Bloody typical! No sooner had we visited the Bengal Spice in Wolverton than it closed down - we didn't think our review was that bad! Not to worry though as a sign soon appeared in the window announcing the imminent arrival of Café Balti. When we visited, we found that this was one of those trendy nouveau-Tandoori places with sparse clean, designer décor and furniture. It looked OK until we tried to pull out the cast irons chairs - hernias all round. The progressive house music and chill out tunes playing would be more appropriate in a nightclub, but it was at a very low volume and wasn't intrusive. The service seemed pretty speedy at first - they couldn't bring the overpriced large bottles of Cobra and Kingfisher fast enough. On the other hand, the house wine was quite cheap, costing less than two beers. However, it seems that the waiters had difficulty remembering some of the more complicated drinks such as spritzers and diet cokes.
With the starters, the service went downhill. We didn't order popadoms and then had to wait ages before our orders were taken and even then, some of our orders weren't taken at all! When they finally arrived after another unnecessarily long wait, we had a mixed bunch of starters including (obviously) onion bhajis (4 crispy balls, a little under spiced but at least they were warm); sheek kebabs (looked freshly laid but stone cold, chewy and flavourless); veggie samosas (really tasty - "but then again I was starving by this point, so anything would have tasted good"); Butterfly King Prawn ("reasonable sized prawn completely covered in tasty crisp batter so ended up trying to eat the tail"); mushroom chat (not on the menu - a reasonable sized portion, most of it onions) and chicken pakora (described as okay). These were all served with bucket loads of assorted splatter, the red sauce being fairly spicy hot contrasting with the unusually mild lime pickle.
Just as we thought the chef had gone home the main dishes turned up. These were 2 Tandoori Mixed Grills ("OK but not presented in the most appetising way. Chicken leg didn't have much meat on it and the lamb was a little dry" and "kebab a bit rubbery but the rest luvly jubbly"); Chicken Tikka Rogan ("Not very warm but nice chicken in a rather sloppy, un-tomatoey sauce"); 2 helpings of Chicken Shaslick Bhuna (depending on your point of view this was either "Tender tandoori chicken pieces, with large chunks of onions, tomatoes, green peppers, in a thick, slightly hot sauce" or "extremely disappointing - cold and the sauce was slightly tasteless except for an overwhelming onion flavour. The chicken was tough on the outside"); Chicken Tikka Massala ("Reasonable portion, tasted good but not outstanding"); Chicken Jalfrezi ("Lack of sauce proviede with massive chunks of peppers and onions. It was difficult to eat with the nan bread. Just enough chillis, and the rest was well spiced") and Chicken Jaflong ("Best dish on the menu in the Bengal Spice days but what a let down!! Served almost stone cold and chock full of lemon rind not the zest mentioned in the menu - they should have taken the pith. Tough dry chicken."). The rice and nans arrived a fair while after some of the main dishes which, by then, were freezing. The general consensus was that better nans could be purchased at the local supermarket, in this case Netto which we think says it all!
Oh dear! In its desire to go upmarket, this establishment has gone decidedly downhill. Poor service and variable food were the order of the evening. It seems that they are short of crockery, as we had to wait until the other tables were cleared and their crockery washed before our food arrived! The main dishes were served on a ragbag assortment of dishes and open plates - not ideal for keeping them warm. A shortage of those food warmer thingies didn't help matters. Cobra and Kingfisher was exorbitant at £3.80 for a 660ml bottle which works out at £3.50 per pint. The waiters had no idea how to pour it serving a glass half full of froth and a bottle to match. To add insult to injury they didn't have enough to go round. As Tesco sells the big bottles for £1.90 they could have nipped out to get some and still made a whacking great profit.
Which gives an overall rating of 3 bhajis.