My fascination with India started with Freedom at Midnight, a book that chronicles the waning days of the Raj before India's independence.
At the time, there were very few Indian restaurants in Ireland, the Taj Mahal being perhaps the best known (opposite the Dental Hospital, for Larry Gogan's Just a Minute fans), but in the absence of a sizeable Asian community, the joy of eating Indian food was more associated with a trip to London, Manchester, Bradford, or indeed India.
In the past 20 years, things have changed dramatically. We have some seriously good restaurants, both formal and informal, run by people from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and more recently, Kerala Kitchen, run by Londoner Lewis Cummings and his wife Gráinne, who hails from Donegal. It started off as a food truck, a restaurant in Baggot Street followed in 2016, and they have now opened in Stoneybatter, in the premises that was once home to Cowtown.
The food here is very reasonably priced for the quality you get. The spicing is individual to each dish and there is a great range of dishes to choose from
The room is smart, with a few well-chosen Indian accents. The white tiles which they inherited have been ripped off the walls, which are now painted white and contrast with the Elephant Grey shade on the woodwork. An Indian arch leads into the snug area, where we sit, and a large Indian lamp sits on the bar counter, behind which you can see the semi-open kitchen.
The menu is largely the same as the Baggot Street outpost, with small plates, chicken and lamb from the tandoor, and an impressive selection of curries. Poppadoms and a carafe of water are brought to the table when we arrive. We are reminded that, in the Indian tradition, all the dishes are served together, words which, I have to admit, along with “dishes come in no particular order”, always make me jittery. I am tempted to order our small dishes first, and follow with the order for the larger dishes once they are served, but instead stick with the programme.
A mango dip (€1.50), to go with our poppadoms, is not too sweet and has a bit of spice from the nigella seeds. Our small plates include pani puri (€6), a street food snack which is a load of fun to eat. Three crispy hollow balls come filled with mashed potato and chickpeas, and you pour tamarind water into the ball before popping it into your mouth.
Two vegetable samosas (€6) are drizzled with tamarind and honey yoghurt and stuffed with lightly spiced peas and mashed potato. And from the tandoor, we have a lamb seekh kebab (€9), which has a good depth of flavour, with a bit of heat, and notes of coriander, cardamom and mint coming through. The gunpowder aloo chaat (€7) has quite a bit of sweetness from the pomegranate molasses in the sauce that laces cubes of nicely fried potatoes.
We have three curries for our more substantial dishes, which yes, are on the table with the small plates. Chana saag (€11), a vegan dish which is likely to recruit hardened carnivores like me to their cause – well a little bit – has a delicious richness in the way the spinach has been cooked and the chickpeas are gently spiced. It’s very good.
The lamb Chettinad (€17) has sizable chunks of lamb in a medium spiced tomato and coconut based sauce. The dish of the evening is the meen manga (€17), a traditional fish curry which has layers of flavour, with mango adding a touch of sweetness to the fresh curry leaves and spice. Saffron coloured pilau rice (€4) and naan (€3.20) take on the necessary carb mopping up role admirably.
The wine list here is small and well-priced, the Maretti (€35) is a good choice, but we opt for Donegal’s finest, Kinnegar Limeburner Pale Ale (€6.95).
At this stage, you may think you’re done and call for the bill. But that would be a mistake. The kulfi (€3.50), served as cylindrical ice pop in a glass, is a beautiful way to finish off your meal. Creamy, with chunky pistachio, it is restrained and not too sweet. Equally delicious is the rich mango lassi (€4) which tastes like a melting mango mousse.
The food here is very reasonably priced for the quality you get. The spicing is individual to each dish and there is a great range of dishes to choose from. It is a relaxed restaurant which seems to fit in perfectly with the Stoneybatter scene. Well worth a trot across the city if it’s not in your back yard.
Dinner for four with three beers and a San Pellegrino was €123.80
Verdict: Great Indian food with a load of choice that will suit all diets
Facilities: Compact and quirky
Food Provenance: Not indicated
Music: Very much in the background, Elton John and ELO
Vegetarian options: Yes, including vegan dishes
Wheelchair access: Accessible, but no accessible toilet