27th February 2023
Each week our in-house food writer Bibi Roy reviews a TN partner to see what members can expect when they visit. This time she heads to Indi18 on Avebury Avenue in Tonbridge.
Situated on Avery Avenue, this forty-six cover Bangladeshi restaurant is famously popular with Tonbridge locals, so much so they have queues outside and in most evenings. Nominated in the Asian Curry Awards 2022 and rated No1 best TripAdvisor Indian restaurant in Kent, they have been open since November 2021, serving the community with their colourful cuisine.
I am greeted by the delightful Hassan who owns the establishment with his partner Sumon. The space comes alive at night with its vibrant turquoise lighting and logo adorned bar, behind which the team stand ready to take orders, make drinks and give out deliveries. They are open lunchtimes for deliveries only, however if regulars ring the day before they are only too happy to open for dining in.
Hassan checks my dietary requirements and offers to bring a selection of starters. I note they have three good Indian beers and opt for Kingfisher, realising I haven’t had it since the 90’s. The bottle size has changed substantially since then and I am not sure if I will finish it. That said, it’s the perfect match for this menu, a five page one but easy to navigate.
Signature appetizers catch my eye, then there’s the selection from the tandoor. Next Chef’s recommendations, Biryani and Balti dishes, classic Indian and speciality plates. Vegetable sides, rice, naan, sundries like “papadum”, served with a huge selection of onion, mango, tamarind chutneys, and pickled olives, finishing with English dishes, there’s always one! I am pleased to see Calcuttan Fish Rashuni, a famous dish from my hometown and consider trying it. I’ll take Hassan’s advice. Whilst perusing Reece tells me they cater for parties and functions and turn tables twice in the evening. I am not surprised, it’s 6.30pm and the place is full to the brim.
Adraki lamb and Sula salmon arrive with a selection of chutneys, five to be precise, all made in house. The baby lamb chops are marinated overnight and are bursting with cumin, fennel and ginger. I love the intense flavour and the accompanying green mango and tamarind sauces are excellent. The salmon is marinated in honey and dill leaves, glazed and cooked in the clay oven. Both dishes are served with green leaf and tomato salads, uncommon but perhaps appealing to a European palate. I have to say I was not expecting this level of cooking and am quite impressed so far.
Thankfully I am given some time to absorb my starters as the portion sizes are extremely generous. I sip my Kingfisher and look around the room. It is heaving with happy regulars all being addressed on a first name basis. The team know everyone. Takeaways are being collected non-stop and the staff are constantly perambulating to ensure people have what they need, but are not intrusive.
As I have already indulged in the lamb chops I choose the fish. Bengalis always tend to eat bony varieties and mrigal, also known as white carp is just that. Cooked in a blend of mustard seed, green chilli and curry leaves I already know I am going to enjoy it, take me home to Kolkata. Hassan recommends some steamed white rice, tarka dal, achari baigon, that’s aubergine cooked in pickling spices and me being me I have to order a paratha. We don’t eat naan and I’m not starting now.
The fish arrives, it is completely different to what I am expecting. In Kolkata they serve it with a thinner mustard sauce and no salad, just steamed white rice. The chef and team here are from Bangladesh and so Hassan explains this is their interpretation. It is cooked well, the bones sliding off easily, it’s growing on me. The daal is buttery with lots of green chilli, just as it should be, as is the paratha. I think I chose wrongly with the aubergine as the pickle is tart, but I am wrapping it in the paratha and all is well. Think Kati rolls. As I eat, their mixed grill sizzling platters are being carried to another table and the aroma is sublime. This theatre never gets old wherever I am, from Michelin starred to provincial restaurants, the “Bisto” effect always lingers. Reece collects my plates, I haven’t finished everything as there really is enough for two. Perhaps they have given me more than usual.
They don’t have Indian sweets here apart from Kulfi. I understand why because the clientele would probably find them too sweet and then there would be wastage. This version is pistachio and saffron, topped with roasted almonds and pistachios. Whilst brought in the brand is very good, creamy and with the right texture. Next time I will ask them to bring in some Bangladeshi sweets just for their sister. Well I can try. They also have a choice of ice creams, cheesecake and floater coffees. Why does that last one always make me make me chuckle, grow up Bibi!
What a lovely ending to a very pleasant meal. Who knew Tonbridge had a gem like Indi18, cheekily tucked away from the high street. As I leave more people are congregating at the entrance, eager to try what is rapidly becoming the talk of the town.
Thank you Hassan and Sumon for a wonderful evening. Wishing you every success in 2023. Judging by the queues I don’t think you need any help. Bravo!
All opinions are my own. Review exclusive to the TN card.
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