Carol Godsmark reviews: Kassia, Drayton, Portsmouth

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Kassia is a new Indian restaurant describing itself as ‘a chic and stylish cocktail bar with a twist of spice’.

It comes from the Red Restaurant Group, the owners of two with Indian food (Kassia and Pasha, Cowplain) and two with western-style meat-heavy menus (two Red Lounges, Drayton and Cowplain). Kassia mirrors the group’s ritzy style of interior design, more Vegas than Vegas.

Who else would marry semi-circular plush velvet green, akin to lookalike-snakeskin, with red and beige clusters of the same type of seating around a round bar sporting more animal-like features, armadillo-like, overlapping gun metal grey panels? To complete the wildlife, there’s ice-cold Cobra beer on tap. However, the spell of glitz is broken by Kassia’s position: opposite a Co-op.

The message is clear: this is for smart people. But they can be boisterous too, even early evening, a group of men were drinking for England. The ethos is one of community spirit, offering restaurants to locals so they don’t have to fork out for taxis, but the food and drink is far from giveaway.

The menu is dominated by Indian tapas, an east-meets-west conception, an order of five as the norm is £23.50, although also charged at £5-£6.

The Bengali chef offers a tandoori mix of dishes including seekh kebab; chicken tikka and lamb tikka and mini shashlik of chicken and lamb. Minted salmon and others are without any vestige of bread-like substance which defines tapas, but they’ve shoehorned in some with naan bread or wraps as a nod to Spain.

There are also curries, all chicken with two lamb substitutes for £6-£7 (three smaller portions for £16) plus differing rices (£3) and naans (£3) including an odd-sounding chocolate one.

Served on a snazzy black-handled hot tray, my three ‘tapas’ arrived with a side of naan, deconstructed tapas if you like. The lamb tikka was tough but others bordered on the excellent – prawns with chillies a lovely tandoor red, and murg Panka, marinated boned chicken wings with onion, pepper and garam masala spice which I would return for alone. The terrific spicing and well-cooked other ingredients made this diner grin with pleasure.

A Cobra was the perfect drink with these but there are the usual snigger-snigger-named cocktails and other less ho-ho ones. Pitchers £19.95, £5.95 a glass. Wines and Champagnes complete the list as well as on-tap beers.

A woman server was terrific, two barmen-waiters decided eye contact was not in their contract.

Kassia seems out of kilter with the rather conservative area. It’s a brave stab at being different and maybe it will succeed in its present form, those tapas with a spicy twist perhaps winning over diners.

ESSENTIALS

Kassia, 137 Havant Road, Drayton, PO6 2AA (023) 9221 5555. Open 5pm-11pm (Fri/Sat midnight. Sun. 10pm).

Food: ****

Service: ***

Atmosphere: **

Disabled access: excellent

How to get there: take the A27, follow signs to Cosham, follow Northern Road then right onto Havant Road, the restaurant on the left down this long road. On-street parking.

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