My son did not care for the egg but thought the dish was ‘one of the best curries I’ve ever had’. He’s starting to learn that there is life beyond the classic menu of chicken tikka’s, kormas, and madras’s.
This was my fourth curry this week, so I felt like a change. The ‘North Indian Garlic Chilli’ caught my eye and it was also being served with duck, which is something I am not seeing around as much these days, so I decided to give it a go.
The duck was excellent and made a really nice change. The green chillies gave it a Jalfrezi feel but was served hotter, so it still satisfied the spicy side in me. It was an enjoyable dish which I would recommend for someone looking for something a little different.
It was a great meal as usual at the Sylhet tonight. I’d expect nothing less from this consistent restaurant which always gives us a top meal. I always regret not coming back sooner when I visit and will make sure to visit again soon.
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!
To celebrate their success reaching the final on the biggest British Asian TV talent show “The Catering Circle”, Jools and Syed hosted a huge launch event for the dish which got them there – “Mackerel Three Ways”.
It was a formal affair with all the big names from Bangladesh Catering Association, Channel S, the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence, Mayor Mark Ashton, and a string of local restaurant owners offering their support.
This was more than just a party however, with Jools and Syed also honouring their late father (Syed Abdul Hekim) and mother (Hussanara Chowdhury – Dolly) with the promotion of their charity The Dolly Foundation.
Their father Syed will be well-known to many people in Cambridge as he founded the Taj Tandoori in the 1980’s – and, it turns out, he was the first person to bring a tandoori oven into Cambridge (at The Curry Queen, in 1980). As well as leaving them the legacy of the Taj, their parents also inspired their devotion to their community and so they founded The Dolly Foundation, named for their mother, to continue their charitable legacies by helping the local community, as well as aiming to fund orphanages, schools, and even build wells.
Everything was done to a high standard (as you would expect from the team at the Taj). Even the canapés were absolutely out of this world and presented in a fun and accessible way which really fit into the mood and style of the evening.
The Bhel Puri was presented in a cone which made it easy to eat while cha(a)ting away to guests (…sorry!). The fish pakoras were easily my favourite, which you can probably tell by the fact I was eating them so quickly…that I forgot to take any photos! Surely, a testament to Jools’ wizardry in the kitchen.
For people who insist on an alcoholic drink, one of my favourite things about the Taj is it’s BYOB policy, which not only gives customers and guests more choice in what they drink in the restaurant, but also save customers money from oppressive pint prices across the city. For me, the mocktails were perfect to enjoy on this particular evening.
Looking at the menu, there were 5 courses coming our way, with the “Mackerel Three Ways” coming out as a ‘3 in 1’ dish.
The stuffed paneer pepper was one of the highlights of the evening for me. It was everything a starter should be: light, vivid, and full of flavour. Absolutely superb!
While we were enjoying our meal, the speeches were rolling, starting with Syed talking about their journey over the past few years with the transformation of the restaurant, their success with “The Catering Circle”, and the legacy of their mother and father which led to the birth of their new charitable foundation.
The “Mackerel Three Ways” came out charmingly presented in nostalgic Heinz cans served with mackerel rice. This came with a mackerel fillet with a potato cake and radish.
I have always said that restaurants don’t do enough mackerel and low and behold I get three portions in one! I have never had anything quite like it. It was presented in such a unique and humorous way, it truly reflected the dedication, passion, and attention to detail that the team at the Taj put into their food but also shows the light hearted and fun side which makes me keep coming back. It was a true reflection of who they were.
For dessert we were treated to “rose mango creme brulee”. This was another lovely piece, which offered a light and very sweet experience. There was nothing quite like cracking through that sheet of caramelised sugar.
He couldn’t hide in the kitchen forever! Towards the end of the meal Jools came out to a thundering round of applause for the incredible meal he had prepared this evening, but also for his great success over the past few years.
Alamin and Shaz from Alamin Media did a great job of managing the projections and media for the evening and made sure Jools’s hilarious boxing video was being played on the big screen as he came out. This was a video used to promote Jools’s success winning the Best Chef at “Asian Restaurant Owners Networ” a few years ago.
Jools paid tribute to his late mum and dad and shared his inspiration for his signature dish for the evening. It is clear for anyone to see that Jools and Syed are incredibly passionate about the food they produce, and the experience they deliver in the restaurant.
It was an electric evening full of sensational food, celebration, and great people. I want to thank Syed, Jools, and the entire Taj team for such an amazing night. I wish them the best of luck with their new dish!
Goodluck on the 15th November for the season finale on Channel S!
Don’t forget to check out The Dolly Foundation – you can even make a donation if you want to support the great work they are doing.