“ Address: 81 St. Peters Street / St. Albans / Hertfordshire / England / Tel: 01727 847 070 „
I want to update my earlier review, the owner of Veer Dhara has responded very quickly to our problem both with a thorough investigation of the problem with his staff & an offer to us that we find acceptable. We will be revisiting the restaurant in the near future & will add a further update then.Jon
St Albans, like most city centres, has more than its fair share of Indian restaurants, so when yet another one opened on the high street last year there was a little collective groan of disappointment. This one, however, seemed to be a bit different - the stylish steel logo above the door, the orange drapes hanging in the window, and the large bar area makes it difficult to categorise and encouraged me to give it a try.
Stepping inside the spacious restaurant, you are immediately hit by the feeling of being somewhere very foreign and colonial. Large palms are dotted around the huge wooden bar, black and white bamboo stencils adorn the walls, surrounding portraits of the Indian royal family. Drapes and bamboo ornaments sit amongst the hand carved wood framing the tables and walls.
The restaurant seems to go on forever, the table of the maitre d' welcoming you into the formal seating area, which has hand carved wooden chairs around dark tables. In the middle of the dining area is a lounge area for relaxing with coffee or drinks - including solid beige sofas and armchairs which are arranged around stainless steel and glass coffee tables, each with a candle.
The different types of seating and the delineation between the different types of seating, gives this restaurant a very usual atmosphere.
The Veer Dhara offers authentic Indian cuisine, and the chefs try to remain faithful to regional recipes whilst specialising in North Indian dishes with the large selection of vegetarian dishes that are available there. Three types of menu are on offer:
The Xpress Meal is available between 12-6pm and charges £6.95 for a vegetarian Premium Platter. Alternatively you can order the non-vegetarian Platter for £8.95 (lamb, fish and chicken kebabs and chops). Both Platters include a glass of wine, or soft drink. This menu promises to be both speedy and good value, for people in a hurry.
The Set Menu ranges from £17.95 per person for the 5 course Gourmet Menu, to £23.95 for the 6 course set menu. There was no way I could have attempted either of these, although the selection of food looked delicious - there was mountains on offer, including breads and deserts.
A la carte
We decided to go a la cart and the first thing I noticed was the large selection of fish on the menu. Starters included mussels, whitebait, scallops, fish and prawns. There was also an extensive vegetarian option, as well as some meat alternatives. It was very different from the usual Curry House restaurant fare and really exciting to see so much on offer for the non-meat eaters.
I started with Drunken king prawn for £6.50. The delicate flavours of the white wine marinade complimented the tenderness of the enormous prawns which were split open and flattened on the plate. For around the same price, I could have chosen lamb, chicken , duck or one of eight vegetarian starters at £3.50. My partner chose a vegetarian option; South Indian mini rice and lentil pancakes called utterpam.
The main courses are divided into Tandoori, Tawa, Curry, Vegetarian, and Biriyiani dishes, and the menu included old favourites as well as dishes that I had never heard of before. Here, the variety of regional food was evident, as styles of cuisine from all over the Indian continent made an appearance.
Overwhelmed by the huge choice, I found it hard to decide between the lobster pepper fry, the seafood curry cooked in coconut milk and the fish tikka curry. Confused, I ended up with another prawn dish, choosing the King Prawn Tara, marinated in yogurt, ginger and garlic mixed with fenugreek and cooked in a clay oven. This choice, although delicious, proved to be a mistake. The extreme tenderness of the huge prawns was now overwhelming and slightly nauseating, despite the delicious flavours of the dish. My other half went for Jheenga Hara Pyaz; Queen Prawns cooked with onions, garlic and garlic, which he said was very tasty.
I hadn't got room for a dessert and just ordered coffee, but my other half ordered Rasmalai; cake balls made of milk and cottage cheese, and garnished with pistachio and saffron. The old favourites of Kulfi, Gulab Jamun and ice cream were also available.
There is a fairly priced selection of wines on offer, ranging from £11.95 - £27 in price. Champagne is also available for £40-£50 per bottle, along with a variety of cocktails at £5.50 and mocktails for £3.50.
We were out for a special occasion and were not surprised when a bill for £35 a head appeared. !0% service was included, and we had plenty to drink as well as 3 courses and coffee. I felt that it was good value for money, and that the food was expertly prepared and made out of very fresh ingredients.
The staff were very good at their job, and the rather eccentric maitre d' made us feel very welcome, chatting to us like old friends and making sure that we were comfortable and constantly supplied with drinks. The atmosphere was lively and buzzing, with quite a few people perched on the high wooden stools around the bar.
At the end of the meal we agreed that we felt as if we had eaten genuine Indian food, rather than the typical European Indian fare on offer at most standard Indian restaurants. I would highly recommend the Veer Dhara and am saving up for the next visit.