Express & Star

'We stumbled across a Lichfield restaurant that really made our night'

It wasn’t planned. We had intended on visiting another hospitality venue but, for one reason or another, it didn’t materialise.

The outside of The Bengal

And so it was that we called into The Bengal on a whim one Friday evening.

The restaurant, in Bore Street, has an illuminated sign inside the reception area saying ‘Ended up at The Bengal’ – it could have been written with us in mind, because we rather stumbled across this gem in the centre of Lichfield.

Ended up at The Bengal

The Bengal restaurant itself is on an upper floor so you need to know where to look.

Although the restaurant was busy, fortunately for us there were still a couple of tables left.

We were seated near the window looking down on the street, which is a great place for people-watching.

The friendly waiter swiftly brought us our drinks and a few poppadoms and a range of sauces while we pored over the menu.

Kebab rolls

The staff, incidentally, were fantastic throughout the course of our evening, warm and welcoming and tending to any request with friendliness and efficiency. They provided advice on dishes to try too which we were happy to accept.

After a lot of deliberation, my dining partner Amy decided to have the salmon tikka as her starter. The waiter’s eyes lit up when she ordered it, as he said it was his favourite dish, so it had a lot to live up to.

The salmon starter

Fortunately, it met all expectations – it was a succulent piece of fish that had been marinated in delicious spices before cooking, and the flavours were fully embedded all the way through the fish.

Served with a tasty salad, it was easy to see why it was favoured by the waiter. It was a lovely, light bite to start off the night, although Amy said she would have happily eaten more as a main meal.

Now I have a confession to make where Indian cuisine is concerned. I’m boring.

I am a creature of habit – an onion bhaji or samosa for a starter, a chicken balti, with pilau rice and plain naan for a main. I told you I was boring.

Whether it was the fact we’d arrived on a whim, I don’t know, or perhaps there was something in the Lichfield air that night - but I decided to change my selection.

I mean, I’m not going to go overboard and say I went wild but I did look to mix things up a bit.

The Bengal menu has plenty of appetisers to choose from and, having heard Amy plump for a fish starter, I was also tempted by the Mackerel Delight, pan-fried mackerel cooked with tomatoes and herbs and spices.

The garlic mushroom also sounded appealing along with lamb tikka, marinated in fresh ground spices and herbs, roasted on skewers.

But in the end I plumped for a kebab roll. This was mincemeat wrapped in wholemeal bread and served with salad.

It proved a great choice as I really enjoyed the different textures in the dish and it captivated my taste buds.

The wrapping holding everything together was soft and tasted great, but the meat at the heart of it was the star of the show, grilled to perfection and full of flavour.

I always enjoy the contrast between hot and cold so taking a bite of the kebab, along with some of the salad, was a real joy. What’s more, this starter struck the ‘appetiser’ balance perfectly, not leaving me feeling overly full and craving for more food.

This creature of habit may just have discovered a new choice for his starter, moving forward.

Kiran Special, from the house specialities, with lamb.

After another deliberation over the main courses in the menu, Amy chose the Kiran Special from the house specialities, with lamb.

It’s always a good sign when the plate looks good and you’re excited to tuck into your meal and that’s exactly what happened here.

The lamb pieces were cooked to tenderness with a melt-in-the-mouth quality which made it a joy to eat.

Add in the zing of flavours from the fresh garlic, ginger and spring onion made sure this meal certainly was special.

It wasn’t hot but definitely had a hit of spiciness throughout, and there was plenty of thick sauce to enjoy with a piece of naan bread.

There were a lot of options for the main, including traditional dishes but also a number of speciality ones. Honey chilli chicken was one dish that caught my eye.

Priced at £13.95, this dish was honey-infused chicken, cooked with roasted capsicums, chopped coriander and green chillies, for a kick. It was described on the menu as a ‘slightly saucy sweet and and spicy dish’.

The Bengal 42 also sounded interesting - described as unique on the menu, it features king prawns, lamb, chicken tikka and keema. Salmon ka jhool also caught my attention – a salmon fillet simmered with fresh ground spices and a caramelised garlic sauce. The options were plentiful with something for all tastes.

But, in the end, after much deliberation, I opted for a tandoori mix grill, with a side dish of mushroom rice.

This was a selection from the Bengal’s tandoori menu including tandoori chicken, sheek kebab, chicken and lamb tikka and king prawns. It was served with salad and mint sauce.

You knew the dish was coming from the loud sizzle and terrific smell as the waiter brought it from kitchen.

This was a delightful culinary treat which was full of rich tastes.

It also left me with something of a dilemma as I have a habit of saving the best until last on my plate (it’s of course pigs in blankets on a Christmas dinner).

The mixed grill

But everything about this mixed grill was enjoyable, a whole range of textures and bursting with flavours.

Ultimately the king prawn won it for me but I loved everything about this dish and it left me more than satisfied at the end of the evening.

Our intention might not have been to go to The Bengal but as the sign said I was glad we ended up there.

As Indian restaurants go, it was one of the top ones I have been to in a region which is brimming with fantastic venues.