Chilli & Lime, Havant’s newest restaurant, opened its doors several months ago on the site of Agra, the Indian restaurant that had been in the same hands for decades.
Now a new broom has been well and truly swept inside and out, The owners, whose empire stretches to Clanfield’s Mela and Waterlooville’s Shalimar, know a thing or two about pzazz.
Large, rich brown banquettes, akin to high ship’s bows, line one wall, the other wall home to more familiar restaurant seating. Three ceiling recesses are robed, draped with silky green and red material, each one dripping with a red glass chandelier.
The menu is resolutely Bangladeshi-Indian. Come here for the tried and tested: tandoori; balti; biriani; korma; vindaloo; boona; patia and madras. House specialities include Achari lamb in tamarind sauce with ginger; naga chicken with chilli pickle and lamb Xacuti (a Goan speciality with coconut). Prices are a reasonable £2.90-£4.90 for a starter, mains from £6.50 to £10.90.
Service by smartly-dressed male staff is remarkably charming and friendly. Nothing is too much trouble. Reshmi Kebab was well presented and plated. This dish, new to me, turned out to be minced lamb flavoured with spices, shallow fried and wrapped in a thin omelette. And very spicy and good it was too. Some sauces – pickle, mango, mint – added further layers of taste.
A Chicken Peshwari (‘a heavenly dish of tender chicken pieces with a flourish of fresh coconut and almonds simmered in a creamy sweet sauce’) followed. ‘It is fairly sweet,’ said my waiter.
And he was right, ‘fairly’ replaced by ‘very’ after one mouthful. Pudding meets main.
Stylishly presented in a smart white bowl, it resembled a dish of semolina, albeit a rather rich beige one. Sag aloo came in another smart bowl, as did perfectly-cooked rice. But back to the chicken. First cooked in a tandoor oven, the flesh was prodigiously coated in the thick sauce, a little going a long way. The spinach and potato dish took the edge off the richness of the Peshwari, the only downside being the liberal use of oil.
‘Oh, you have a small appetite!’ exclaimed the waiter as he cleared the table and handed me the dessert menu. Pud on top of pud wasn’t ever going to happen, the entire list one of bought-in ice creams.
‘Not even a coffee? On the house?’
‘Here’s your pudding,’ he laughed when giving me the bill. The small chocolate couldn’t even be forced down. A Peshwari is the ultimate appetite-suppressor. Next time it will be a plain sheek kebab or a chicken shaslick or tandoor king prawns.
My bill came to £20, with a beer but not including a tip.
Chilli & Lime, 58 West Street, Havant (023) 9248 4273.
Open: Sunday–Thursday for lunch noon-2pm and dinner 5.30pm-11.30pm, Friday–Saturday 5.30pm-midnight.
Food: Four (out of five)
Disabled access: Good
How to get there: Follow the signs to Havant and the station, turning right along North Street, pedestrianised West Street on your right past the church, Chilli & Lime is opposite McDonald’s. Parking on-street.