King of Curry – Ali – he is the greatest!
I used to think everyone loved indian food. But as my number of friendship groups has grown, there’s always one person who ‘doesn’t fancy a curry.’ That person is not me. Ask Mr Muddy. Given the choice of the offerings in our house for a takeaway, namely – Indian, Chinese, Chippy, Turkish or Caribbean – (I’d like to have Thai thrown in the mix, but for some reason, there isn’t one in close enough for just a last minute supper choice), I’ll inevitably plump for Indian. It’s super tasty and doesn’t make me nauseous after I’ve eaten it, which for some reason Chinese (MSG) and chippy (fat) do. Also, it can be extremely healthy, although it can also be the opposite, but if you stick to the less saucy offerings and ditch the bread and rice for vegi sides, winner (I’m not saying I do that all the time, but it’s a good option if you do want to be good).
Having been the first in the UK market for exotic, non-European cuisines, the Indian restaurant has certainly transformed over the decades. Most of us remember the traditional flock wallpapered image of the 1980’s, with its long menu of mutated dishes, modified to cater for our conservative palates. So Anglicised is Indian food that the essentially made up dish of chicken tikka masala has been described as our national dish and an entire style of cooking the Balti (food) actually originated in Birmingham rather than on the subcontinent (I still like both of these dishes, as well as the ‘real’ Indian food I’ve had over the years. I’m too greedy to be a proper food snob).
Ali’s is our go-to-Indian as it’s in the town we live in, but there’s soooo much more to it than that (and look, no flock wallpaper in sight). The restaurant is a hidden gem on the side streets of Wellingborough (near a few other gems, namely Rockabilly Rose the Florist, Jamrock and Regal Cars to drive you home when you’ve had too many rum punches). All customers are treated to warm welcomes here, most of them are already known to Ansar Ali and his team, as a lot of them are regulars, and if they’re not, they probably will be.
Me, Mr Muddy and our friends from 15 Collingwood went on a cold January night (my Birthday in fact), and plumped for our usual onion bhaji and poppadom combo (with some Indian fish cakes thrown in). Poppadoms and chutneys are always good here, and there’s usually six dips/onion thingys to choose from, so something for everyone (even a sweet chili one pops up now and again).
It’s a very creative menu, but with all your faves too, and if given notice, Ali and the team will create something extra special for you (very homemade and authentic). They’re always trying out new recipes and experimenting with Bangledeshi cuisine, and sometimes you’ll find an extra starter plonked in front of you ‘just something new to try.’
Although it says on the blurb that the dishes are rustic and traditional, as one would expect to find travelling the Indian sub continent region, there is some artistic flair that is seen more and more in modern Indian restaurants (eateries like Cinnamon Club and Dishoom in London, upping the game for Indian restaurants all over the UK).
I was eating as a pescetarian in January, and 15 Collingwood and his partner are both pesci’s too, so we had a fish extravaganza, with chicken tikka thrown in for Mr Muddy (Indian food lends itself very well to a vegi diet, should you be that way inclined). All the dishes pictured below are fish and were all super tasty, seasoned really well with subtle spices. There was even an indian style chip shop fish and a delicious tikka salmon.
My perennial favourite, king prawn dhansak, was still top of the shop for me. Much stronger flavours in a thick lentil sauce, sweet, sour and hot; it went down very well with the wine ; ) Mr Muddy said the chicken tikka was delicious, and it certainly looked the part!
Of course it’s not a proper curry unless you can mop it all up with a naan (garlic, plain or peshwari, and I like ’em all)!
It’s always a good laugh at Ali’s, whether it’s a romantic date for two, or a large group after the pub. Clientele is very diverse, Mini Mudlet chose to have her 8th Birthday there and they catered for my 30th (ahem, ok, 40th at home). The staff are never flustered by large groups and can easily turn the restaurant into a party with some bangin’ house bangra (there’s always a complimentary drink after the meal, and for some reason, tradition dictates that mine is a sambuca, even if it’s a meal on Monday, don’t judge ; ) There’s a takeaway service too, although I prefer the food in the restaurant; I don’t know if that’s just because I don’t have to do the washing up, but that seems to be my preference. If you’re eyes are bigger than your belly (which invariably happens with Indian food), Ali and the team will pack it up happily.
There isn’t a lot to complain about with Ali’s. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s good, but it’s never any less than good so you know you’re going to get a very decent meal in friendly surroundings. If I was to be really picky, the lamb chops can be on the small side, and they just happen to be Mini Muddy’s favourite so none of us get a look in, but other than that, I’d heartily recommend Ali’s for absolutely any occasion (unless you don’t like Indian; then I’m not even sure we should be friends).
Good for: anyone looking for buzz, whether you want just a drink and at the bar and a takeaway, dinner with a girlfriend, a large table for a big family gathering or a date night dinner in the quieter area at the back. Very kid-friendly too.
Not for: people who don’t like spicy food, and that’s it really (and even then Ali would happily fry you up an omelette). It’s the type of place that suits most occasions.
££: reasonable. Mains around £8, starters around the £5 mark and under. Carafes of wine are pretty reasonable at £11, and pints of Kingfisher £4.
Curry Fact File
- The word “curry” isn’t actually used very often in India. Rather, there is a huge diversity of curry dishes, each with their own regional characteristics.
- One in seven curries sold in the UK is a chicken tikka masala, making it the UK’s most popular Indian dish. It usually features chunks of chicken marinated in spices, with a sweet, rich sauce.
- The first Indian restaurant is said to have opened in Britain in London in 1809 – there are now more than 9000 Indian restaurants and curry houses across the UK!
- There are more Indian restaurants in London than there are in Mumbai.