“ Address: Congleton Road / Nether Alderley Macclesfield SK10 4TD / Cheshire „
~You've got to love a 'deal'~
My mother has been a member of the Tastecard restaurant discount scheme for a couple of years. She saves a fortune because one of her favourite local restaurants is included in the scheme and she goes there frequently, revelling in the 50% discount she receives on food. For a long time she tried to persuade me to join and eventually last October I gave in and bought a card, mostly due to Tastecard offering a deal where a significant donation went to Macmillan Cancer Care.
I've not done so well with my card. In fact I've only used it twice, and whilst this has been enough to recoup my investment of £30, the coverage of the areas where I live leave a lot to be desired. When my friend Alison emailed to remind me we were long over-due for dinner, I went to the Tastecard site in search of something in southern Cheshire, ideally hoping to find somewhere we'd not already been and somewhere half way between our two homes. The almost perfect fit was the Bengal Tiger Lily in Nether Alderley. Those familiar with the area will recognise this as part of the golden zone much loved by premier league footballers and northern soap opera stars.
~Tiger Hunting with Tom~
Armed with my trusty Tom Tom, I set off in search of the restaurant and thanks to the post code covering quite a large area, I almost sailed straight past because I couldn't imaging a building that looked less like an Indian (or given the name, possibly Bangladeshi) restaurant. In fact the building looks exactly like a Little Chef, or other low-rise road-side diner. All the usual visual cues of an Indian restaurant were missing.
I parked up in the large car park and prepared to admire the cattle in the field next door. Alison is almost always late so I knew I'd have plenty of time. I can't swear how far it was from human habitation from the other direction, but heading towards it from the south along the A34, I didn't notice too many houses or other businesses nearby, just a car dealership and a farm. I suspect this is the type of place you'll only visit if you've got transportation although I checked a map and discovered it's not too far from one of the entrances to the Astra Zeneca Alderley Park 'campus' so it may tap into a wealth of hungry biochemists in need of spicy inspiration.
Alison turned up, joking that her boyfriend had been teasing her that we were eating at the Little Chef and we headed inside. The interior is rather a surprise - there's nothing at all that would remind you of its former life as a roadside chips-and-burger joint at all. Equally, there's not too much to remind you of a classic Indian restaurant. It's a rather stylish, though from memory quite 'purple', kind of place. There's just the one large room and it's laid out with a variety of sized tables, from small intimate tables for two (though not TOO small or you'll never fit all the food) up to large ones for a dozen or so diners. We also noticed some strange curved partitions to break up the space.
The restaurant was very quiet when we arrived with just three or four other tables occupied. I've been to some places recently where that would be enough to make a restaurant noisy and I'm aware that I'm overly sensitive to such things. However, during our evening at the Bengal Tiger Lily, we were entirely undisturbed by other people. We ordered soft drinks and turned our attention to the tough task of choosing our food.
The menu is big and it took us quite a long time to choose from the extensive list. The restaurant participates in the Tastecard scheme on the basis of 'two for one', which means that with two people eating, the cheaper choice for each course is free. This is great, of course, but it does tend to encourage us to eat too much and to go for the more expensive dishes. Since I don't eat meat, Alison said she's like to go 'fishy' so that we could share our dishes, and I was happy to go along with that.
For starters we chose monkfish tikka and prawn kebab. The waiter explained that there was no monkfish and that all their monkfish dishes are now cod. I thought that was pretty disappointing since monkfish is a great choice for using in curries as it's quite 'rubbery' (in a good sense) and it doesn't fall apart in sauces. He claimed that they'd had very good response from customers after swapping and that we'd love it. I wasn't so sure but we went along with it. This also rather put the kybosh on our main course choices, another one of which had been monkfish. Instead we opted for the monkfish masala with cod (so you could say cod masala) and a prawn karahi. To go with these we had a portion of white rice and a nan bread.
The starters were easily divided up and we split the cod tikka and each had a prawn kebab. I found the tikka a little disappointing as the spicy coating came almost as a layer rather than an infusion onto the fish - a bit like a spicy fish goujon. I hadn't expected this 'coated' appearance and the spice over-powered the delicate fish. I couldn't help thinking "They should have stuck to the monkfish". It was supposed to have been barbecued in the tandoor oven but that didn't seem to match up with what we got. The prawn kebab was a surprise too, and looked a bit like a burger. It was tasty, with a good blend of spice but it wasn't too easy to pick out the texture of prawn in such a format.
The main course cod dish was a bit odd and again and whilst it was entirely edible, I didn't think the sauce had been kind to the fish. We left part of this dish and I wouldn't order it again. I thought the fish substitution was unfortunate. Conversely, the prawn karahi was an absolute knock out with a sauce so exquisite that we scraped every last drop out of the black metal dish. The single portion of rice was easily enough for both of us and the nan was crispy on the outside and soft inside - in other words, pretty close to perfect.
The staff throughout the evening were super; very polite, very keen to explain things, eager to know if it was our first time and to ask what we thought. And when I said I thought the tikka was a bit overwhelmed by the batter, they nodded politely. With the starters and mains polished off we were on the verge of giving up when the ice-cream menu appeared. Instead of the usual coconut ice-cream in a shell and 'Punky' the plastic penguin, they had locally sourced ice-creams and sorbets. Alison went for mango and something or other whilst I opted for the pink grapefruit. The menu didn't offer the option to mix your choices and we weren't sure how much we'd actually get, but now that I know there are 3 balls to a portion, I'd perhaps take my chances next time on asking for a couple of flavours.
The pink grapefruit was perfect. I used to work with the guy who created the Halls VitC pink grapefruit flavour (it's an obscure flavour reference but if you've tasted it you'll know exactly the one I mean) and Alison had worked at Halls when I was working for the company who made that flavour. She took one small taste and said the sorbet was every bit as good as the VitC grapefruit and I knew exactly what she meant.
The Tastecard meant we got about £20 off our bill which came to somewhere around £33 or £34. Keeping in mind that we ordered some of the most expensive dishes on the menu and had pudding and a couple of drinks each, I thought that was actually pretty good. If I were paying full price, I'd probably have been meaner with my choices.
Since service isn't included in the bill, we rounded it up to £20 each and paid with cash. I do think that if the food is discounted (or if you go to a restaurant with a 'deal' voucher from Group On or a similar company) you should tip on what the bill would have been, rather than what it is.
There was nothing 'standard' about the Bengal Tiger Lily - each of the dishes we had was in some way different from your usual Indian restaurant food. The tikka wasn't what I expected for the description but it was certainly something I've not seen in other restaurants. The prawn kebab was like a kebab crossed with a Thai fish cake and the karahi dish was absolutely gorgeous. The staff were super and the restaurant was spotlessly clean. Despite not everything being absolutely perfect, I'd definitely plan on going again - preferably before my card runs out.
Out in the car park Alison spotted a beautiful little calf, not much bigger than a large dog, in the field with its mother. We stopped to watch them for five minutes or so and when we turned back, a couple of the guys from the restaurant's kitchen saw us, smiled and waved goodbye. It's hard to put my finger exactly on what made this restaurant feel a bit special but the people were as much a part of it as the food.
Bombay Tiger Lily,
Congleton Rd, Nether Alderley, Macclesfield, SK10 4TD
Tel: 01625 890379