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The Cardamom Club

Last Friday, my friend Judith and I had the very great pleasure of attending a pre-opening night at The Cardamom Club in Derby, situated next to Pentagon Island near to the Cricket Club. It was clear as soon as we entered that this was not just a restaurant. As you walk through the door it is more reminiscent of an exclusive club; everything gleams and glistens, from the stunning water feature at the entrance and all the fixtures and fittings right through to the glasses and cutlery. DO-Cardamom-2-Apr13Ash, the Creative Executive & Manager and Annette, our waitress for the evening, greeted us by the door and it was clear from the outset that their sole aim is to make their customers’ evenings as enjoyable as possible. We ordered a bottle of white wine which arrived with some delicious chocolate and smoked chilli coated strawberries. We were sent four starters to wrap our taste buds around. First arrived two pan fried king scallops with a carom crust, served on a bed of samphire with a mango and chilli marmalade. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the accompanying wonderful flavours didn’t detract from their delicate taste at all. As soon as we’d finished our first bite we both realised we were in for a real treat if the rest of the food was going to be to this standard. Our next dish was a variety of free range chicken tikka pieces; kasundi mustard, curry leaf and green herb and crème fraiche and black pepper, served on a bed of cucumber spaghetti with pomegranate seeds and coriander chutney. Every single chicken piece was cooked to perfection and incredibly juicy. DO-Cardamom-Club-1-Apr13Then arrived a trio of lamb seek kebabs; little rolls of minced lamb, one flavoured with spring onion and chutney, one with prune and black pepper and one with mint, they were all filled with a moist creamy yoghurt based centre, delicious! Our final starter was a vegetarian option; a roasted beetroot samosa with cottage cheese and pepper skewers served with two bhajis, one on a tamarind chutney and one on a coriander chutney. The pastry on the samosa was really crisp and tasty, freshly made on the premises – a samosa will never taste as good again I fear. All our starters were presented as works of art; so beautiful that for a while, all you wanted to do was look at them. Ash explained the ideas behind The Cardamom Club which he is clearly very passionate about, genuinely wanting to run an establishment where the customers’ expectations are always exceeded. This is a venue where you will be able to spend your whole evening if you want to, as the space has been cleverly separated into different sections. Along with the central main bar and restaurant which will serve traditional ‘true’ fine Indian cuisine, there is also a champagne bar geared for entertainment and live music, however it’s far enough away from the main restaurant so as not to disturb anyone wanting a quiet family meal. To the side of the main restaurant there is another room which will provide more of a fusion menu, based on the chef’s selection. There is also a private dining room which can be booked a few weeks in advance for any function; a ‘chef’s table’ with specially prepared menus, hence the need to book. Our main courses were brought to us personally by the Executive Chef, Harrie Haran. DO-Cardamom-Club-4-Apr13We started with a Goan style, gilt head sea bream curry; filleted fish surrounded in a tangy coconut and cocum sauce, with lemon rice and masala fried whitebait pakora. The fish was cooked to perfection and the sauce was delicious, quite pokey which I like, yet beautifully layered without any flavours either outdoing or competing with the other, there is immense skill in this, especially with a curry and we really enjoyed it. The next dish to arrive was a slow roasted Gressingham duck leg, accompanied by spiced lentils and beans, a duck samosa and a roomali (translated as handkerchief) roti which was a type of flatbread. Harrie has an amazing cv, despite it having to be gently cajoled out of him as he is a truly modest character, far more interested in talking about his food than himself. He has been working for 30 years in the industry and his pedigree explains the eclectic dishes and flavours we were lucky enough to enjoy. He grew up in southern India where he trained and worked for 10 years, after this he moved to the United Arab Emirates working in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai for 12 years before moving to London and working at Quilon, the Michelin starred restaurant on Buckingham Gate. DO-Cardamom-Club-3-Apr13Now he is bringing all this knowledge to us where he is providing progressive, experimental but real Indian fusion dining, I feel we are very lucky. Although we were really getting a bit worried about not being able to eat any more (I have a feeling that we were probably just supposed to sample each dish instead of polishing them all off but there was just no way anything that delicious was going back to the kitchen!), Harrie arrived at our table with a dish of bhuna salli gosht; braised Derbyshire texel lamb in caramelised onion, ginger, garlic and tomato sauce with fiery spices, reduced and topped with fried potato shreddies, Judith proclaimed this her favourite dish of the evening and again, the sauce displayed this incredible marriage of flavours without any being lost or detracting from the dish. Harrie explained that he is devoted to using as much local, seasonal produce as he can; he is using a local butcher, there will be regular menu changes and he will not have any processed food in his kitchen, no colours and no preservatives. Everything that can be made in-house will be and anything that is bought in will have been personally sourced or designed by him, including the special kulfi which is being made to his own recipe by a Derby based company. DO-Cardamom-Club-5-Apr13Not content with using mass produced, bulk bought spices either, everything used will be stone ground to order which of course means always fresh with no loss of flavour. It is a refreshing attitude and one that maybe explains why Harrie’s food just tastes so very good. Our next dish was another vegetarian option, a Portobello mushroom filled with kadai paneer served with okra tempered with white sesame seeds, cumin pilau and a beetroot raitha. Although I am not a vegetarian, I was for a long time and remember always being bored with the vegetarian options on a menu, I still look at them now and am rarely enthused so it is wonderful to find somewhere, where you can be assured of not only a choice but also the opportunity to experience something new, despite not eating meat. Finally two delicate little swans arrived, crafted from choux pastry, filled with a light mango soufflé, swimming on a warm pool of white chocolate cream, very beautiful, not too sweet and just perfect to round off the meal. The Cardamom Club is opening on the 28th March, I can’t recommend it highly enough – we will certainly be going back for seconds, maybe even thirds…



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