For months, every time our bus went past Jaipur Palace (a vegan/vegetarian Indian restaurant in Fallowfield) my fellow and I said: “We must go there.” Before we knew it, this had changed into: “Why haven’t we been there yet?” So at last, to celebrate his birthday last week, we booked ourselves a table and got ready for some serious feasting. Indian starters are possibly better than the mains, so when I go to an Indian restaurant I like to do it properly and get plenty of dishes.
So, we did. To start with, we had some samosas, of course. My beau is Indian and he finds the Indian staples a bit less exciting than I do, as this is essentially his mother’s home cooking, and what beats that? But I love a good samosa, and these two, despite looking rather lonely on the plate, were good – the filling was not overwhelmingly spicy, and the pastry was good and thick.
We also went for some pani puri. This is exactly the kind of thing I would be scared to order without my expert on hand to show me how to eat them – I’d never eaten any until last year, yet now I always look out for them on a menu. You spoon a little of each sauce into the crispy pod, and hastily eat it in one go – otherwise they make quite the mess. I love anything crispy, so these are always a treat.
And finally, we had something that was new even to my fellow: amiri sev khaman. It was essentially a torn up savoury sponge, with lots of herbs and spices, and some crispy yellow bits sprinkled on top. It’s quite a difficult dish to describe, but I loved the spongy texture. And check out the portion size – that would have suited me as a main! I think the only downside is that it’s a bit dry and you’d really have to share it rather than just order a portion for one. Sharing is always a downside for me.
After the starters we were already feeling rather full, but there’s always room for more in an Indian restaurant! I went for the classic, aloo gobi. It was beautifully spiced and I will never complain about a dish filled with potato chunks and cauliflower florets. Delicious! My beau was more adventurous, again eschewing the traditional dishes that make up his normal meals at home. He went for ringna no oro, a grilled aubergine dish. He really enjoyed it, though I felt that the ‘grilled’ aspect seemed more ‘burnt’, so I feel like I comfortably won that round. And oh, the bread. One of the hardest things about being vegan is the dearth of dairy-free naan. But when I tasted the paratha, I no longer felt like I was missing out: it was sensational.
Completely unnecessarily, we also ordered some vada sambhar: savoury doughnuts, which were delicious, with a fiery vegetable sauce that I was less keen on.
We ate like kings, but paid mere pennies (well, not quite, but it was amazing value for money). It’s a lovely restaurant too – nice and roomy and bright inside, and pretty quiet on a Friday night. I have mixed feelings about that: a quiet restaurant means better service, but it also makes me worry that (a) there’s something wrong with the restaurant, or (b) it will soon be out of business. I’m sure that (a) is not true, and hopefully it was just a quiet night and there is not danger of it closing, because I am already looking forward to another visit. It’s also exceptionally vegan friendly, with all suitable items clearly marked on the menu.
Despite being so full that we left clutching our bellies, we also managed to find room for a little slice of birthday cake: the lemon and coconut bundt cake from Veganomicon. A fine cake for a fine fellow!