It's not often you get invited around to an ex-colleagues for dinner, only to find that it is an Indian restaurant run by his in-laws, and you are still required to pay. Asoka has not long been open - another trendy rather than traditional place - previously used as an Italian restaurant. This was still evident from the spaghetti stuck to the ceiling.
A large area had been set aside for us (approx 14), but this still left plenty of other available tables. BirenT, our ex-colleague, was joining us and made the mistake of volunteering to be our waiter for the evening (we would have preferred either of the two females that also worked there). He didn't ask if we required any popadoms, but did buy the round of drinks.
While placing our orders, it became apparent that BirenT should stick to his day job and leave the waiting to the experts. Nevertheless, the correct food did arrive. Seekh kebabs and shammi kebabs were the favourites for starters. Extremely spicy yet tasty, and colourful were how the seekh kebabs were described - the colour being from the red and green peppers they contained. The shammi kebabs were not rated so highly, being quite dry and crumbly with a sloppy filling coated with breadcrumbs, and lacking any real taste. None of the starters were accompanied by anything more than a sprig of herbs, which made them look deceivably small on the large plates.
For the main dishes, Murgh Makhani was the choice of both SteveB and RichardB. SteveB decided it was really a tikka masalla with plenty of reasonably tender chicken pieces in a red (but too tomatoey) sauce, but very enjoyable nonetheless. RichardB thought his was very nice but could have contained more chicken, and he had to use someone else's rice to soak up all the sauce. Not having a pathia on the menu to fight over, PhilS and IanD decided to try a Murgh Taliwali. Both said there was plenty of chicken in a runny sauce, and that they have gone over the top with the cinnamon - a taste IanD is not too keen on (but he still ate it). PhilS thought it was well flavoured but not particularly hot - perhaps the taste buds had been destroyed by the spicy starter. Just to be different, NikkiB went for a Chicken Biryani, which she thought was too hot. The vegetable curry wasn't separate from the rest of the dish and was a bit dry for her liking. The chicken had a funny texture and wasn't breast as expected.
If you're looking for a cheep and cheerful curry, then Asoka isn't the place for you. However, if you're after something more upmarket in modern surroundings and are willing to pay a little extra for it, then you will enjoy Asoka. Just make sure BirenT isn't your waiter.
Which gives an overall rating of 4 bhajis.