The month of September marks four years since me and my boyfriend starting talking (we met at school, and spent evening after evening chatting on MSN – does that even exist anymore?!), and two years since we starting university and our long distance relationship. This year I’m out on placement and so we’ve had less of a summer than usual, and I’ve really been trying to make our visit weekends more special – nice food, funny films, romantic walks…so I was delighted when I was invited to review one of my now-local curry houses, Bombay Mela*. I’ve been itching to try some of the restaurants nearby, and what better way to do it than with my bestie and partner-in-crime?
There’s no other way to start an Indian meal, you have to have Popadoms. Preferably with mango chutney, though I enjoyed the mint-yoghurt type sauce we were served here too. Coupled with Mango Lassis (which are, by the way, delicious and I’m craving another) this was a great start to the meal – they were obviously fresh too, hot and with a great snap. I’ve been served slightly stale popadoms far too often! Minor niggle – I would have like the chutney pots to be bigger, we were scraping them out at the end!
We went all out and ordered starters – three of them. No word of a lie, portions at Bombay Mela are big! Four massive Onion Bharjis were the best I’ve ever had – they included potato, spinach and sweetcorn, were crisp, and amazingly light. Well flavoured too, not spicy but with plenty of aromatics in there. And served with a lovely dip that worked well, although was a little sweet for my taste.
Garlic & Pepper Calamari was specially made to exclude tomatoes. The menu version may be different, but this was outrageously spicy – both of us really struggled to stomach it and definitely avoided the peppers it came with! That said the squid was wonderfully cooked, soft and springy, it melted in the mouth. I’d love to try more seafood cooked by this chef!
Finally my boyfriend picked Shami Kebab (new, and not on the online menu) – this was two giant balls of lamb mince, well spiced. It was lovely in flavour, though for me a tad too dry and crumbly. W clearly enjoyed it though as is disappeared pretty quickly! He says; “a tad too dry, but adding the accompanying sauce made it come together quite nicely – the pickled veg was some of the nicest I’ve eaten.”
Thankfully we had a pretty big gap between starters and mains, as I was already feeling pretty stuffed! I took the chance to inspect the loos (as you do) and the rest of the restaurant – they have a pretty cosy looking Shisha garden which looks lovely, although that isn’t really my thing. They also have a large room at the back that can be hired to parties, a 1st Birthday Party was in full swing when I was there, so this would be a great place to hold a gathering. As for the loos, can’t say I was too impressed – they are a little dated compared to the rest of the restaurant, and I would strongly suggest they purchased some new bins/brushes (and got rid of the giant eight-legged beast in the ladies, thank you very much!). Mains then arrived, so I dutifully snapped away before tucking in.
I’d ordered the only tomato-free item on the menu, the Korma. I do wish I’d been offered more of a choice, or perhaps an adapted dish, as I’m actually a lover of spice and Korma is just a bit bland for me. This is one of the better ones with a good background flavour, and the king prawns were again amazingly well cooked – juicy and sweet. However the sauce was too thick, and so a little cloying. I definitely needed rice and naan bread with this!
My boyfriend went for the 3-chilli Lal Mass, along with Aloo Gobi. Greedy boy! Both of his dishes contained tomato, so you’ll have to take his word. His main was very nice, not as spicy as expected but with a lot of warmth. He says his side was nice, although he gives a carb warning as he was struggling with the amount of food by this point!
As for sides – we shared a Pulao Rice (a good decision, we didn’t finish it between us) and had a naan each. Garlic for me, defeating the point of a date night as garlicky it was indeed! Bombay Mela win the title of the best naan I’ve had, and coming from Leicester (and having eaten a lot of curry) that means a lot. It’s thin, chewy and crispy, and charred just to right side of the burnt line. Simply yummy. W had a Peshwari naan. Now, I don’t like this stuff, it’s far too sweet for my liking and this naan was no different. But his view? “It was very good, although with the rest of my food I really didn’t need a naan as well. It needs a robust spicy curry, or it would be too sweet.” Another minor niggle is that I would have served different types of naan bread in different baskets – mine took on a little of the sweet flavour which I wasn’t too enamoured with. But minor, because the naan bread are so, so good!
We were completely stuffed by this point, and after resorting to some playful funny places hoped we could quietly crawl out clutching our bellies. No such luck, we were presented by this stunning dish and (thankfully) two spoons. Inside was some of the yummiest frozen goodness I’ve had in a restaurant, and hands down the best sweet I’ve ever had at an Indian. From examining the menu we *think* it was Matka Kulfi – either way it was delicious. Creamy but not heavy, slightly fruity, slightly sweet, but just nicely balanced. Surprisingly it really settled out full stomachs and actually made us feel better – we appreciated it!
Our bill came to just shy of £54 – slightly on the expensive side for a curry in my opinion, but we’d never order that much if (or when!) we go back. Starters aren’t really necessary (maybe the Bhajis to share, as they are amazing), and lassis, although gorgeous, probably should be treated as more of a desert. Service was excellent – very friendly, but not over the top or too attentive, there’s nothing worse than being asked if something is wrong the second you put your cutlery down for a breather. Yes, we were there for a complimentary restaurant for this blog (and as always my opinions are 100% honest) and yes, they knew who we were, but having observed other tables I’m pretty sure service would be just as good another time. And there will be another time – it was a really yummy dinner! I’m definitely tempted by ordering a takeaway over the coming winter months…
If you’re ever in Redhill, I’d highly recommend a trip to Bombay Mela. Whether its worth a journey, I’m not quite convinced mainly as it’s the down curry house down South I’ve tried – but it definitely rivals some of my old favourites from home. And I’ll be back, I’m already craving bhajis and naan…
Do you like Indian food?