“ 13 Brick Lane, London, E1 6PU. Tel:020 7247 5755 „
Despite being a Londoner my entire life, I had my very first meal along the famous Brick Lane in the East End only a few weeks ago. Brick Lane is famed for its street-long choice of curry houses and has been drawing customers in with the smell of spices, exotic flavours and taste of Bangladesh and India for a number of years.
It was upon this famous street in London (in Tower Hamlets to be more specific) that my partner and I found a restaurant called the Sheraz Bangla Lounge. We actually found it via the internet and a website that offered a discount if we booked a table online. (Note: the website was not owned by the restaurant. The website was Top Table and is completely independent).
The deal seemed like great value - for £9.95 each, we would be served a 5-course meal, from a set menu. In addition we could see that over 400 people had rated the Sheraz Bangla Lounge and that it had an average rating of 7.8 out of a possible 10. The table was thus booked for that same evening.
Our table was booked for the latest slot, around 11pm, as we had plans before dinner. At around 8pm, we received a call from the restaurant saying they might be shutting early as it was Eid (Islamic festival) the following day. They wanted to see if we could make it a bit earlier therefore instead of the scheduled time of 11pm. On the one hand I appreciated that they had even bothered to call - on the other hand I felt if they wanted to close early on that particular day they really should have stated that on the third party website through which we had booked our table. Anyway no harm was done as our plans coincidentally had changed a little so that it was actually more convenient for us to have a slightly earlier dinner, and the person who had called us had been very polite about the issue.
Finding the restaurant was a little difficult. Although it is on Brick Lane, it is not right in the centre, where most of the other restaurants are and where the general 'busy-ness' of the street exists. It is located at the far end of Brick Lane (of course which end depends on which direction you are coming from). I actually liked that it was not right in the centre of things as it meant I felt like less of a tourist in my own city! Generally the middle of Brick Lane is completely packed with people who do look like they are on holiday! Therefore being a little out of the centre was a nice novelty.
As we couldn't locate the restaurant immediately, we phoned them to try and get directions. The person on the phone was extremely helpful and patient as we stood lost outside telling him all the shops we could see around us. He stayed on the phone until we were pretty much on the doorstep of the Sheraz Bangla Lounge and waited for us outside. When we finally arrived, we were greeted by a friendly smile and shown to our table which had a 'reserved' sign on it.
After taking our seats, our waiter explained to us how the 5-course set menu worked and what we would be getting for our £9.95. The menu consisted of
1) Poppadom and Chutney
3) A choice of the non-vegetarian mains (lamb, chicken dishes etc)
4) A vegetarian main (aubergine, paneer, chickpea dishes etc)
5) Accompaniments (rice, a variety of breads)
Therefore the £9.95 was excluding any drinks ordered. I remember our bill at the end of the evening coming to approximately £32, therefore we paid around £11-12 for whatever we drank on the night (a couple of pints of Kingfisher beer, one non-alcoholic cocktail and mineral water).
Now on to the food itself: unfortunately for me, this is where the Sheraz Bangla Lounge let itself down. The poppadoms were great and were served with a selection of 4 different tasty chutneys. For my starter I selected onion bhajee served with a crispy salad. This was fairly tasty but I found the best part of it to be the salad if I am honest so that doesn't say much about the onion bhajee! For the mains, I actually chose 2 veggie dishes. One choice was mattar paneer (peas and Indian cottage cheese cooked in spicy gravy) and the second was chhole (spicy chickpeas). As an accompaniment I had plain naan bread and to drink I had a non-alcoholic cocktail.
The mattar paneer I found to be bland. The portions served were generous, but I found that I didn't want to eat very much because I found that the paneer lacked flavour. The food actually looked very nice, and I was excited upon seeing it. However, as someone that has grown up eating rich Indian food their entire life, it wasn't rich enough in flavour for me. Unfortunately I felt the same about the chhole dish too. It looked delicious when it was placed on the table. But upon eating it, I found that it just didn't taste as good as it looked. I don't know if this is because I am used to a certain type of Indian food or whether other customers at Sheraz feel the same way. The place was definitely quite full which indicated that their food cannot be all that unpopular.
My eating partner had chicken for his mains which I did not taste therefore I cannot comment directly on how good it was. But he did say that he shared a similar opinion to me - although the food looked, and even smelt quite good, it lacked flavour and thus was disappointing. Of his food that I did taste, I can say that the lemon rice was really nice (an accompaniment). He also had a chicken starter which he said didn't taste very flavoursome either.
When our plates were taken away, the waiter asked us how we had found the food. Because our plates still had lots of leftover food on it which we couldn't finish, I didn't feel comfortable about lying and telling him it had been great. So I tried to be honest and explain in the best way I knew how: that although the food looked delicious it didn't meet our expectations in terms of flavour and the level of spiciness. The waiter was actually very understanding and explained that they cater for a certain 'type' of customer who don't want their food to be too spicy, but if we were to ever visit the Sheraz again they would do their best to provide us with a meal that we'd find more to our taste. I thought this was a nice, accommodating response.
And so this brings me to service. In terms of the service received during our evening at the Sheraz, I cannot fault them. They were very polite, right from when we couldn't locate the restaurant through to discussing our dissatisfaction with the food. The waiters were very attentive throughout the meal and polite.
All in all I wish I could give a higher rating than I am, but because I did not enjoy the food, and it is a restaurant review after all, I have to give only 3 out of 5 stars. The service was brilliant, the décor was nice, the location was good, but the food for me, was a let down. However as other customers at the Sheraz Bangla Lounge seemed to be enjoying the food, I don't want to put anyone off from visiting, as I have quite a strong preference for spicy food, and therefore it may well be the case that I am in the minority in terms of how I found the food to be.
Thanks for reading.