Food review, Orissa: 'Deliciously different Indian food'
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
It’s a Sunday night. You’re going to the theatre. You want to eat out. Where do you go?
Most places that serve a roast have packed up for the day hours ago. If you’re lucky there will be a burger joint open.
More than likely you’ll end up at your favourite Chinese/Indian/Thai/Turkish spot.
With a night at The Apex in Bury planned, we found ourselves in this predicament recently. We didn’t want to spend our cash at a chain, but the town is quite light at this end of the week when it comes to Sunday dining.
Orissa on Risbygate Street has, though, been on my hit list for a while now, so we wound up there for an early tea.
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The restaurant has had a bit of a transformation in lockdown, framing its walls with Insta-friendly faux cherry blossom, and opening a cocktail bar upstairs. I’ve started to detest pink blossom over the last year. It’s flipping everywhere isn’t it? But my teenage daughter (as ever) thought it was ‘amazing’ and dutifully started a Snapchat with her mates (for those not in the know, they basically take loads of picture of themselves and send to one another – not vain at all is it?).
What drew me here wasn’t the décor, but the menu. I like a dhansak or madras as much as the next person, but when I go out to eat I want something ‘a bit different’. I want to look down at the words in front of me and think ‘what the heck is that?’.
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Down in Plymouth, where my brother lives, there’s a brilliant Indian restaurant called Eastern Eye. Every single plate we order is a surprise. And so too is the cuisine at Orissa.
Sure, they’ve got your perennial curry house favourites (flick to the back of the book), but for the large part, the menu is unique. A big thumbs up from me.
After munching through a messy and addictive tray of poppadoms with mango chutney and chopped salad, our starters arrived.
Their riff on that South Indian street food favourite chicken 65 (here billed as popcorn chicken £6.95), saw bite-sized crisp, dry pieces, bound in a slightly lemony batter that built up quite a heat the more you popped in your gob. They came with a mild, slightly fruity chilli dip. A winner all-round.
The lasooni wild tiger prawns (£8.95) were absolutely ginormous. There were only two on the platter, but what specimens they were. Part-shelled, bound in a paste of mint, garlic and lemon, these beasts were really meaty, and, importantly, the flavour of the prawns wasn’t overtaken by the spicing.
Our trio of lamb (£8.95) was one for the indecisive. A bit of everything. Truly succulent marinated lamb chop, crumbly spicy lamb samosa, and a generously seasoned minced lamb kebab that had, thankfully, not been dyed bright orange!
Finally, there was moduu chicken (£6.95) which was modestly priced considering it was probably the biggest starter on the table. Essentially it’s like a huge Scotch egg, only the centre is tikka chicken, and the sausagemeat is saag aloo (mashed potato and spinach). While the chicken was delicious, and the breadcrumbing thankfully ungreasy, we felt the mash lacked flavour. It needed more herbs, more seasoning, maybe a touch of green chilli.
The main courses took a while to be delivered, but good things, as they say, come to those who wait. I’d rather hang on a bit for freshly-made food, than have it flung at me from a microwave in five minutes.
The chicken dum biryani (£16.95) was presented in a cast iron pot, where it had been steamed under a banana leaf. I do think biryani is one of those things Indian restaurants often rush, and get wrong. It’s a festival dish. A celebration dish. Not a carby vehicle for a soppy bowl of vegetable curry. Proper biryani is about layering, and seasoning. When the lid was lifted from the pot, and the rice fluffed up by our server, we got a whoosh of mint, lemon and whole spice. Every grain of rice was separated and imbued with fragrance. While the chicken fell apart. Really really good stuff here.
It doesn’t come with a curry sauce, so you’ll have to order a side (or steal off someone else on your table).
I was intrigued by the Mumbai murgh masala (£12.95) on the menu, and it didn’t disappoint. Small cubes of barbecued chicken were coated in a light, mild tomato-based gravy, and served with puffy pori breads, salad and matchstick fries – which everyone else tried to nick!
I haven’t had anything like it before. There was huge satisfaction in pulling open the freshly fried breads (like mini pittas), stuffing them with potatoes, a leaf of salad and a spoon of sauce and meat.
Orissa has an impressive grill section, from which we had the chicken tikka (£11.95) served sizzling to the table on a platter, and a huge chicken tikka naan wrap with fiery chilli fries (£12.95) which would definitely be good post-pub fodder if you’re thinking about a takeaway.
Both tasty. Just note that if, like us, you have a mayo hater in the party, the tikka wrap is filled with cheese and mayo. We didn’t expect that (the menu said sauces came on the side) so had to send it back to the kitchen, were it was remade without the offending item.
Like the main menu, the array of side dishes is dizzyingly new. Could this be the place you fall in love with the much-maligned okra?
We had a pillowy garlic naan (£3.50), egg fried rice (£3.95), keema aloo (£5.95) of potatoes in a lamb mince sauce, and a mild-mannered lasooni dhall palak (£4.95) - which is just the trick for soothing any tastebuds assaulted by heat.
Drinkswise, the wine was just OK, and there were a few cocktails but these looked pretty uninspiring. Whereas upstairs in the new cocktail lounge there was definite promise.
Overall the bill came to £132.50 for four, but the bill would have been lower if we’d stuck to the back end of the menu and those old classics.
What can I say? If you want to try something new, and if you want to get excited about Indian food again, you should definitely pay a visit. The quality of the meat was excellent, and nothing felt too heavy. In fact, there was no off-putting puddle of grease on the leftovers in the fridge the next day. Flavours were on point. We will be back.
Parking is just £1 in the evenings at the large car park behind the Apex.