The Banyan Tree – Indian – Nottingham – Review by Sarah
Sarah is a new contributor to supplement the Frusher of ‘Frusher on Food’. Read a little intro from her here
If a restaurant attached to a petrol station on a roundabout manages to stay open for several years, you have to assume that what is going on inside is good enough for people to make the journey and ignore the feeling that you might as well be eating in a Little Chef. The Banyan Tree is located just past the main stretch of Daybrook and Redhill, which admittedly are not places blessed with dining options, and the exterior of the building and its site do little to inspire excitement.
Fortunately, the interior of the Banyan Tree is pleasant and modern. The restaurant is surprisingly large and there are several circular tables with demi-booth seating. We were offered seats at the bar initially and menus to peruse, which offered a number of lesser known curries such as Lal Maas and a good number of fish based dishes. There is a substantial price range on both starters (£4-£10) and main courses (£9-£15 with sundries extra). The draft beer is Mongoose which turned out to be a pleasant lager, but otherwise the drinks on offer are fairly unimaginative. It would be great to see more Indian restaurants giving more creed to the excellent potential wine pairings that Indian cuisine offers, but I suspect this will remain the preserve of a few high-end places. After ordering we were shown to our table although the timing of this was baffling, as no food arrived for a good ten minutes. While we were sat waiting, I noticed that there were a large number of waiting staff, all milling constantly like they were playing Pacman between the tables, but without any really seeming to have a sense of purpose or direction. This observation was pretty accurate, as during our meal we were attended by several different waiters without any coordination.
Poppadums. I see these as a real benchmark for whether an Indian restaurant is good or just average. Do they arrive freshly finished or are they cold and pre-made? Do they have good thick bubbling and a proper snap or are they so thin that they have browned and bend weakly? These poppdaums were closer to the latter, and lacked any seasoning in the flour. Of the chutneys, mango sludge of the luminous jam variety and a standard raita were joined by an unconventional minty lime pickle. Shabji Pakora were much better. Golden and proud batter encased fresh vegetables, although ’salad’ in Banyan Tree terms really is a garnish.
Mains were reasonable but not great. My lamb tikka (£8.95) was well seasoned and thankfully not the colour of cochineal nightmares. However the meat was tough, and at this time of year, there’s no excuse for serving up mutton. The advertised salad and raita did not arrive with the dish and had to be requested. Aachari Palak lamb (£10.95) was the first Indian dish I have seen topped with pickled onions, and I’m not quite sure what they brought to the party.However, the sauce was good and pickle, full of spinach and turmeric, which left its ochre traces everywhere – this is not a dish for a first date. The plain naan was very puffy and, like the poppadums, lacking in any seasoning. It had been cooked solely on one side and it did not bear any of the blackenings or bubbles consistent with a tandoor so I am unsure whether it had been made traditionally or actually baked on a stone (although the menu stated it was baked in a tandoori oven).
The conclusion? I wouldn’t be going back to the Banyan Tree, but I could see that for reasonably priced and accessible dining, people would make repeat visits, and the staff did seem to know their regular clients well.
AF – “Think I’ll stick to the city centre options that cost little more but are serving more accomplished, diverse Indian cooking”
Overall rating = 6/10
Food = 6/10
Service = 6/10
Value = 6/10