THREE things strike you about the Koconut Grove in Chester.
The first is the decor, which is smart and refined compared to your flock-wallpapered average Indian restaurant.
The stylish surroundings bring about the second big pleasant surprise – and that’s the prices. The Grove hasn’t used the swish surroundings as an excuse to jack the prices up to the top end of the market. All the starters are under £5 and the mains are all less than £10, except the marinated shallow fried red snapper cooked in coconut milk, raw mango and spices (£10.50).
And thirdly, and most importantly of all, is the quality of the food, which is first rate.
Quite how we’ve managed to avoid this gem in our midst is beyond me. Perhaps it’s because we have several Indians diners nearby which are good – but they’re championship curry quality when it’s premiership fare at the Grove.
There’s so much to like – including the handy free rooftop parking beside the restaurant. That’s probably a fiver off the bill before you start, making our £8.95 a head Sunday lunchtime two-course buffet an even bigger bargain.
Shown to our comfy seats and kitted out with pukka cotton napkins, we set about the self-serve menu.
Popadoms and the mango and lime chutney tell you a lot about an Indian diner. These popadoms were dry and crisp, exactly as they should be, and the condiments had substance rather than mush. There were lots of other relishes too, all fresh and tasty, including a chickpea salad which my wife enjoyed. I preferred the lamb sheek kebab and we both enjoyed the tasty and fresh samosas.
The choice of mains, of which you can pick and choose in any variation and quantity, were equally impressive. I particularly liked the lamb with a rich but spicy mild kick whereas my wife loved the salmon in a korma sauce. We both liked the chicken option, the vegetable curry and paneer in a rich cashew and spinach sauce.
The pilau rice and the ordinary rice were again cooked to fluffy perfection, along with nan bread and pancake-style dosa.
Needless to say, after several visits to the hot buffet, I waved the white flag and declared myself beyond another mouthful. But my wife had kept herself in check and announced she had room for a dessert, all under £3.95. She opted for the carrot halwa, a traditional dish made of grated carrot and cashews and raisins and gooey with a syruppy honey. It came with super creamy vanilla icecream and was ‘divine’.
I took away a rather un-Indian chocolate fudge cake with icecream for later consumption. Yum!
The service was impeccable with friendly and efficient staff eager to please.
The menu boasts about the authenticity of the Kerala-style South Indian cuisine – and jolly good it is too!
I suspect the K in Kokonut Grove comes from the K in Karala but coconut features in a lot of the dishes so it is apt.
I must add that there is an even better bargain on Saturday with a two-course lunch for £7.95 – with free parking, don’t forget. If you’re on a shopping expedition to Chester, you’ll be hard pressed to find a tastier pitstop.
I’m looking forward to visiting again to go a la carte. The king prawn pepper fry (£4.95) and the above mentioned red snapper caught my eye for next time. And there will be a next time...