The Eastern Spice is on the main street in Irthlingborough, on the old route out to Wellingborough. It's a long building in what appears to be a converted pub. The waiting area is quite comfortable, housing a fish tank, some padded benches and the bar. There's also a selection of magazines to peruse if you arrive twenty minutes before anyone else in your group. Quaffing a pint of lager in the waiting area, IanD was drawn to the weekday evenings only £8.95 offer of 'any five items from the menu'. Tempted by the numerous exotic sounding dishes (such as Hari Murchi Chicken, Kasuri Murgh and Tava Chicken), this seemed an ideal choice. When PhilS and SteveB eventually arrived, we were shown to our table and indicated that we were desirous of partaking in the veritable banquet. Once again, we were thwarted. The choice of dishes was limited to the cheaper items on the menu. Nevertheless, this seemed like good value as we effectively got a kulfi and coffee for 30p.
For starters we had onion bhajis - 4 tightly packed balls, a little burnt on the outside. The texture was OK on the inside but not particularly spicy. Obviously, these were accompanied by sheek kebabs. These were spicy but also managed to be a bit flavourless. A very 'minty' mint sauce supplied.
Our selection of main dishes consisted of Chicken Dansak, Chicken Bhuna and Chicken Pathia - admittedly not very adventurous but we did have a very limited choice. Again, the Dansak was not very spicy considering its heat rating on the menu but having said that, it was tasty. The chicken was a bit on the dry side and the portion perhaps a little on the small side. A flavoursome sauce with the various ingredients easily distinguishable was how the Bhuna was described but the dish was let down by the chicken pieces which were chewy and tasteless. On the other hand, the Pathia was pretty good - the tangy sauce more than made up for the slightly dry chicken. There was loads of stuffing in the keema nans and for once it didn't have the usual red colouring whilst the plain nans were of variable thickness and quality.
The aforementioned kulfis (we ordered malai, mango and pistachio and, for what we believe to be the first time ever, all three flavours were available!) and coffees were all excellent and well worth the 'additional' 30p.
The staff at the Eastern Spice were very friendly and attentive. Despite arriving 20 minutes early, IanD wasn't treated with the usual suspicion. He was made to feel most welcome and handed a dish full of Bombay mix and offered a beer as soon as the large group milling about the waiting area had left. Although the banquet offer turned out to be a bit of a con (as in the Magna in Bedford), it was still quite good value for money. We'd certainly make a return trip and perhaps next time stray into the more exotic, non-banquet section of the menu.
Which gives an overall rating of 3.5 bhajis.