Another pretentious, up-market, nouvell-Tandoori restaurant has opened, this time in Northampton. This one is in the converted Burlington shoe factory on the Welly Road near Abington Park. The huge car park to the rear has electronic security gates that swing open as you approach on the way in but are coin operated on the way out - the restaurant providing the coin. We entered via the back door and found ourselves in a massive waiting/after dinner drinks area with almost as many seats and tables as the main dining area. Drinks are served and meal orders taken in this area. Shortly before our food was ready, we were shown to a table in the far corner.
We'd ordered the usual starters. Unusually, there were three sheek kebabs in a portion. Sadly these didn't arrive on a sizzler, there were no fried onions and they weren't overly spicy. Nevertheless, the texture and taste were not bad. The onion bhajis were perfectly round discs obviously shaped in a pastry cutter type thing (the sort of things those ponces on Masterchef use when they make some poncey rosti de pomme de terre) - they resembled fish cakes or ice hockey pucks. They tasted a bit greasy and seemed as if they'd been shallow rather than deep fried - a bit like those poncey rosti things those ponces on Masterchef make. Different but not unpleasant! Each starter was served with an individual pot of splatter - mint and chilli with the bhajis and bog standard raita with the kebabs although one of each was provided on request. There was also a selection of leaves from a variety of shrubberies which were obviously for decoration rather than consumption.
The selection of main dishes was very limited which perversely made choosing rather difficult. In the end, PhilS opted for the Garlic Chilli Chicken. This looked more like soup with a chilli floating in it. The food itself was scadding and also spicy hot but the spices seemed to have been added for their heat rather than their flavour. IanD was tempted by the Jaipuri Chicken which failed to live up to the description on the menu. The sauce was thick and certainly contained all the promised ingredients but somehow managed to be tasteless. Both of these dishes had plenty of tender chicken but this also managed to be flavourless. SteveB chose the Chicken Rogan Josh. This was a deceptively large portion with loads of chicken in a thick tomatoey sauce - unfortunately, the tomato flavour was so strong it obscured any other flavours which may (or may not) have been present. Highlight of this course was without doubt the nans. Rarely have we been unanimous in our opinions but all scored full marks. The garlic nans were excellent - loads of garlic both inside and out and all the nans were cooked to perfection.
There was a varied selection of deserts, the only traditional Indian example being the kulfi as sampled by PhilS who described it as "good". SteveB opted for the Creme Brulee (like one of them ponces on Masterchef) and pronounced it "very nice".
The Mem Saab definitely doesn't offer the traditional Indian dining experience. Hostesses are on hand to take your order and serve drinks which takes the pressure of the waiters, leading to a relaxed atmosphere. We weren't pressurised into taking popadoms or ordering vegetable side dishes. However, the food is very overpriced with the excess charge going into the appearance of the restaurant rather than the food itself. After clearing our table, the waiter returned to search for a missing knife hiding beneath a napkin. Perhaps they do this to everyone or perhaps we looked like a band of professional cutlery thieves! Despite having heavily garlicked hands courtesy of the excellent nans, we weren't offered hot towels. Nor were we offered after dinner mints which was disappointing. This is certainly an upmarket "curry house" aiming for a distinctly different class of clientele - you won't find any groups of drunken lads falling into this place on a Friday night.
Which gives an overall rating of 3.5 bhajis.