“ Address: 40 Main Street / Seahouses NE68 7RQ / Northumberland „
~Curry or Chips?~
The small Northumberland seaside town of Seahouses doesn't offer too much in the way of culinary excitement. It's a place blessed with a superfluity of fish and chip shops and old-style cafes but in the evenings your choices are very limited. The cafes close at the end of the afternoon and whilst a good portion of fish and chips can be a very traditional delight, it's not the sort of thing you can (or should) eat every day. We had checked out the various dining options in the town after going to the Farne Islands to see the puffins and we had identified two Indian restaurants as possible places for dinner. We were staying about 10 miles away, closer to Lindisfarne island and drove back to Seahouses on our second night in the area.
There are two Indian restaurants and I think we possibly picked the wrong one. Both are on Main Street which runs perpendicular to the sea front. The Indian Brasserie and the Spice House are just a few doors apart and the Indian Brasserie is directly opposite the Co-op supermarket. We chose the Indian Brasserie, mostly because they had large windows and we could see inside and be reassured that we wouldn't be the only diners whilst the other restaurant was not so 'open' when viewed from outside. We headed in, confirmed we wanted to eat in rather than order a take away and were led to the main dining area and given a table for two.
From the very beginning I felt pressured by the waiters. Our butts were barely on the chairs when the first was asking what we wanted to drink and hustling us about popadoms. We'd not even opened the menus and had already been squeezed for a drink order and nibbles. When we finally gave him our order his disappointment that we'd only ordered one starter to share was visible and when we gave our main course choices, we were met with pressure to buy extra rice (entirely unnecessary as we'd ordered a biryani which is a rice dish) and to add a nan bread. This determined 'upselling' was really annoying. We know what we want and we know how much we can eat without needing to lie down afterwards. We aren't Indian restaurant novices and if we wanted suggestions, we'd ask for them. We didn't want them and we certainly don't appreciate being pushed to take more than we want or need.
Popadom rip-offs are becoming a pet hate of mine. What should you pay for a couple of popadoms and a tray of pickles? Based on extensive research (OK, by that I mean I've been checking the bills and eating a lot of curry), some places include the pickle and just charge for the popadoms, others charge separately for both but it's usually a pretty tiny amount. At the Indian Brasserie each popadom was 95 pence. In the restaurants around our home we would usually expect two people to get charged around £2.50 for a popadom each including the chopped onions, raita and pickles. The Indian Brasserie added £2.95 for a very ordinary tray of onion and straight out of the jar pickles.
Whilst most of the dishes on the menu were priced quite reasonably, the over-priced popadoms, over-priced drinks (£5 a pint for Cobra and £2.95 for a diet coke) really added to the bill. And should a small nan bread really cost £3?
~Time to Test~
Our starter had looked great on the menu - 'Amm aur jingha milan' was described as king prawns fried in garlic butter served on a bed of fresh mango and mango pulp. The mango slices were ripe and juicy, the pulp was rather more like juice but the prawns were awful. I've rarely been so relieved to see that my £5.50 was getting me only 3 prawns since they were served at absolutely the wrong temperature - not cold enough to be chilled and not hot enough to be warm. After my first taste my food hygiene alarm bells were ringing since no dish should ever be served at that temperature, especially a dish of sea food. The prawns tasted a bit 'off' and I should probably have kicked up a fuss and just sent them back but my husband didn't seem to have noticed so I kept quiet.
For our main course we'd ordered vegetable biryani (£7.95), macher jalfrezi (a medium hot salmon dish - £9.95) and a side order of mushroom bhaji (£3.50). With pressure from the waiter we added a garlic nan which we didn't really need or particularly want.
The biryani was okay but nothing special and nothing like as good as one we'd had a couple of days earlier at Le Raaj (also reviewed). I can't say there was anything actually wrong with it but it wasn't a stand out rendition of the dish. The rice contained good sized chunks of a wide mix of vegetables but the sauce was unimpressive although it's fair to say that almost all biryani sauces are pretty poor in this country. A small aside - if you order biryani in India there is no sauce to accompany - I'm guessing the sauce is an Anglo-adaptation to people ordering biryani and then asking "Where's the sauce". The salmon jalfrezi was pretty good, with a fair kick and nice chunks of capsicum to give some variety to the texture. The mushroom bhaji - which is basically just spicy fried mushroom slices - was unmemorable and the garlic nan was so lacking in garlic that we wondered if we'd got the wrong thing.
The pace of service was fine and we didn't wait too long for anything. With the exception of the awful prawn starter, the other dishes were good enough but not especially memorable. Sadly though the bill was a little too memorable and came to almost £43 of which rather too much was over-priced drinks and crazily expensive popadoms and chutneys. It's very unlikely we'd be in Seahouses again but I wouldn't return to this place primarily due to the pushy waiters.
Our normal default setting is to tip well but on this occasion we didn't tip at all because it was the service that had annoyed us and the prices were so inflated as to be undeserving of parting us from even more money. In a town where most diners are holiday makers, perhaps a restaurant can get away with poor service, questionable quality and pushy waiters, but this place wouldn't last six months in a bigger town.
40-42 Main Street