The Cultural Quarter of Leicester is one of the best areas of the city. It’s got bars like Manhattan 34 and The Exchange, entertainment from the wonderful Curve theatre and a number of gems in between.
So I was more than keen to visit the quarter’s local restaurant Chutney Ivy to take its new menu for a spin, and thought I would bring my lovely boyfriend as company. I was especially excited as Chutney Ivy bagged the prize of “Best Restaurant of 2017” at the Curry Awards – given Leicester’s renowned Asian heritage, this can’t have been an easy feat – so I was itching to sample the reasons why!
Chutney Ivy offers Indian cuisine that respects its heritage but isn’t afraid to innovate – Shaf the co-owner’s enthusiastic insight into the kitchen’s culture attested to this. The restaurant isn’t afraid to take on the features of a swanky bar either, so don’t hesitate to go even if it’s just for a cocktail! Interested? Read on…
Indian Tapas Platter
“A combination of Siek Kebab Stacks (kebab with sun-dried tomato on a nan square), Aloo Tokki, Paneer stacks and Fish Pakora.”
This platter is a perfect companion to after-work cocktails with a gal pal or significant other, but be warned, it will leave you wanting more. The catfish pakora stood out as the showcase portion: its sweet, rich seasoning was so delicately paired with a light batter that made the texture so irresistible. The Akoo Tokki is worth a mention too – the crisp of the potatoes was heavenly and gave a great earthy balance to the dish. Nat and I agreed that this platter was a well-thought-out way of exciting the palette and prepping the appetite – it was light, flavoursome and moreish in a way that really set up for the mains.
Dim Bhajee Salad
“Boiled eggs, sautéed in caramelised onions, roasted jeera and turmeric. Served on a bed of greens.”
This is something I want to attempt at home as a snack salad that has some character to it. I would never have thought the combination of boiled eggs, jeera and turmeric would be so powerful! This dish complemented the platter well, providing a crisp alternative to the hotter flavours.
Because I’m a little fusspot that lends herself to the pescatarian style of living, I wasn’t able to try the new mains. Fortunately though my human vacuum of a boyfriend is, in his words ‘a conscious meat-eater’, or in my words ‘a part-time, zero-hour contract vegetarian’, so he permitted himself to eat what I could not.
Muragh Jaal Qurma
“Roasted chicken from the Tandoor gently cooked in sweet spices of cinnamon, Bay leaves, green cardamom, milk, yoghurt and a hint of green chilli. Garnished with caramelised onions and fresh coriander.”
Now it’s very rare that I ever wish that I had meat on my plate, but this was genuinely a struggle. This is a Bangladeshi Korma, which Shaf was keen to differentiate from the slightly saccharine, cream-centric Korma we’re used to in the UK. This dish is made with milk and yoghurt rather than cream, making the dish a lot less sweet, and while it takes longer to cook, the flavours were richer for it. Nat described it as more complex than kormas he’d had in the past, with a welcome heat that gladly superseded the general theme of sweetness he was used to. That isn’t to say this wasn’t mellow and accessible to those with a more sensitive tongue though – these flavours are indiscriminately pleasing. The aroma alone wowed me.
Capsico Keema Mattor
“Juicy bell peppers chargrilled in the Tandoor; stuffed with spiced minced lamb, paneer and peas.”
Another chef-favourite that challenged Nat’s capacity after the Korma, the pairing of paneer with tandoor spice was a harmony that explained Shaf’s enthusiasm for the dish.
There was “a lot of interesting tastes at play in this dish,” with Nat describing it as a “introspective lesson in flavour,” (yeah he’s that guy) that required quite a few mouthfuls to really get to the bottom of.
Sea Bass Bangla Massala
“Whole sea bass fillets gently infused with a blend of caramelised onions, tomatoes, fresh garlic, turmeric and lemon juice. Garnished with spring onions and fresh coriander. The favourite dish of the Bengal.”
I, hand on heart, think this might be one of the best fish dishes I have ever had.
Shaf explained he uses sea bass as it’s a dark fish, and one that is most similar to the Bangladeshi fish that is traditionally used. The fish was beautiful, it melts in your mouth and the sauce made a lasting impression. The lemon juice played a huge part in this dish, teaming up with the spring onions and coriander to deliver one of the most refreshing curry dishes I’ve had the pleasure of trying. Needless to say I didn’t leave one bit.
“sweet milk dumpling, marinated in ghoor.”
After the feast we’d just had, this dessert was welcomingly humble, but not at the expense of character. I’m a big fan of the very similar gulab jamun thanks to my colleagues, as they often bring Indian sweets into work. I was told I needed to try them warm with vanilla ice-cream so this felt like a sign! Kalajam has sugar added into the batter, and after frying the sugar it caramelises, giving it the name kala jam or “black jam”. This did not disappoint and lived up to my work pal’s recommendation. I’m normally an apple crumble kind of girl, but this sweet little beauty is always going to be top of my dessert list given the option!
I had a lovely time exploring this new menu, and I will definitely be back! If you want fearless food in a relaxed open space (the whole front of the restaurant can be opened up!), visit Chutney Ivy.
I was kindly invited by Chutney Ivy to sample their new menu. The views are my own, as are the images unless stated otherwise.