AFTER scooping a clutch of best restaurant awards towards the end of last year, City Spice was firmly on my radar for a visit to see what all the fuss was about.
The renowned Indian dubbed 'The King of Brick Lane' picked up the top gong at the Curry Life awards in October and followed this with a win at the prestigious Bangladesh Caterers Association Awards. The awards, hosted at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel, are considered to be the 'Oscars' of the curry house awards as they are decided by a vote from the 12,000 member restaurants of the Bangladesh Caterers Association.
The restaurant takes inspiration from the food of the North Indian Murghal Empire, but fuses it with a Bangladeshi twist.
I chose a busy night December when the East End was in full pre-Christmas throng to pop in and take a look. The restaurant was very busy but it did not take them long to seat us and for drinks to arrive. We were impressed by the extensive menu, which features original homemade recipes, Bengali specialities such as sweet water fish and dishes flavoured by the seeds of Bangladeshi runner beans.
Our starters of poppadoms spicy and plain came with a range of relishes including a tangy cooling raitha and robust coconut accompaniment, which made for a nice textural change.
Happy to steer away from the usual, I opted for the Duck Tikka (£4.95) - which is something I've not tried before and I was pleasantly surprised to find the dense meat elevated by a mild blend of spices.
My vegetarian companion opted for the Shatkora Dall (£3.95) - lentils cooked with aromatic fruit, which was really warming and bursting with flavour and another unique dish the Sev Puree (£3.75) - crisp and piquant deep fried spring rolls stuffed with mixed vegetables and fresh coriander.
For my main course I gravitated towards the Award Winning Dishes section where I sampled the Bengali style Sylheti Lamb Shank (£14.95) - slow roasted with herbs, spices and saffron. The meat was heavenly, deeply aromatic and tender, cascading off the bone with just the nudge of my fork.
My friend also tried one of the specials Chingri Marasi (£11.95) - king prawns cooked with baked tomatoes and peppers flavoured with fresh ginger and garlic, which she declared really brought out the flavour of the seafood and was one of the best prawn curry dishes she has had.
This family run business is headed up by owner Abdul Ahad and son Abdul Muhaimen who are proud with this latest win. Abdul says: "Nothing beats getting praise from your customers, but to get the recognition of your peers is a great honour.
"There is a lot of competition on Brick Lane alone, so to stand out is a great challenge and one we work very hard to meet. We are constantly reinventing our recipes to keep them fresh, whilst also ensuring that we do the basics brilliantly. Family and food are the two most important things in the world, so we're very grateful that the love we put into our food and business has been rewarded."
For quality of service coupled with delicious and inventive food, it's easy to see why City Spice is indeed the king.