Posted by: mikeydude | April 2, 2010

Cardamom Restaurant Cardiff Review (5.5/10)

Where’s the flavour?

My relatively few good experiences of good Indian food have always been meals which concentrate on packing in huge amounts of flavour and zing! So when I went to a restaurant in the Canton region of Cardiff that boasted of having won Welsh Curry House of the Year and British Curry Awards in the past I was really expecting them to deliver on that aspect. Anyway on a Saturday night where most restaurants were fully booked and the Mrs had a craving for her favourite Peshwari Naan I thought I’d give this place a try. Here’s my full report.

I must confess that I’ve never really been the greatest fan of Indian/Bangladeshi food as I just find them too greasy on the whole. My whole opinion of that changed when I went to eat at the excellent Mint & Mustard which combined powerful flavours with good style cooking. Unsurprisingly they were completely booked up on this night so I decided to give this other ‘prestigious’ curry house a try. The place is located on the corner of Victoria Park in Canton where there’s ample street parking available and night. It was rather empty when we arrived at 7pm and it never really filled up which is surprising on a Saturday night. However they do have takeaways and there was a steady flow of big bags of curry going from the kitchen to till throughout the evening. Staff were smiley and decor was minimalistic. The menu was vast with plenty of traditional dishes such as balti and bhaji, along with more novel dishes such as red snapper tandoori. Interesting…. I ordered a cobra beer and some poppadoms to get us going. Here’s the rest of the food.

Oh, be warned that although the poppadoms are only 80p each, they do charge extra for the sauces/chutneys (~£2). They were nice; especially the mango and mint yoghurt, but £2’s a bit steep I thought.

Starter #1: Tandoori Sea-Bass

This was supposed to be a main course of whole grilled seabass, but we opted to have it as a starter and the staff were happy to accommodate. Flexibility is always a good thing in my books. I was surprised to be met by a plate of diced tandoori fish that was NOT overcooked. The strong tandoori flavours were good and the fish was very fresh – so fresh in fact I probably would have preferred it simply steamed to truly appreciate the natural flavours. Nevertheless a fantastic start and such perfectly cooked fish.

Starter #2: Tandoori Lamb Chops

I know I know… a bit boring for having 2 tandoori dishes, but I could not resist ordering the lamb chops after having such a nauseating experience from a takeaway that I bought recently from a different place. The dish needed to redeem itself after that experience, and this almost did the trick! The lamb was well marinated in its Tandoori spices and although a tad overcooked, this was forgiven thanks to the juicy lamb meat and fat. Not a bad attempt.

Main #1: Lamb Anawaka

This dish had supposedly won some kind of Asia award; marinated meat cooked with spices and vegetables. It was rather disappointed as it just lacked flavour. To me it just tasted like lamb stir-fried with onions and peppers. The spices were very subtle if present at all and after having a starter packing such strong tastes, this tasted like plain boiled rice in comparison. The only plus point would be that the lamb was cooked adequately.

Main #2: Lamb Tikka Jalfrezi

My wife always orders Jalfrezi because of its spicyness and rich curry textures. This attempt was not bad, but again lacked that ‘in your face’ punch that we’ve experienced elsewhere in the past. They did put in a few chillis in our dish which gave some needed kick. The quality of the lamb meat was also better than average. However I cannot forgive the lack of power that usually makes this dish so tasty. It all felt rather subdued…. a bit like driving a BMW 1 series against a mighty M3…. you’re not getting the full potential.

Side #1: Aubergine Bhaji

This was quite nice actually. Nicely braised chunks of aubergine in a zingy tomato based sauce – it’s a frequent order when we go to Indian restaurants but usually disappointing when too oily. This was fine in that regard.

Side #2: Peshwari Naan

The wife’s reason for coming for Indian. She absolutely loves this naan bread fused with coconut flavours and even I must agree it’s delicious when combined with curry sauce. This one wasn’t the best we’d ever had, but it certainly satisfied her craving for that night. I only took a mouthful; texture was nice and soft, and the coconut flavour wasn’t overpowering.

Side #3: Special Fried Rice

Now now I don’t think the Indians can cook fried rice half was well as the chinese, but this was not a bad attempt. I usually order fried rice to go with my curry because of its ‘fried’ (or ‘wok heat’) flavour. I enjoyed it but still found it a bit on the greasy side.

The total bill price was around the £40 mark, so far more expensive than the budget Bay of Bengal that we are used to going. Ok so I wasn’t totally bowled over by the food standards here and therefore gives me no reason to return. However I can’t say it was a bad experience and would definitely consider returning perhaps for the cheaper takeaway menu. Given the fact that the Bay of Bengal would have cost me half the price for food not that inferior I would probably opt for that next time I decide to go for a budget curry.


Cardamom Restaurant
442c Cowbridge Road East
Victoria Park

Tel: 02920 233506

Opening Times:
Mon – Thurs 12pm – 2:30pm & 6pm – 11:30pm
Fri 6pm – 12am
Sat – 12pm – 2:30pm & 6pm – 12am
Sun 12pm – 2:30pm & 6pm – 11:30pm


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