Close but no Tarka
Central Indian Restaurant
Friday 13 September
Customer Care 6.8
Tucked away down an alleyway in Sheung Wan in a commercial building, Central Indian Restaurant is a cosy, colourful, unassuming front room of a curryhouse, in stark contrast to the many other HK Island eateries that fight for punters with low-level lighting and teak-carved doorfronts. Its narrow dining space has charm and character, and - although the OCC packed out most of the restaurant with near 100% member attendance - the other tables were also busy with fellow curry enthusiasts looking for authentic Indian cuisine. The restaurant accommodates around 30 diners in total, and the staff were attentive enough to ensure no one was waiting long for drinks or food right from the start. So far, so good.
Folded poppadoms arrived, crispy with a hint of peppery spice, along with thin but flavoursome tamarind and raita sauce. The OCC agenda was fully packed - with two visiting overseas members from Singapore in attendance - but starters and beers took priority, all quickly snaffled down and then replenished by the CIR staff. Pepe Lopez watched the stock of Kingfishers deplete like a rabid Bill Oddie, blissfully unaware that they also offered Carlsberg. Sleighman and Kam tucked into a Chilean Red, which was as reasonably priced as current staycation packages in our dear city. As the meet finally got underway (hampered by the late arrival of Eyebrows, who insists on needing a taxi for any journey over 40 yards), samosa chaat arrived - saucier than usual, but its good heat and spice foreshadowing what was to become a meet brimming with political tension and unrest.
For the mains, our overseas members had ordered rogan josh, a fish curry, chicken jalfrezi, all complemented by aloo gobki, tarka dal and well-stocked bread baskets. All good value and all good portions - but herein lies the rub with the Central Indian Restaurant - it was all very pleasant and friendly and decent - the beer supply never did run out - but nothing overtly stood out to capture the OCC’s collective imagination. Some members commented that many of the curry sauces tasted similar - the restaurant boasts of their staff being ‘trained on the methodology of different spices’, but this didn’t materialise. The dal - often a favourite with the OCC - was barely touched on most tables. Highlights instead were provided by a savage Punishers’ report - a veritable Knight of the Long Chilis (though chili fine spice level was clearly not too high, with no mango lassis ordered) - an outrageous gamble from TJPVIII on the outcome of Brexit and drawn-out political maneuverings from our Chairman’s alter-ego, Larry Kam.
The Central Indian Restaurant did not receive the coveted ‘OCC Recommended’ status, but came so close - customer service and care was strong, but it unfortunately didn’t deliver on quality for our discerning expert members. Whether it was this disappointment that triggered the OCC biggest constitutional crisis in over a decade is hard to tell, but either way Larry Kam has some bridges to build at the October meet.