Bangladeshis run up to 90 per cent of Indian restaurants in this country. But the industry is under stress due to several factors, the most crucial being immigration restrictions that affect recruitment of Indian and Bangladeshi chefs from the sub-continent.
Huge competition from chains and home cooking (well, customers buying ready Indian meals from supermarkets) have also added to the problems facing this sector.
Given these difficulties, Indian restaurants should be fighting back with excellent food and service.
But the Indian Palace at Gunwharf Quays, one of the many Bangladeshi restaurants in the area, doesn’t seem to have got the message if my experience eating there is anything to go by.
The place, a huge, glitzy restaurant on two floors complete with plants, photography of Indian hotspots and a magnificence of plants, was virtually empty. Was I welcomed warmly as a result? Not really. I was motioned to one of the tables overlooking the Spinnaker Tower, the dirty carpet a contrast to the otherwise sparklingly clean interior with its off-white tablecloths and napkins.
The menu is a familiar one. Starters include king prawn butterfly; chicken chat; chicken, duck or lamb tikka; onion bhajees; garlic mushrooms; meat samosas. Prices are from £3.25. Follow this with Himalayan chilli chicken; tandoori sea bass; salmon Jalfrezi (marinated salmon with garlic and soya), duck Nababie (minced meat, duck breast, mushrooms and boiled egg) or Kodu Delight (chicken or lamb with onions, tomatoes and butternut squash with medium sweet sauce).
Other common dishes include biryani, balti and tandoori as well as sides and vegetable offerings, prices ranging from £7.95 to £12.95.
I ordered the bhajees and a mild curry with sides of Bombay potatoes and pilau rice. The choice of meat was lamb or chicken. I asked for lamb. Oddly, the starters arrived after the main course, but the curry was very hot so wasn’t about to cool down quickly.
The bhajees were deeply disappointing, dull and devoid of any of the advertised spices, subtle or otherwise. They were left.
The curry came swamped with a soupy, creamy sauce. The meat was not lamb, as requested, but a few chicken chunks. The very sweet, sickly sauce didn’t raise the pulse, nor did a dull shredded cabbage salad. The Bombay potatoes were by the far the most successful dish. The rice was as dreary as the bhajees.
The waiter eventually cleared the virtually untouched dishes without comment. Despite few people in the restaurant, the bill and change were very slow in coming.
This disappointing £17-plus meal included a Cobra, the best part. The view of the tower and the Solent were the other plusses. I didn’t leave a tip.
Indian Palace, North Promenade, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth PO1 3TZ
(023) 9283 7783
Open: Noon–midnight seven days a week
Food: Two (out of five)
Disabled access: Fine. Lift to first floor main entrance.
How to get there: Follow the brown signs to Gunwharf Quays. The restaurant is by the Spinnaker Tower on the upper level. Large car park.