FOOD REVIEW: Kassia, Southsea

Kassia, Osborne Road, Southsea.
Kassia, Osborne Road, Southsea.
Michelle Thomson, left, and Carla Van Kooperen of 'Carla's Cake Emporium'

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Kassia might just be the coolest Indian restaurant the Dish Detective has ever been too – but I’m still not sure if that is a good thing.

The premises – one in Drayton and one in Southsea – fall under The Red Lounge Group and were founded in 2014 (according to the menu).

I visited the latter, described as a ‘chic and stylish cocktail bar with a twist of spice’, which I’m reliably informed is THE place to be.

As such I might be led to conclude my ‘squad’ might not be THE people for it.

There’s no doubt the concept seems bang on the money. The tapas-focussed menu and drinks selection, both seem to take what you know and nudge it gently into the slightly unknown.

There’s Bombay Pimms, an Indian Summer mojito and lychee margarita, for instance, among the list of staples.

With cocktails priced about the £7 mark and posters advertising that it is ‘open to 3am’ you could be forgiven for expecting the menu to be little more than bar snacks and this is where I can’t help feel Kassia lets itself down.

In short, the food seemed too good for the setting.

Strange complaint I know, but with so many places looking to give things ‘a twist’ I find myself on a quest for one thing done well. And I’ve never had, or wanted, dinner in a night club before, which is exactly how this felt.

Perhaps a side order of blinkers is needed – to obscure the bizarre wall art which wouldn’t look out of place on the latest club remix album cover, and place the focus back on the food.

With options such as three curries, tailored to your preferences by the chef, for £16, or five tapas dishes (perfect for two sharing) for £23.95 it is good value.

That is before the selection of rice and naan breads (£3 each), tempt you.

Our table of seven mostly opted for the tapas with the ‘holoi chingri’ tandoori tiger prawns named a firm favourite.

In my two-person-tapas-team we also selected the chicken, potato and lentil tortilla wraps ‘pappri chaat’, the ‘dimer jhool’ Benjali spiced quail eggs dish and ‘aloo chilli chana’ chickpeas with green chilli, onion, garlic and potato.

However, all ranked behind our stripped-back and subtly-flavoured choice of tumeric-infused bream with sticky onion rice, ‘patrani maachli’, which was just pipped to second place by the prawns.

Have I mentioned the prawns?

The fact a genuine discussion was had that, should we return, we’d pick that dish five times over probably shows this wasn’t a close competition.

They were sweet, spicy and succulent and I may have caught my other half wiping up the sauce left on the tray with a slice of chilli cheese naan.

Having said that we had no real gripes, the chickpeas were quite forgettable but a solid-enough accompaniment and the quail eggs perhaps seemed a little lost in the ‘dinner jhool’ dish but added a novelty and they were plentiful with the little dish boasting a total of six.

The orders were placed using a form at the table, perhaps to bridge the gaps where awkward attempts at pronouncing dishes would be, and served up, all together, on a table-long heated tray. This gave it a sense of theatre and fun.

Something I don’t class as ‘fun’ is the lack of a dessert menu. Thankfully, unbeknown to us that the best course was going to be a no-show, we had ordered the chocolate naan with our mains out of pure curiosity.

While it is clearly located somewhere on the scale from gimmick to brilliance, the Bounty flavour wasn’t unpleasant – a description which seems to sum up our visit as a whole. Pperhaps I should have had more to drink...

RATINGS (out of five):

Food 4

Value 4

Ambience 2

Child-friendly 1

Tel: (023) 9281 1114