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Indian / Address: 60 Fisherton Street / Salisbury / Wiltshire / SP2 7RB / Tel: +44 1722 414142

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      13.09.2011 12:42
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      Loved it - absolutely first rate.

      ~Sunday Lunch - Definitely Not a Roast~

      My husband and I travel to India for holidays most years. I am, as a result, a bit of a curry bore and I rarely eat Indian in restaurants in the UK because there's such a dreadful tendency for things to be very formulaic. You can predict the menu, the décor, the behaviour of the staff without even stepping through the door. But sometimes the curry urge comes upon me and nothing else will do. Earlier this year we were visiting my parents and my step-father asked what we fancied for lunch in Salisbury. I told him it had to be Indian and lucky for me he was more than happy to go along with the suggestion.

      We'd been to Anokaa once before, two or three years ago and I recalled that it had been pretty good. We parked up in the main covered car park behind the City Hall and the Salisbury Playhouse and had just a short walk to get to the restaurant which is on Fisherton Street. We seem to have eaten that length of that street this year and as we passed down the alleyway between Anokaa and the Thai Orchid, I crossed my fingers that nobody would divert us from my goal and suggest we go Thai instead. Luckily I didn't have to worry - just as we drew level with the Thai restaurant the aroma of curry hit us and we were all right back on track.

      ~First Impressions~

      We arrived just after half past twelve which I expected to be a really busy time but only a couple of tables were occupied. This could have been a bad sign. We were offered a table for four and then the waiter realised we'd be blocking the aisle and suggested we move which was a good idea (though I can't really understand why they put a table there when it blocks things) so we moved to the far end of the restaurant. If your idea of Indian restaurant décor is flock wallpaper, cheesy pictures of 'the homeland' and lots of statues of gods then Anokaa will surprise you. The only things that made me think of India were the colour scheme (lots of spicy red, orange and gingery colours) and the fret work jaali-style screening along one wall through which the coloured lights were constantly changing. The furniture is very modern with heavy padded high-backed chairs in half of the room and funky round 'booth'-like sofa arrangements in the other part. The waiters all look immaculate in their kameez tunics and the place is spotlessly clean.

      We ordered drinks - beer for my husband and diet cokes for the rest of us. My step-father doesn't like bottled beer and there was nothing available on draft. We were instructed to take the square plates that were set at the tables with us to collect our starters and then to use the larger plates on the buffet for our main course.

      ~Food GLORIOUS Food~

      Starters in Indian restaurants tend to be heavy and very fried. We typically eat too much of the cheap fried stuff at the beginning of a meal and have no space left for the main dishes so I was really pleased to see that the starters on offer were much lighter than usual. Firstly we saw the chutneys and chopped onions lined up for eating with papadoms and then a selection of salads were available. These included a 'normal' tomato-cucumber-onion-lettuce type salad and then three more exciting salads. I skipped the chicken salad (though my husband said it was fabulous) and had a spoonful of a bright orange salad based on shredded carrot and a dollop of light potato salad. Hot starters included small round meat balls, little potato rissoles and vegetable samosas. I just had the samosa and grabbed a couple of pieces of papadom and a small chunk of naan bread.

      The starters were delicious. The salads were fresh, crisp and juicy and the samosa was light with ultracrisp pastry. The naan was perhaps a little heavy but not overly so and the papadoms were absolutely fine. If I have one criticism (actually it was more my step-father's annoyance than mine) it would be of the speed with which the waiters swooped to grab our plates as soon as we put our cutlery down. My step-father eats REALLY slowly and felt a little 'rushed' by seeing us all sitting with empty spaces in front of us. It's probably not a bad thing as we might have been tempted back for a second go if we'd been waiting too long but I did understand his slight annoyance.

      There are not a lot of dishes available on the hot buffet and this could have been a problem if the quality hadn't been so good. Basmati rice was available in one warm server with a chicken curry in the next. I don't eat meat so I skipped this one but looking at everyone else's plates, this seemed to be entirely made with large chunks of breast meat. The two vegetarian curries were a chunky mixed vegetable dish containing broccoli, carrots, and big chunks of sweet potato and the other was a yellow lentil dal with kidney beans in it. The beans were a surprise and not something I'd ever think of adding to a lentil dal but I may well do so in future. I helped myself to an extra samosa since the first had been so good and also another spoonful of mixed salad and settled down to eat.
      The vegetable curry was excellent. All too often vegetables seem to get zapped to within an inch of mushiness but this dish retained the different textures and flavours without creating an amorphous sludge. The dal was nearly as good as the one I make - yes, arrogance is not such a bad thing really. Everyone told me that the chicken curry was excellent and I was pleased that despite not having too many different flavours on my plate, I still had something with enough kick to be interesting.

      Dessert was a fruit salad which was fresh and clearly cut only an hour or two before. It consisted of mostly melon, pineapple, mango and strawberries and all were still tasting as they should. I know that sounds odd but too often fruit salad loses the flavours of its individual components.

      ~Availability and Recommendation~

      The buffet lunch is available daily between noon and 2pm and costs just £8.95. Despite the range of dishes being more limited than many restaurants would offer, everything was of the best quality and I would rather have fewer better dishes than many poor ones. There were only 3 things on the entire buffet that contained meat which meant I didn't come away feeling that I'd been cheated. I was so impressed by the quality and the décor that I'd definitely like to go back in the evening and try the full menu.

      I asked the owner what did Anokaa mean and he told me that it's a Sanskrit word that means 'different from others' or perhaps 'something different'. It certainly lived up to its name and I'd very much like to go back and explore the menu in more detail.

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