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The Garden Bar, Wolverhampton - food review

By James Driver-Fisher | Weekend | Published:

The Garden Bar is the ideal place to enjoy a good quality curry with family without breaking the bank. James Driver-Fisher is ready to dine. . .

Spice up your life – a curry with naan bread and rice is perfect for a Saturday night feast

A good curry in a friendly and relaxed setting, which doesn’t break the bank, is something many families look for when eating out.

So if you fancy authentic Indian food served in a traditional pub setting, The Garden Bar is definitely worth a visit.

The bar and restaurant, on the Birmingham New Road, in Wolverhampton, has not been open long but – when we visited – was already very busy.

There were plenty of happy couples, families and groups of friends enjoying the food, drinks and televised sport on offer – and this was on a Monday evening.

Having driven passed on numerous occasions on the way to work, I decided to finally try it out with my wife Kelly and our three-year-old daughter, Annabelle.

Roadside gem – The Garden Bar

We were given a lovely little table in the corner, which looked out on to the very impressive beer garden – which really did explain why it’s called The Garden Bar.

The outside area was immaculate and seemed to go on for miles, with row upon row of tables and plenty of greenery.

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With it being autumn, and an evening too, we didn’t venture outside but I can imagine it’s a wonderful place to spend a spring or summer afternoon.

The restaurant layout was modern, with rows of neatly arranged tables alongside smaller, more private areas for couples.

Large parties and families could easily be catered for, and there were two large-screen TVs showing sport.

Room for a TV – the show sport on television

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The bar was also stocked all the usual favourites – including Cobra on draft – but some of the wines were only served by the bottle rather than by the glass.

When it came to the meal, orders were placed at the bar with customers quoting a table number. Following this, a waiter or waitress served the meals and was happy to sort out any extras. Tabs can be set up, or drinks and food can be paid for separately using cash or card.

We chose some poppadoms, which could either be ordered plain or spicy, and came served with spiced onions, mint yoghurt dip and mango chutney.

It’s always a great way to start an Indian meal – and after Annabelle had wolfed down most of them, we asked for some more.

The starters included a wide variety of ‘go green’ vegetarian, and ‘meaty’ options, so there was plenty to suit all tastebuds. Many veggies I know would have been delighted with the wide selection.

A good place to start – one of the generous starters

We went for both veggie and meat options with the aloo tikka chaat, which was potatoes served with chickpea masala, and lollipop chicken, served with a homemade dip.

The first thing that caught my eye was the size of the portion of the chaat – it could almost have passed as a main.

Never one to complain about portion sizes, I got stuck in. The potatoes were light and fluffy on the inside, with a slight crispiness on the outside. There were plenty of fresh of herbs inside the fritter, which gave it a really nice taste.

The accompanying chickpea masala had even more spice and oozed with the flavours of garam masala, coriander and cinnamon. The sauce was a lovely, thick consistency and worked really well with the chunky chickpeas and herby potatoes.

The lollipop chicken was also a good choice. Four ‘lollipops’ were on the plate, which were glazed and drizzled in The Garden Bar’s special sauce.

It had a barbecue-style taste but with a nice little kick of spice too. The sauce was a too hot for my daughter but I loved it.

The main course options included staple Indian favourites such as jalfrezi, madras, saag, bhuna, vindaloo and balti.

There was also an extensive house specials menu, which included a wide range veggie, meat and fish dishes. The biryanis were also classed specials and looked very tasty.

Curry in a hurry – one of the spicy dishes

After seriously considering one of the mixed grills, I chose a different house special, which was north Indian chilli garlic chicken, tempered with fresh chillis and garlic.

If the starter had been a little bit bigger than expected, the mains were the perfect size and came served in a traditional metal curry bowl.

The sauce was once again rich and had a lovely blast of garlic before all the other spices came to the fore.

It wasn’t the hottest curry I’d ever tasted but it was delightful to get the odd extra kick from the fresh chillis, which had been chopped up and sprinkled over the chicken. These could have been avoided for those who prefered a milder curry.

The chicken was tender too and there was plenty of the sauce to mop up the egg rice and keema naan we shared.

Kelly opted for the rahra gosht, which was diced spring lamb and mince which had been cooked together. Again, the texture of the sauce was really thick and each mouthful could only be described as a taste sensation. I wouldn’t like to guess what spices were used in my wife’s dish but it’s safe to say it was loaded with flavour – perhaps one to avoid for those who like a lighter curry, but we loved it.

Curry in a hurry – one of the spicy dishes

If curry isn’t for you and you fancy something a bit more like pub grub, the menu also included pub favourites like gammon, beef burgers and steaks.

Having looked at the more traditional children’s menu, we decided to try something different with Annabelle – who is generally an adventurous good eater – and ordered her a mild chicken korma, which sauce featured cashew nuts and cream.

After mixing it with the egg fried rice, she lapped up it all. Having had a taste, I can safely say it would be a great option for someone who likes a curry but is worried about the heat of other varieties.

The sauce was thick, creamy, and came with plenty of chicken. It had a delicious coconut after taste too and while it was a bit too sweet for my liking, Annabelle really enjoyed it.

A sweet treat – one of the luxurious puddings

For children who are a little less adventurous, the restaurant also provided the usual favourites on the ‘young ones’ menu, including chicken nuggets, fish/vegetable fingers and burgers, all served with chips.

Once again, the portions meant there was little room for dessert, so we just shared some assorted ice creams.

There were, however, plenty of sweets to choose from for those with a sweet too including the gajar ka halwa, which is an Indian carrot pudding.

If I had any regrets after a wonderful meal it would perhaps be going against my gut instincts and not ordering a one of The Garden Bar’s specialities – the mixed grill.

The garden grills include a selection of wings, chops, tikka sheesh kebab and fish pakora. The largest serves up to five people but there are also medium and small versions.

Is there anything better than seeing a mound of sizzling tandoori meat being brought to your table? I think not.The meal looked absolutely amazing and, although I didn’t try it, the fact almost every other couple or family in the restaurant ordered one perhaps tells you all you need to know.

The drinks, appetiser, starters, mains and puddings all came in at around £50, so if you fancy a nice meal out in a welcoming environment that isn’t going to break the bank, you could do a lot worse than trying out The Garden Bar.

James Driver-Fisher

By James Driver-Fisher

Entertainment and food reviewer for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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