It was a cold, dark, Thursday evening in the middle of January. The forecast was for it to get colder with possibly a heavy snowfall. The worst of the winter was yet to come. So, we decided it was time for a spicy evening out to banish the winter blues. We headed to Codnor Market Place and the conveniently situated Jeera restaurant for some authentic Bangladeshi cuisine.
As you peek through the window on a dark January evening the stylish interior of the restaurant is a vibrant, colourful oasis that tempts you in. Once inside, the smart décor becomes more evident but not overwhelming. It has been designed to enhance the dining experience.
We were greeted in the bar area by Mushy who showed us to our table. I ordered a dry white wine for Susan and a pint of Cobra beer for myself. Cobra Beer is an Indian beer brand manufactured in the United Kingdom. The beer was founded in 1989 by Karan Bilimoria, and Arjun Reddy who thought a smoother, less gassy lager, would appeal to both ale drinkers and lager drinkers alike. I find this lager beer has the effect of cleansing the palette allowing you to savour the different spices in each dish.
We started with the customary selection of chutneys: a hot and sharp lime, a smooth, slightly sweet mango and a chunky tomato, onion and mint and nibbled on brittle poppadoms. All the dishes at Jeera are presented and served on their own, logo emblazoned, white porcelain.
For my starter I chose the vegetable pakoras; an all-time favorite Indian ‘street food’ snack. Mildly spiced, finely chopped vegetables along with onions and herbs, coated with a chickpea batter, deep-fried and served with 2 sauces; one of spiced mint and the other was a very mild yoghurt sauce.
Susan selected the tandoori lamb chops. A quartet of medium tandoori spiced, marinated lamb chops that were cooked in the tandoor. This gave them a slight barbeque flavour. They were then finished in a pan of caramelised onions. The onions and the tandoori spices combining to create a delicious dressing for the tender chops. This and the pakoras were served with a fresh salad and a twist of lemon.
Mushy chatted with us and helped with our choice of mains. Susan selected the Imli Sil Sila; a simple but elegant curry with a mixture of meats, including chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, lamb mince meat and the ever versatile paneer cheese. These were blended together in a mildly spiced tamarind sauce which gave the dish a refreshing citrus note. The name Imli is the Hindi-Urdu word for tamarind. She chose a naan rather than rice to accompany the dish. There are many naan variations on offer and Susan chose the cheese and garlic. If you don’t see a naan you like the chefs at Jeera will gladly put one together with your own choice of flavours.
I chose a lamb dish; the Bengal Ghost. Tender pieces of lamb had been marinated in a tomato base sauce and then cooked with onions, green peppers and some additional green chillies to give the dish a tangy twist. The prominent tomato sauce has a cooling effect on the chilli; taking away some of the heat but retaining the chilli’s bitter/sweet flavour.
Mushy recommended that I avoid the various Pilau rices with many additions: mushrooms, mixed vegetables and even paneer cheese, but go for the plain boiled rice so as not to mask the flavours of the other dishes. He was right.
Aloo gobi is the most common and basic vegetable curry you will find anywhere in India and you can taste the reason why. We like it too and so ordered it as a side dish. Popularity has its down side; every restaurant will have its own recipe. The Jeera version was excellent; the tomato based sauce was smooth and not too spicy, the cauliflower was cooked but still firm and the potatoes fluffy but holding together.
To finish the evening we shared a dish of Kulfi, traditional Indian ice cream made with sweetened, concentrated milk, rose water and pistachio. Ours had the addition of toasted, flaked almonds and was the perfect end to a spicy meal.