Address: 114 Camden Rd, London NW1 9EE
Alcohol Policy: Licensed & BYO
Summary: Formerly Curry 4 U, this is a cheap and cheerful curry in Camden.
This was the fifth outing with the old work football team; now a regular curry fixture every month or so.
Responsibility for organisation this time round was with Spellins. Having previously flirted with relegation from the group, this was his end of season 6-pointer to stay in the big leagues.
Things got off to a mixed start with our rendez vous at Brew Dog - good beers but a little spenny. Nevertheless, it was a Friday after pay day (for those of us with jobs) and we were in good spirits. Next stop was the curry for the main event - would it be a last minute winner or a fall from grace, sans parachute payments? Read on to find out.
Camden Tandoori is found on Camden Road just up from the station of the same name. We were proudly told by the owner that it has been there for 33 years. Briefly named Curry 4 U, as part of a marketing ploy to attract local students ignorant of tandoori, it has now thankfully returned to its roots. However, it's unclear whether the furnishings have also changed in those three decades; Artex on the walls and ceiling raises the question. Indeed, whilst fairly cosy, the restaurant interior is very dated. You could even be forgiven for thinking you were in your grandma's living room, although garlands hanging over nice oil paintings of rural basic fishing and farming scenes might shatter that illusion.
When we entered, we were the only customers, but this soon changed with the arrival of a few other patrons. I dread to think what it would be like if full as space really was at a premium, but we fared well enough on our visit. Also in short supply was ice that Sean and Charlie requested for the half litre of gin they quickly saw off. The rest of us enjoyed the BYO policy offered here with a few beers.
The menu is pretty generic, with typical British Indian dishes making up the bulk of it, but this may be more familiar to the less adventurous diner. Otherwise, nothing too special to report about the restaurant itself other than a lovely clock made of spatulas above the door, presumably indicating that it's always curry o'clock.
Starters and sides
2 X Tandoori mixed grill (with plain naan)
We tried a number of sides and breads which ranged in quality. A nicely aged lime pickle with chewy limes that weren't too bitter drew the expression 'peng alengs' from Sean, which I assume means good. The mango chutney and raita were a little viscous, but ok, while the poppadoms themselves were equally on par.
Sadly the mixed grill also wasn't great though. It was more of an Indian starter medley with samosas thrown in the mix, more reminiscent of an Iceland party platter than a restaurant-standard dish. The flavours were ok, but the meat wasn't the most tender or fresh and a bizarre, fatty, burger/meat disk raised further eyebrows.
The peshwari was decent but the keema continued the theme of mediocrity making it a lowly 5/10 for Starters and Sides.
Chicken tikka bhuna
As for the mains, the overall assessment was again average. The tarkka daal was decent but bit on the liquidy side for me and whilst the dhansak had a hidden, deep-heat kick the chicken in it was a little chewy. Meanwhile the lamb saag lacked meat and the bhuna tikka was just fine, nothing more.
Although the byriani had a nice nutty lamb flavour, it was more savoury than saviour for this overall, middle of the road offering. Sadly, it's therefore only a 6/10 for Curry.
On a more positive note, Spellins received no strikes for a change, keeping his invite for next time.
Marks should probably be awarded for the longevity of the elderly owner and his happy regaling of the restaurant's history, however, he did get in a bit of a muddle with the order. Sean had asked for the starters to come separately so he could shoot off to a Streets gig in Brixton, but he had to hold on for an inordinate amount of time. This frustrating wait meant him smashing back the gin a little too strongly, which led to much aural punishment for the rest of us.
Points are awarded for the post-curry After Eights though and a very weighty bottle opener caused a little too much amusement for Pete and Wakey. However, the smirks received as a result weren't enough to bring service above a 6 out of 10 overall.
Value for money
With BYO but no corkage you're off to a flyer when it comes to value here. However, the food isn't the best which takes the marks down. Still, £15.50 each including tip is still not to be sniffed at. 7/10 for VFM
This was the furthest north the blog has ventured so far and whilst not disappointing the overall experience wasn't enough to move the curry blog crown away from its southern roots.
The fact that this eatery was once a popular student haunt called Curry 4 U is perhaps indicative of the expectations you should set if visiting. But even though we weren't blown away, we would urge respect for the contribution places like Camden Tandoori have made to our capital's rich curry culture. In this vein, go along and enjoy a curry to keep an old man happy and, who knows, with the decor as it is, you may well feel at home.
Now please check out our next review for Red Chilli, Whitechapel