I wrote about The Spice Merchant when it opened a month or two before Christmas, and following a couple of recommendations from a chef friend decided to see what the fuss was all about.
I was familiar with the setting, the former home to Gurkha 91, a Nepalese restaurant which I had visited in the past.
It has been revamped - the bar has moved, it has been redecorated throughout and the fittings have changed, but it remains smart and functional without being flash.
The sign outside promises “modern Indian cuisine” and that is reflected in the menu - which has many traditional offerings but is littered with unfamiliar and intriguing dishes - and the presentation is in fashionable crockery.
We started with poppadoms - and the flavours from the pickle tray quickly grabbed our attention.
Keen to try something different, owner Badri brought us a sample of starters; the colour gave the beetroot delight away, a mixture of potato, earthy beetroot and spices which went well with the tomato sauce. The almond roll was another light, tasty mixture of potato, vegetable and spices, coated in almond flakes. The kerala fried chicken - buttermilk marinated meat, deep fried with flour batter, was served with a yummy chilli and garlic mayonnaise. The slice of pickled radish was an unexpected treat.
I stayed left field with my main course - lamb shank.
The sauce had a kick and a great aftertaste but the meat fell off the bone and retained its unmistakable flavour.
Donna had a flavour-packed chana masala, a medium spiced semi dry curry, packed with chickpeas, which was very filling.
It is not often we look at a dessert menu in an Indian restaurant but we have clearly been missing out with the ice cream (kulfis) and the coconut phirni - a coconut and saffron flavoured set rice pudding, both excellent.
Brad Barnes dines at The Spice Merchant, Manor Way, Deeping St James - www.thespicemerchantonline.com
Brad’s Rating: 8/10