We'd never been to Bedford for a curry before but we knew we had to head for the Tavistock Street/Broadway area. As we weren't sure what time we'd arrive, we hadn't booked anywhere. Spoilt for choice, in the end we plumped for the Aashiana simply because we'd walked far enough. On first entering, we thought the place was empty and only had three tables. However, after a brief wait, we were led round a corner to a huge area with lots of tables and most of them occupied. The décor was minimalist with just a scattering of paintings on walls which were a darkish green, giving the place an almost eerie atmosphere. Drinks were brought pretty promptly, although when we asked if they had Cobra lager we were told 'Yes, we have Kingfisher!'. Whilst perusing the menu we were asked a couple of times if we wanted popadoms and on each occasion we declined.
As usual, we ordered two lots of onion bhajis and a sheek kebab. We're thinking of having cards printed to save time! One lot of bhajis arrived followed by the sheek kebabs on a sizzler. For some reason, most of the fried onions were taken back to the kitchen. Nevertheless, the kebabs were pretty good, if not the spiciest we've had. The bhajees were of the spherical variety with two per portion. The first lot had a perfectly crispy outer shell and lots of succulent pieces of onion inside. After a little prompting, the second helping of bhajees arrived. These had obviously been cooked in a hurry as they were roasting hot but the flavour seemed to have suffered a bit. The accompanying splatter was thick, orange and very tasty.
As well as all the 'old favourites', there were a few main dishes on the menu which were new to us. The Chicken Tikka Maricha was excellent. Served in a tin helmet (and eaten straight from it balti style rather than off the plate provided) it was teeming with mouth-watering chunks of chicken tikka in a brilliant thick sauce with whole chillies, green peppers, onions and a generous helping of chopped coriander. Unusually, the Khanshama Chicken Jhol was served on a bed of salad. The strips (rather than chunks) of chicken were well marinated and rather tasty but a little undercooked. The sauce was hot and also contained a good helping of green chillies. The Rajdhani Chicken Jhol was also served on a bed of salad (not so unusual after all!). Again, the chicken strips were extremely tender and well marinated. This time the sauce was bright red and slightly spicy with lots of onions and coriander. Both keema nans were perfect with a very generous filling. The kulcha nan was also not too bad but a little short on the stuffing.
The Aashiana was doing a very brisk trade during our visit and it's not difficult to see why. The food is excellent and the service is also quite good. Okay, so we had to remind them to bring the second bhajees but with so much traffic from the kitchen it's easy to forget something. As it was so busy, it did get a little noisy at times but it was always possible to attract the attention of a passing waiter. The menu seems a little pricey at first glance but at the top it says that everything is half price which is a little confusing. Why not just print the real prices which are very reasonable - where else can you get a chef's special for less than £4? As we said this was our first Bedford (even Bedfordshire) curry. On this evidence, the rest of the pack have a lot to live up to.
Which gives an overall rating of 4.5 bhajis.