14-15 Beer Cart Lane
Tel: 01227 200 777
This is the third branch of chef patron Dev Biswal’s expanding empire and is set to be the flagship. Located in the delightfully named Beer Cart Lane not far from the high street it is spacious and with beautifully designed interiors, it is easy on the eye from the get go.
We sat in a sunny window seat and looked at the menus. There is a cut down version for lunch and a tasting menu. Three of our party opted for the tasting menu, our youngest is nine and we felt that eight courses might extend even his ‘ambitious’ consumption of all things Indian (it’s his favourite food).
A little fizzy cocktail is the first thing that comes your way if you are a grown up quickly followed by a glass of pickled courgette khandvi a sort of sweetened vinegar solution with pears and courgettes. Delicious and unusual little nibbles to have before the main event. The dosi with gently spiced potatoes was a good start, light and tasty with a complement of sauces. The next course was soft shell crab, tempura of rock samphire. This was a talking point at the table as neither of the boys had tried this before. X was skeptical but ate and enjoyed it, I gave some to A and he loved it, especially the crispy legs!
The first thing you notice when entering The Ambrette is that is doesn’t seem like an Indian restaurant. There is no flocked wallpaper or heavy smells of ghee-laden food. In fact you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a new gastro pub. This is quite deliberate Dev doesn’t have a ‘curry’ on any of his menus. His food is a different sort of Indian experience, the kind of experience that makes you want to visit India because the food is true to its roots.
Smoked wood pigeon (which A initially imagined was made of wood!) was delightful it came with a tiny portion of game pate. It was a bit rich for M but I loved its iron strength and subtle spicing. A, incidentally enjoyed the wood pigeon and all the other dishes that came his way. It is funny how a nine year old can refuse peas but eat some of the most exotic food I’ve tasted from the hands of an adroit Indian chef!
A little breather and a small cup of tomato and mushroom soup, this had all hallmarks of a good mulligatawny and was all the better for it. The fresh fish of the day (sea bream) came with mung lentil kedgeree and fennel and cumin chutney and south Indian sauces. The kedgeree was superb but I was less keen on the fish, sea bream is not a choice I would have made.
The main event was a sous-vide loin of venison with pears. The whole menu is made from locally sourced ingredients the venison and pears were no exception. This technique of cooking really does maximize the flavours it was flash fried to give caramelisation. There was a touch of tamarin in there as well to counter the sweet pear, a thoroughly good dish well executed and extremely tasty.
We were getting a little full by now but there was more. If you decide to take the plunge for this extraordinarily good value tasting menu (£44.95) then set aside a good two and a half hours maybe three.
A collection of sorbets arrived with the added charm of popping candy sprinkled on top. This is fun and pallet cleansing to a degree and kids love it. We finished with a platter of desserts of which my first prize goes to rose and vanilla brulée though it was a close run race with the blackberry and cinnamon ice cream coming a very close second.
You may be wondering about A our nine year old? Apart from trying everything on my plate from the lunch menu he had crab cakes to start which came with a jaunty sprig of samphire and a little cooling yoghurt and for his main (which he adored) he chose chicken biryani. There is really no need to worry about hot food here if you or your children have had a little Indian food in the past then the heat will probably be less here.
This is Dev’s secret weapon, he spices so subtly and with such skill that you hardly notice the complexity of experiences developing in your mouth. It’s worth taking your time with this food, as it really is very clever and well thought through. The wines are good as well; you can have a wine flight with the tasting menu for an extra £20.
The latest Ambrette incarnation is set to be the best, Dev has found his feet and creates very appealing food that has a high standard of presentation and flavours that deliver. And if you were wondering if they play homage to the their address, yes they sell beer as well, Kentish of course.