8 of the best curry houses in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
Food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis shares a few of her favourite places for you to visit during National Curry Week (October 5 to 11).
Indian food is a regular feature at the dinner table in our house - the scent of Indian cooking being something that’s permeated my life from a young age. Growing up with East End grandparents, many a weekend was spent stomping along Brick Lane, inhaling the intoxicating, exotic aromas (all while secretly longing for a beigel). As a teen my mum developed banter with the much-missed Rafi at her Suffolk shop, then in Gaol Lane in Sudbury (her curry packs made an almost weekly appearance in the kitchen). And Indian food is what my children most naturally gravitate towards. Through cooking in our own home, they’ve learnt there’s so much more to enjoy than tandoori and tikka. The Indian subcontinent is a glorious tapestry of individual, regional dishes. From the butter-rich curries of the north, down to the coconut-enriched seafood of Goa and Kerala.
If you’re eating out during National Curry Week (October 5 to 11) I’d urge you to veer away from your ‘regular’, ‘bog standard’ ruby and take a punt on the chef’s recommendation. Step outside the comfort zone of korma, madras and balti and you just might find a new favourite.
We’ve enjoyed some cracking meals at this family-run restaurant on St Nicholas Street. It’s been a go-to for birthdays, celebrations, pre-cinema get-togethers... and lazy ‘can’t be bothered to cook’ nights.
While I agree with some diners who say it looks a tad dated, that doesn’t, I feel, detract from the food, which is yummy.
Dishes we come back for include the tandoori murghi roll – a starter of cheese, herbs and chicken wrapped in flatbread that’s a hit with grown-ups and kids alike - and the special aloo tikkee starter of truly flavoursome potato cakes.
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My veggie friends have a soft spot for the vada curry, which carries delicate pakoras a velvety, slightly spiced sauce. And my favourite is the rangeela, which is much closer to what you might typically find in an Indian home. Gently spiced and less oily than saucier curries, it marries chicken with potato, chickpeas, peas, garlic, ginger and green peppers.
The Royal Bengal, Woodbridge
One of Suffolk’s oldest Indian restaurants, and popular with locals – it’s become part and parcel of the fabric of the town. While starters are pretty standard and you’ll find lots of the usual here, my family and I have enjoyed some of the kitchen’s Goan and Bengali cuisine, mopped up with perfectly charred naans.
The sherpur atchari is super-hot, but absolutely rammed with flavour. And I would recommend any of the sweet-sour, fragrant, almost pickle-like balchao dishes. Coconut lovers should try the xacuti.
Zaynab, Capel St Mary
A colleague living close to the restaurant absolutely raved about Zaynab to me last year, saying it even impressed her impossible-to-please dad.
Quite the recommendation.
From the outside it looks like a repurposed Little Chef or petrol station, but inside Zaynab is modern, spacious and quite, dare I say, sophisticated – certainly nice enough for a date night.
Children will quite happily dig into the chicken fry (a flattened, breadcrumbed chicken starter), but I was won over by the tangy Goan chilli king prawns with a whack of garlic, lemon and chilli.
I’d also recommend trying the shatkora curry – especially if you’re someone who tends to order a dhansak. Shatkora is a type of Indian citrus fruit, which lends a delicate sourness and fragrance to sauces. If I see this on a menu, nine times out of 10 I’ll order it.
Sea Spice, Aldeburgh
This contemporary Indian restaurant can be found on the lower level of The White Lion Hotel. Spacious and smart, it’s more of a fine dining Indian experience, with prices above what you’d expect to find at your ‘local’.
I like the fact the kitchen makes a concerted effort to source and use local produce in its menus.
Recommendations here include the mixed bhajis, which are super-crisp and light, a starter of gram flour battered prawns, and the signature east Suffolk muntjac vindaloo, which is melt-in-the-mouth and around medium to slightly hot on the spice scale. The butter chicken is also quite delicious, as is the biryani.
I rarely eat desserts in Asian restaurants (even though I have a thing for lemon sorbet served in a lemon) but I rate the thick, fudgy, pistachio and raisin-studded carrot halwa here. A must if you can squeeze it in.
Hands-down one of the best places to eat Indian food in East Anglia. The award-winning restaurant features in the 2020 Good Food Guide, noted for its beautifully-presented, seasonal, inventive take on Indian cuisine.
There are plates of food served at Montaz you will definitely not see elsewhere, from calamari pakora with samphire, passionfruit dressing and lemongrass mayonnaise, to ox cheek samosas.
Regional dishes, such as goat and potato curry and an Old Delhi-style butter chicken, are complemented by signature dishes. Tandoori monkfish with black pepper, kaffir lime, lemongrass and Nilgiri korma sauce. Clay oven duck breast with beetroot chutney savoy cabbage.
An absolute treat.
Spice Lounge, Mildenhall
A multi award-winner with the Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice award for 2020.
Spice Lounge staff lend a friendly welcome, serving on point, generously portioned classic dishes in nice surroundings.
Recommendations from the menu include the sweet, creamy chicken shazani, infused with mango, butter and cream, and the tender, spicy koftas which come in a thick, chilli-laden sauce which is lifted with mint and coriander.
Valley Connection, Bury St Edmunds
Another award-winner. I particularly like the interior of this restaurant close to the Abbey Gardens. It’s light, airy and very comfy, with soft, cream-coloured décor, crisp linens and sparkling glasses at the tables.
On Sundays there’s usually a set menu that’s worth checking out, at £9.95 for three courses (free for under 10s).
If I’m eating here I find myself drawn to the vast array of southern Bangladeshi curries, which include loads of prawn-based plates (my daughter and I love prawns). Volda-style they come prepared with garlic, potatoes, carrots, lentils, onions, pepper and tomatoes. The murgh bahar – chicken breast stuffed with minced lamb, cooked over coals and served in a thick, medium sauce, is worth sampling too.
Some decent wines on the wine list also.
The Mogul, Manningtree
Yes, this is geographically in Essex, but is literally just over the water. Over the years, friends have raved about The Mogul to us, but we didn’t ‘discover’ it until a month ago when we somehow got lost on the country lanes of Tendring in the dark (don’t ask). Remembering this place would be open, we swung by on our way home, with two very hungry teenagers in tow. Inside, the restaurant looks a little old fashioned, with fading pictures of celebrity guests of yore fading on the walls. But, waiting for a takeaway by the front bar, I was made to feel exceptionally welcome and although I may have griped over the long wait, when we unwrapped our takeaway at home we were blown away by the quality. The best Indian food we’ve eaten in a while. Sheek kebabs left their natural colour rather than stained red. Whole spice-infused samosas. The most gorgeous, melting lamb dhansak. And vegetable side dishes that were good enough to be the star of the show. Every single curry had a unique, original flavour, and the meat felt high quality (no rubbery chicken here). Fantastic.