Local partridge, lamb and venison feature on new menu at Indian restaurant Sea Spice in Aldeburgh

King prawn bhuna Picture: Sea Spice

King prawn bhuna Picture: Sea Spice - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis samples Asian food with a difference in Aldeburgh.

Peppered scallops Picture: Sea Spice

Peppered scallops Picture: Sea Spice - Credit: Archant

One of East Anglia’s only seaside Indian restaurants has cemented its place on the local gourmet foodie scene by launching a new menu filled with fresh seasonal East Anglian ingredients.

Taking inspiration in particular from southern India, experienced head chef Pratap Rawat of Sea Spice at Aldeburgh’s White Lion hotel has introduced dishes such as sea bass in a creamy Malabar curry sauce, East Suffolk lamb shank marinated in ginger and garlic and smoked in the oven, and various game dishes.

He’s also brought back some classic favourites including chicken korma, chicken tikka masala and lamb bhuna, as well as introducing a set two course children’s menu (£8) and a three course set menu priced at £25. The set menu includes choices such as lamb tulsi sheekh kebab, tarka daal, Bombay aloo, and khatte baigan – fresh aubergines fried with onion, tomato, masala, pickles, ginger and garlic. Something for those new to Indian cuisine, as well as those seeking to step outside of their usual curry house routine.

We tried out some of the dishes from the new menu in the opulent surroundings of the restaurant, found right beside the town’s pebbly beach.

Chicken tikka masala Picture: Sea Spice

Chicken tikka masala Picture: Sea Spice - Credit: Archant

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To get you started are lots of authentic nibbles to whet the appetite. Cashew nuts are roasted and tossed through a freshly made, vivid green mint and coriander chutney with tomatoes, onion and cucumber to scoop up with poppadoms. Okra is coated in gram flour and a dusting of spice, transforming what can be a slimy vegetable into a crisp, moreish bite. And mixed vegetables are thinly sliced and tossed in a tasty batter before being fried into bhajis.

If you’ve got a thing for sourdough bread you’ll enjoy the uttapam – a new dish and a speciality typical of southern India. A platter arrives to the table in a riot of colour, filled with hot, fresh and sweet chutneys and a bubbly, slightly sour rice flour and lentil pancake strewn with chopped fresh tomatoes and onion. On the side is a miniature saucepan of gentle, warming lentil stew filled with melting aubergine and potato pieces, flavoured with undercurrents of fenugreek.

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A second new starter is the Punjabi venison samosas, combining a dense mixture of local venison with pungent spices and green peas in a shortcrust pastry, ready to dip into a sweet/sharp tamarind sauce typically served with all manner of Indian snacks.

Pratap’s new signature dish of achari bhuna king prawns was unlike anything we’d eaten before in an Indian restaurant. Served with delicate pilau rice and naan covered in chunks of garlic, these were the most enormous prawns we’d ever encountered, being at least four times the size of a king prawn! Split and cooked until juicy, the shellfish (not unlike lobster in texture and flavour) was surrounded by a pool of sauce crafted from tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, coriander and chef’s own secret blend of spices. Our waiter wasn’t wrong – this is a must-try.

Also sampled was an old favourite many of us are so familiar with, but cooked in such a way that it left other similar curries standing in its wake. The chicken tikka masala (one of Britain’s favourite dishes) combined the most fall-apart-tender chicken pieces with chef’s own recipe buttery, piquant makhani sauce. Warmed by a hum of layered spices, it was nigh-on curry perfection, being at once creamy, savoury and light, lifted by a hit of acidity.

There was no room to try dessert, but if you do find room there are handmade Indian home-style puds such as gulab jamun and warm carrot halva pudding.

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