Why would I ever eat Indian food thats not home cooked? Thats the question I always ask myself when dinner plans turn Indian. Halal Gems were invited to Coriander in Hatch End earlier this year, and since its not far from home, I made an exception and wondered if the chef could rise to the challenge of making me feel like I had tried something new.

One thing to note about this restaurant visit: it was a feast! There were four of us, and we still all left with leftovers in boxes. First up were starters. The menu is quite extensive, so even though we had six starters, we still hadn’t tried half of the starters on the menu.

We tried the Garlic Mushrooms, Tandoori Lamb Chops, Shingara (pastry filled with spiced veg), a Chicken Roll, Fish Tikka and Chilli Paneer. On reflection we should really have known we were ordering too much. Leftovers make great breakfast though, so no need to worry about food waste. The Tandoori Lamb Chops and Fish Tikka absolutely shone in this starter selection. The chops were tender and juicy, with a flavour that rocked our tastebuds. Fish Tikka doesn’t sound like it could be the star of a starter show, but this unassuming dish was absolutely delectable. One of our team went so far as to say that the next time she came to Coriander, she’d order with two portions of Fish Tikka and that would be her done for dinner.

Although these two dishes were the stars, the starter show was all brilliantly flavourful and wonderfully presented. Highlights were the paratha like roll that made up the Chicken Roll, the Chilli with the Paneer which still allowed the flavour of paneer to come through without drowning it in spice and the Shingara, which proves you can have a vegetarian samosa thats delicious. Portions were quite large, so we really shouldn’t have ordered so much for mains, but heres how it went down:

First up on the menu was Lamb Shank Xacuti. I wanted to try this partly because of the name, which sounds interesting and different (I wanted to pronounce it wrong for the waiter to correct me), and partly because slow cooked lamb shank always sounds like a good choice. The dish did not disappoint! Eaten alongside a raita garnished with pomegranate. Yogurt and pomegranate – a genius combination. We had no Lamb Shank Xacuti and no yogurt left at the end of the meal, and that speaks volumes.

The King Prawn Tikka Masala was delicious, with a fantastic sauce that really complemented the flavour and texture of the prawn. The Hariyali Chicken was a little unremarkable, and the Spicy Mixed Vegetable dish was a little too spicy for me, although heat lovers out there will appreciate it. Our party of four finished the meal completely satisfied and in awe of how Indian food could be cooked so differently to anything we had tried before.

As usual, we had no more room for dessert, but miraculously ate some anyway.

The thing about Gajar Halwa is that it is often very sweet, which I don’t really like. I always feel like a dish propped up by sugar isn’t creative enough, and isn’t good for you. The carrot sweet at Coriander, however, was delicious. I’m sure it contains its far share of sugar, but the Gajar Halwa with Ice Cream here was absolutely delicious. It was rich enough to require only a couple of bites, and it made a fitting end to a surprisingly delicious experience of Indian dining.

One thing to watch out for though – parking is a little complicated outside since its a ‘Controlled Zone’, which means that even if there are no signs visible you can’t park there, even after 6.30pm. Parking ticket paid, lesson learned.

About Gem Hunter Zohra

zohra gh pic

Zohra runs Halal Gems, the curated guide to halal dining. Their interactive magazine has reached the Top 10 on Apple’s App Store in 18 countries. She produces and presents her own TV show in the UK, The Curious Foodie , on BMTV (Sky Channel 845).

Zohra’s passion is transparency in the food chain, and she encourages people to ask ‘Whats in my food?’. Her background is in strategy and innovation, across the telecoms, media, technology, entertainment and non profit sectors.

Zohra holds an MBA from Cambridge University, and lives in London, England.

Twitter: @zkhaku