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Housed In the grounds of a garden centre and mini retail shopping area on the outskirts of Northampton would never have seemed the ideal place for an Indian Restaurant. The former Nightclub premises that it now occupies (or part of it at least) may have been Northampton's best kept secret when it first opened in late 2002 but the secret is now widely shared boasting a very select, large and loyal clientele. The advantage of the location is that it doesn't attract the twenty pints of larger and lets have the hottest curry in the house brigade but has strong appeal to those who enjoy a well-presented, superbly cooked more authentic Indian meal in a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere where courtesy and service is second to none.
I have frequented River Spice since it opened, however this would be my first visit since the employment of the new Indian chef who I was assured had the ability to cook authentic Indian regional food. The boast was made by the restaurants Indian owner who was all too aware that this made his establishment somewhat unique in an industry which is Bangladeshi dominated serving a Euro-Asian cuisine albeit to a nation that has welcomed it with open arms making it the UK's number one preference.
The menu was unchanged offering tried and tested favourites and some unusual house specialities which had always in the past been cooked to exacting standards by its former chef with a minimal amount of oil, fresh green chillies if requested and a generous garnish of fresh green coriander. When we were ready to make our order we were introduced to the blackboard specials, which included a Kenyan-Asian dish of Piri Piri chicken, a special ginger chicken plus many authentic vegetable dishes. We made our choice and waited in anticipation.
Whilst waiting for the meal to be served we relaxed at the bar area, we were assured that with a little prior notice most authentic Indian dishes could be ordered including meat traditionally cooked on the bone and also the established menu would be changed over the next few weeks to include some of the more popular blackboard specials.
The meal arrived and we were not disappointed, the lamb dishes were cooked to perfection boasting a thick gravy, minimum oil and was not over spiced, the chicken dish a new introduction was a dry dish cooked with fresh green chillies and honey, whilst I doubt its authenticity as traditional Indian cuisine it was very different with ample portion of chicken taking up the room in the serving dish that would usually be taken by the gravy. The two new vegetable dishes we tried consisted of very spicy paneer, which had been lightly fried and had taken on the flavours of the rich tomato gravy and an aubergine dish which was cooked in yoghurt based gravy, we had also ordered a very safe and unauthentic Bombay aloo together with garlic and tomato rice plus a selection of breads to each diners personals tastes.
All in all a very pleasurable dining experience pushing the culinary boundaries further towards the East than the West, whilst I would long to see a one hundred percent authentic Indian dining experience it must be recognised that in Northampton it would not be financially viable to only cater for a minority but it is good to see a compromise which does also attract many ethnic diners.
Paul rated this 9 out of 10.