Food review: The Alachi International Restaurant, Cradley Heath
Curry’s a great choice for a night out with friends. One that serves tasty, traditional Indian food is a real find. The search is over for James Driver-Fisher...
If Italian is the food of love then surely popping along to the local curry house has to be the food of birthday bashes.
And as it was mine, I was in the driving seat and able to ‘demand’ that a curry was exactly what we should eat to celebrate my 33rd.
We had been to Alachi International Restaurant in Highgate Street, Cradley Heath, previously after being treated to a slap-up meal by two friends celebrating the news that my wife and I were expecting a baby.
Fast-forward three years, and we are now a happy little family with a two-year-old daughter, and while eating out hasn’t been a top priority it was nice to get a babysitter for the evening and return to the restaurant again after so long, with two different friends.
We had been very impressed with the food, service and price the first time round and were eager to come back when the chance came along.
The layout of the restaurant is different to anything I have come across before – very open plan, with bright and modern furniture and dimmed lights, yet still giving the authentic Indian experience, well, as authentic as the experience can be in the Black Country.
After being seated, we hit the drinks menu first – it was a birthday treat after all – and were then left to peruse the menu at our own pace, while the usual poppadoms and dips were dished out.
Having a child-free night meant the evening continually got away from us – more on that later – but what was very nice was not being rushed at any point to order our starters or mains. It was a Thursday night so the venue was not packed and the friendly staff were more than happy to let us enjoy the evening.
The dilemma, however, soon came when trying to pick a starter – because of the choice.
The thanmom, a minced meat wrap in a special pastry cooked in herbs; the salmon tikka, which was grilled, flavoured with mustard, oil, coriander and fresh lime – this was recommended by the chef; the tetul mix, succulent lamb; chicken tikka, mixed with button crunchy onions and capsicum, pan-fried in tangy tamarind sauce; and the Machli cod, which was fish coated with spices and fried until golden, ticked all the boxes among us for various reasons.
Eventually, however, we decided on tandoori lamb chops, garlic king prawns and two lots of stuffed peppers.
The marinated succulent lamb chops were skewered then roasted in a tandoori oven, the fresh king prawns were also marinated in spiced, fresh garlic and herbs, while the peppers were stuffed with mixed vegetables, chicken or lamb, cooked in tandoor – we opted for the veggie version.
Where do you start with all that? I can vouch for the stuffed peppers, which were ‘scrumptious’ according to my wife, Kelly.
The pepper was not too soft and not too hard, cooked to perfection, and when you pulled it apart all the spiced vegetables just fell out.
Add the two together and you’ve got an extremely nice starter.
My friends, Belinda and John, also confirmed the prawns were succulent and beautifully cooked, while the lamb chops were tender and had that lovely chargrilled look, which all great tandoor dishes should have.
To say the starters were nice would be an understatement but it set us up perfectly for the mains, which we all eagerly awaited.
The award-winning Indian restaurant prides itself on using natural ingredients, which are sourced direct from the Indian sub-continent.
The open kitchen allows customers to see their meals being prepared by the chefs, so as we again returned to the menu, we couldn’t wait to see it all unfold.
Anything tandooried always catches my eye and although the classic mixed grill, consisting of chicken, chicken and lamb tikka, sheek kebab and nan bread, was extremely difficult to turn down, as was the popular Bangladeshi dish rangella khana, which is cooked with citrus fruits, the thawa specials – dishes cooked in a cast iron thawa using fresh ginger, garlic, peppers, onions and coriander – and any of the house specials.
But again, a decision had to be made so my wife opted for the lamb shashlik, Belinda the lamb balti while John and I split the chicken and lamb vindaloo. We both have a bit of love of all things spicy so it had to be done.
However, with drinks and conversations flowing we had lost track of time and suddenly realised our babysitter needed relieving so we had to order our mains to-go.
Completely our own fault and the staff were very accommodating in serving them in containers and wishing us a wonderful evening as we waited for the taxi.
All we had to do was serve-up at home, which added to the whole experience in a way, and certainly didn’t detract from the quality of the dishes.
The shashlik meat was marinated in spices and cooked on skewers with onion, tomato and green peppers in a clay.
My wife’s verdict? Really tasty, again because it was beautifully cooked, with the meat not too chewy, while the accompanying vegetables were also nice and crispy, absorbing plenty of the flavour. It looked extremely appetising too.
All the balti dishes at the Alachi are individually prepared with a combination of fresh ingredients and the chef’s own balti paste to give a unique taste.
Belinda was more than happy with how the lamb was cooked but it was the sauce that really stole the show.
Thick and creamy, it oozed flavour and was mopped up with any remaining rice. Delicious.
Our vindaoos were one of the Alachi’s most popular dishes, with a hot and sour taste, extensively prepared with chilli, lemon juice and tomatoes.
On occasion at curry restaurants, once the intense burn wares off, all you’re left with is a disappointing after-taste.
That was not the case with the Alachi recipe because as well as getting that wonderful spicy kick, there was an amazing hot, sweet, fresh and sour flavour that accompanies all good vindaloos.
The taste just lingers in the mouth when it’s done properly – and that was certainly the case on this occasion. It was so moreish and left you with a feeling of complete satisfaction.
Finishing off the remaining wine, while enjoying a chat with friends I hadn’t seen for ages, we were all sat with great big grins of satisfaction.
The meal certainly made the birthday celebration all the more special. Obviously there was no time for desserts in the rush but with the option of birthday cake to come, no-one was too concerned about that.
The Alachi management also offers a wide range of services for international guests travelling to the UK and will happily help organise accommodation, transport and entertainment.
It’s the perfect place to enjoy a fantastic curry in relaxed surroundings with polite and pleasant staff.