Petersfield is now well-blessed with restaurants, including a Michelin-starred one, plus cafés and bars as well as a deli-cum-café.
New incumbents from London are no doubt pleased to find such places in their locale, while long-term residents are no doubt equally chuffed to have such a choice.
But I bet no-one expected to find an Indian restaurant in a Grade-II listed building complete with beams a-plenty, more in keeping with a genteel café of yore.
The former farmhouse occupied by Thomas Osborne in the 16th century is smack bang in the middle of town opposite the market square. The lovely building was once used as a bookshop and workshop for artists.
Now it’s home to several businesses and The Spice Lounge occupies the first floor, its beams now home to Indian prints. The décor reminds diners of Indian restaurants in times past, with banquettes and cosy nooks and crannies sans the glitz now often found in sub-continent eateries.
The music mirrors the cuisine, with nary a nod to Western appetites. What this restaurant does offer is a plethora of dishes, some ultra-familiar. Try samosas; pakoras; chat; kebabs; tikka; dhall soup; butterflied prawns for starters, korma; dupiaza; rogan; bhuna; patria; naga and other curries.
You’ll find tandoori dishes, vegetarian ones and seafood choices. But where Spice Lounge differs slightly is to offer unfamiliar dishes such as devil’s tomato (chicken with tomato and puri); Surprise (‘our own carefully selected meal from finest ingredients, simply order and wait to be surprised’) and Healthy Options, the latter dishes without cream, sugar (sugar?), and cooked in olive oil and served with brown rice.
My starter, fish kebab with garlic, ginger and coriander, was a fine choice. Two minced sausage-like kebabs were finely-tuned. These came with a good homemade tomato sauce and a crisp salad for a mere £2.95. The pricing is reasonable, with many mains from around £8 with no-charge rice included.
Pantara, a Bangladeshi lamb dish with a tomato, coconut and curry leaf sauce, could have been more tender but the tastes of the sub-continent came through loud and clear. A pilau rice was rather dull but a decent enough foil for the dish.
Service veers from formal to indifferent, even somewhat unfriendly. Although bucking the trend to smarten up the décor, Spice Lounge no doubt has many followers, old and new alike – and it won’t break the bank either. A bonus in these tough times.