The Spice Oven

Sector: Caversham, just north of the Thames
Stardate: Thursday 10 October 2002
Event: Ewan's birthday
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Ensign O'Connor had recently passed a milestone birthday (lets just call it a round number between 29 and 31), and, on a tip-off from Sapiano's mate, a large taskforce of our best crewmen boldly ventured to the other side of the Reading Quadrant in search of curry. The omens were good: how many other curry houses have their own website?

AMBIANCE Tasteful

Decor: Tasteful - lots of plants and wood panelling. Very spacious dining area, but low ceilings ensured it still felt cosy.
Music: For years we nursed the hope that the Gulab would find their classic "Best of Gulab 2" CD that used to be played every single time we visited (compare the first and second Gulab reviews), but now we know where it went: IT WAS STOLEN BY THE SPICE OVEN!!! Sounded pretty similar anyway. Perhaps a bit too quiet though.

SERVICE Slow

Time to get served: No time at all to get food because we all had the self-service buffet option, but the drinks took ages.

STARTERS Outstanding

Popadums and chutneys: Ordinary popadums, but with a mouth-watering array of dips and starters to tuck into as part of the buffet - I counted at least ten.
Lime pickle: Potent - the classic lime pickle taste "Nice and zesty" (Sapiano); "Just enough kick" (Lawrence).
Onion bagees: Not had, but the delicious Kukuri Fish and excellent Shammi Kebabs (lamb) were an even better alternative.

MAIN COURSES AND DESERTS Good

It was our good fortune that our mission coincided with the Spice Oven Curry Festival, so for 15.xx a head (with every tenth head free) we were entitled to a voluminous all-you-can-eat buffet, including starter, main course, desert and half a pint of Fosters! None of us could resist. There were three vegetable dishes and three or four meat dishes - of variable potency but all nice. The ones I can remember were:

Hyderabadi Mug: Chicken cooked in hot sauce - excellent.
Matar Mushroom Curry: Tasty.
Mixed vegetable Awini: "Frighteningly hot" (Charlton); "Evil" (Hogan).

MISCELLANEOUS
Buffet option Egg-fried rice Sweet Lassi Liqueur coffees Hot towels Sweets with bill

Key: Yes No Too drunk to remember

FINAL VERDICT

Outside a funiture store, inside a paradise of spicy celestial delights. It is my experience that buffet options are usually rather a disappointment in comparison to proper main courses, but in this case the gorged and groaning stomachs that squeezed out of the door at the end of the evening were nothing if not satisfied. The starters were particularly good, and our one complaint would be with the slow service. Although clearly a candidate, I am reluctant to award a full complement of 5 cobras because none of us had an ordinary main dish, but my taste buds are tingling in anticipation of the next visit when this oversight can be rectified. The Spice Oven is therefore awarded a well-deserved 4 Cobras: