GONE are the days when you needed ‘Eastern’ inspired interiors and pictures of chopped chillies on the walls to make an Indian dining experience feel authentic.
Following a recent makeover, The Spice of Life in the heart of Inverurie has reopened with a sleek modern look – which means the food now does all the talking.
The big, wall-mounted TVs playing Bollywood films on loop have disappeared – instead the interior has been pared right back, featuring bright white walls accented with turquoise leather booths and eclectic accessories.
We were shown to our table – a cosy corner booth in the back of the restaurant, softly lit with industrial inspired lighting.
The staff were quick to offer us drinks and poppadoms with homemade chutneys, which arrived within minutes while we perused the extensive menu.
The menu is split into different sections, including Bangladeshi style curries, Tandoori clay oven cooked options and exclusive Masala speciality dishes – each made with the choice of king prawn, prawn, chicken, lamb or vegetables.
My boyfriend opted for chicken rajahstani, which promised to be a rich and ‘exquisite’ dish.
On this occasion I was looking for something fairly healthy so opted for chana masala. Not being a huge fan of really hot curries, the chef kindly adapted a side dish for me, as the chickpea main claimed to be fiery; topped with chopped chillies – the thought of it alone made my eyes water.
Considering it was early on in the evening, the restaurant was absolutely packed.
But if the staff were at all flustered, it certainly didn’t show.
The team of waiters milled around, and although we didn’t need help choosing our meals, one member of staff enthusiastically made recommendations to the table of four next to us.
My boyfriend would certainly advocate the rajahstani – a full-flavoured dish featuring fresh ingredients and luscious pieces of chicken. The sauce had an excellent consistency, neither did it slide off the chicken nor smother the whole plate of food. Not too spicy, the flavours were indeed rich – fresh ginger, spring onion, fresh coriander and garlic – and very palatable.
The use of fresh spinach rather than the watery, ropy, pre-chopped stuff was also noticeable.
The chicken was juicy and generously portioned, and it’s certainly not a dish that could not be recreated at home.
In comparison, a chickpea feast might seem bland, but it was far from it. Traditionally it is a Punjab breakfast dish, and for anyone with food intolerance, it is both vegan and gluten-free.
Beautifully presented, the chickpeas were coated in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce, subtley enriched with cardamom, coriander and cumin, with a touch of cinnamon.
The size of portion that arrived was double what I’d usually manage to eat, so the waiter was gracious enough to ask if I wanted to take my leftovers home, and diligently packaged it all up.
Saying that, I still managed pudding (which we shared).
Admittedly it was not traditional Indian fare, but a very delicious combination of toffee and ice cream encased in a chocolate shell, served with fresh fruit and cream.
My only minor complaint would be that while the food was hot, the restaurant was cold, although not as cool as the striking, new interior design.
For anyone who hasn’t been for a while, it is definitely worth a revisit.