“ Address: 47 High Street / Emsworth / Hampshire / PO10 7AL / Tel: 01243 379222 „
Considering Emsworth is such a small town, it has a surprisingly good choice of restaurants. A couple of them are right out of my price range, but the Spice Village, an Indian restaurant right in the centre of town, offers very good Oriental cuisine that is affordable as well.
Spice Village took over one of Emsworth's pubs a few years ago, and it is surprisingly spacious - larger than any Indian restaurant I've been in Southsea, for example. We arrived at about 6.15pm one Sunday evening, and things were still very quiet. I suggested we take a small table as there were only two of us, but the waiter encouraged us to sit at a table for four as my son had a tripod and camera bag and I had a couple of bags as well. The tripod went on the floor, safely behind the table, but we were asked to put everything else on the two spare chairs. Menus were brought and the waiter hovered a while until we each asked for a fruit juice.
Spice Village is very stylish, but if you are not keen on pink you might find it's a little overdone. Almost everything, from the walls to the tablecloths to the lighting, is in shades of pink. It is very comfortable, but it did occur to me that many of the tables are very close together so there wouldn't be much privacy at busy times. The waiters, thankfully, do not wear pink; they are smartly dressed in purple shirts and black trousers.
Taking a look at the menu, starters include onion bhaji (£2.50), mulligatawny soup (£2.95), king prawn butterfly (£4.75) and even prawn cocktail (£2.95). We decided just to order three plain papadoms (60p each) which were served with the usual mango chutney, raita and raw onion finely chopped with a few slices of cucumber and tomato.
Looking at main dishes, which are divided into several sections, I was tempted among the fish dishes by ayre delight (£10.50), having once enjoyed it at the Spice Merchants in Southsea. Passanda is another favourite of mine, and this was listed under the chef's recommendations in a chicken or lamb version (£5.95). The meat and chicken dishes offer the usual varieties such as korma, madras, bhuna, rogan and korai, and most are priced under £6. Biriani dishes range from mushroom or vegetable (£5.95) to king prawn (£9.95). Then come 'some modern favourite regional dishes' which include shahi duck (£9.50) and Himalayan chicken or lamb (£8.50). There are just four Persian dishes, such as meat, chicken or prawn dansak (£6.75) and king prawn patia (£9.50). The seafood section actually consists only of prawn curries of various kinds. A good variety of tandoori cuisine offers, for example, duck korai (£8.50) or lamb tikka massala (£6.95). Spice Village balti specials are served with nan bread and include balti jhinga massala with king prawns (£9.50). There is a special section for vegetarian curries such as dupiaza, jalfrazi and balti, all £5.50. For those who aren't fans of Indian cuisine, the choice is between sirloin steak (£8.95), fried chicken (£6.95) and chicken, prawn or mushroom omelette (£6.95).
There is a good choice of vegetable side dishes such as Bombay potato (£3.20), keema aloo (£3.10) or dhall tarka (£3.20). Various types of nan bread include coriander and cheese nan (£2.25), and the bread section also offers paratha and chapati. If you find plain rice (£1.95) boring, there are four other kinds to choose from, such as special fried rice with peas and egg (£3.10).
I eventually decided on tandoori chicken served with salad (£6.50), and my son chose Goan chicken (£8.50), a 'fairly hot' dish of marinated chicken cooked with garlic, ginger, coriander, Goan red chilli, coconut and cumin. We also ordered a portion of plain rice and a paratha stuffed with vegetables (£2.50), both to share between us. When I asked for the tandoori chicken, the waiter was at great pains to explain that it was dry, in other words served without sauce. I assured him that I was aware of this, but it sounded as though they must have had some complaints or misunderstandings in the past by customers expecting lashings of curry sauce with everything.
Our order was taken while we were enjoying our papadoms, and we didn't have to wait too long for the main dishes to arrive. My tandoori half chicken came on a large plate with finely chopped lettuce, one slice each of tomato and cucumber, a wedge of lemon and some lime pickle. A small bowl of raita was also served, but I'm not keen on it and left it as it was. The Goan chicken and vegetable paratha were both placed on a hotplate, with the bowl of rice on the table. The tandoori chicken was topped with finely sliced vegetables - mostly onion; the chicken was well cooked and very tender. I had a helping of rice alongside the salad, and almost forgot about the paratha. Eventually I had a few pieces of it but, delicious as it was, I just couldn't manage to finish my share. My son certainly enjoyed the Goan chicken; he had been to an excellent Indian restaurant on the Isle of Wight the previous weekend which had impressed him slightly more, but we both agreed that the food at Spice Village was as good as any we have had in Portsmouth or Southsea.
We asked for a glass of water each but were far too full to even think about having dessert. Hoping to get down to Emsworth beach before sunset, we asked for the bill. It came to just over £27, to which we added a tip. Payments by card are accepted.
The service was polite, attentive and efficient; all but one of the waiters had heavy accents, but we managed to understand them fairly easily. I think I do have to mention, however, that when my son went to wash his hands one of the waiters walked over and eyed up his camera (complete with extra lens) that was sitting on a chair. He then started chatting to one of his colleagues, and I heard the word 'camera' mentioned more than once. After we'd finished eating my son got out his iphone; in a twinkling there was the same waiter, peering over his shoulder. We concluded he must be a gadget freak, but I think it was bit of an odd way to behave.
The ladies' toilet was very clean and extremely pink, of course, right down to the toilet tissue. I forgot to ask my son whether the pinkness extended into the gents as well!
Spice Village offers a takeaway service and accepts telephone orders. There is an area by the bar with comfortable chairs where customers can wait for their takeaways. I remember visiting Spice Village three or four years ago when we lived near Havant and they were very obliging over calling a taxi for us. We were able to wait in that same area by the bar.
If you are visiting Emsworth or passing through, Spice Village is the place to go for Indian cuisine. I believe it gets busy on Friday and Saturday evenings, so a reservation would probably be necessary unless you arrive at around 6pm. It's not far at all from Havant, and both Portsmouth and Chichester are no great distance from Emsworth. We combined our visit with a walk along the shore of Thorney Island, which is just a few minutes' walk away, and an evening stroll by the beach in Emsworth. It's a refreshing change from the city.
Sunday - Thursday: 12 noon until 2.30pm and 5.30pm until 11.30pm
Friday and Saturday: 12 noon until 2.30pm and 5.30pm until midnight
47 High Street
There is a car park at the rear of the restaurant. The Coastliner 700 bus from Brighton to Portsmouth stops just a few yards from Spice Village.
Tel. 01243 379222 or 01243 389333
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