Gosport isn’t known for its culinary delights.
Sapori in neighbouring Lee-on-the-Solent springs to mind, but my forays into these parts have usually ended in disappointment. But a foodie website was very keen on one restaurant in the city’s heartland, The Royal Spice, ‘an authentic, traditional Indo-Bangla restaurant and takeaway’.
So I decided to give it a go. Tucked down a pedestrian alleyway off the main drag, you could easily miss this tiny typical Indian eatery, such is its retiring style.
The interior is simplicity itself, with a few paintings of Indian scenes – the Taj Mahal features – leaving you in no doubt you’re eating in an Indian. Plum red walls, vivid orange lighting, flowers and high-backed chairs fill the small space.
The waitress was Polish, unusual in an Indian restaurant, I would say.
But the service provided by this charming, helpful young person was nothing but excellent.
She was aided and abetted by the owner, who seems equally keen to ensure customers enjoy themselves, with warmth and friendliness permeating the room.
The large menu is well-known: start with an onion bhajee; chicken chaat; pakora; a mixed kebab; a samosa or mulligatawny soup.
There are tandoori dishes to follow as well as curries and baltis of all types, or choose from the ‘latest Indo-Bangla cuisine’. Vegetarians are well catered for here too, as well as those whose palates prefer European dishes. If you want it, they’ll do fried chicken and chips and the like.
Channa chat (spiced chick peas), was just about all right, the spiciness and the onions lifting the pulses.
It was placed on naan, but the incredibly oily bread was tried and then left. The oil, cooked at too low a temperature, was distinctly unpleasant.
Lamb tikka (‘tender pieces of lamb marinated in herbs and barbecued in the the tandoori oven’) came with sizzling onions.
But the meat was rather tough and more mutton-like, the chewy taste just about acceptable. More under-heated oil spoilt a sag aloo, with the spinach and potato saturated. It was left. Plain rice was, well, plain rice.
Prices aren’t exactly giveaway, with my bill coming to £19.10 not including service but with a half-pint of Kingfisher beer.
Is the era of the cheap Indian now in the past? Royal Spice doesn’t up the ante in Gosport, culinarily speaking.
I was thankful for a mint to take the taste of cheap, under-heated fat away.
But there’s no doubt about the friendliness of the place, which is half the battle won. The search for quality in Gosport goes on. Any suggestions?
Royal Spice, 5 Bemisters Lane, Gosport PO12 1HB (023) 9260 1161
Open: Seven days a week, from 6pm until late
Food: Two stars (out of five)
Service: Four stars
Atmosphere: Three stars
Disabled access: Might be struggle for a wheelchair
How to get there: Exit M27 for Fareham and Gosport, follow A32 to Gosport where Mumby Road morphs into South Street. Car park is on the right and the restaurant is a minute’s walk down an alley.