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 Silk Route, Northampton
 Wednesday, 21 December 2005
  restaurant factfile
  also reviewed 2 March 2006
  also reviewed 3 January 2006

Silk Route is a new upmarket restaurant (or "Fine Dine" experience as they like to say), which has taken over the premises of A Taste of Bollywood in Northampton's Sol Central. It's been a while since we visited Bollywood but it seems that the décor is very similar and just the screens hiding the old buffet have been removed. This was Wednesday evening, 4 days from Christmas, so anticipating a load of office parties cramming the building, we pre-booked our table for 8pm. When we arrived, everything was quiet, loads of staff but no sign of any customers. We were asked if we'd like to sit in the cocktail lounge to check the menu. We declined and headed straight for our table. Of the 20 or so tables and booths of varying sizes, only 2 were occupied and we were offered a table right next to these.

On to the starters. Well, at an average of over £6 each and not an onion bhaji in sight, we decided to give these a miss. Even the popadoms and pickles were a quid! There were some interesting items such as Tandoori Broccoli but it seemed difficult to believe that this could offer any sort of value for its huge price tag. In the end, the chef sent out a complimentary espresso cup of curried cauliflower soup which was very pleasant and much better value for money.

On to the main dishes. Well, a quick look at the menu and we nearly left. The choice was very limited on the chicken/lamb front although there were plenty of veggie dishes. And as we'd come to expect we found many of the prices in double figures. Again, there were some interesting ingredients such as red snapper, sea bass and lobster tails, but to make a fair comparison we needed to go for something much more mainstream. SteveB ordered the only "normal" curry house dish, the lamb Rogan Josh. He found this to consist of plenty of perfectly cooked tender pieces of lamb, in a spicy sauce. No other listed ingredients, e.g. tomatoes, were visibly present but they were obviously part of the sauce which also had a hint of ginger. PhilS had the Murg Shimla Mirch. This was advertised as hot and spicy but it wasn't overly spiced, or for that matter, underly spiced. Chicken was well cooked and tender and was in a tasty sauce. With so little choice and all the non-cinnamon flavoured dishes snapped up, IanD was forced to pick Madiera Kareili Gosht - lamb shanks in a sauce of onions and tomatoes flavoured with cardamom and a touch of brandy. This turned out to be a single lamb shank (trading standards take note!) Again the sauce was a runny soup probably made up of the ingredients mentioned but the only discernible taste was cardamoms. The one shank was excellent with the meat falling off the bone. This was accompanied by plain boiled rice but the others opted for nans - keema and plain. These came wrapped in napkins and cut in half and were pretty good (keema) and perfect (plain). All the food was served in strange shaped dishes which deceptively made the portions look small, but they turned out to be of average size.

We had some kulfi for desert and this continued the nan theme by being cut in half. It seemed to be the same bog-standard, screwball shaped kulfi served everywhere else (but with 25% added to the price).

As we said, Silk Route was deserted when we arrived, and at the sort of prices they're asking even for starters it's not likely to become overly popular. If budget-priced Bollywood couldn't make it in this location, it's hard to believe Silk Route will fare any better. When the bill arrived, no less than 20 chocolates accompanied it, perhaps they'd realised that we'd still be starving after being deprived of our beloved bhaji and kebab starters. Rather annoyingly, whilst we were dining some bloke was wandering around taking photos, the flash from which became a bit irritating. It turned out that this other customer was apparently writing some sort of review, but as he'd obviously announced his presence the result is unlikely to be a true representation of the Silk Route fine dine experience. Also, his menu had an extra laminated sheet added to it. Maybe that's where all the cheap dishes were. The takeaway menu has a section entitled "Lounge Menu" which seems to have some normal and more reasonably priced dishes. It's a mystery why our menu didn't have the same offerings. Unless one of us wins the lottery soon, a return visit is unlikely particularly if they don't serve onion bhajis!

The Scores

Food4.5
Service4.5
Ambience3.5
Value2.5

Which gives an overall rating of 4 bhajis.

DishRatingBy
Madiera Kareili Gosht4IanD
Murg Shimla Mirch4.5PhilS
Lamb Rogan Josh5SteveB