Restaurant review: River SpiceBy Caroline Cook
May 24, 2012
On a sunny day, when it looks as though winter might finally be thawing out, River Spice is undoubtedly one of the best-placed restaurants in town.
Looking out over the river in Caversham, the restaurant’s big windows offer diners a view of expensive boats serenely gliding up the Thames, a bit like a nice side dish to the main event.
With the weather still fluctuating between glorious sunshine and icy chills, we were lucky to go along on a warm evening when River Spice was at its best.
Stepping into the airy reception, my guest and I enjoyed a couple of drinks before meeting owner Mohammed who showed us to our table.
While we ummed and ahhed over the menu, our waiter brought us some papadoms (70p each) and the selection of dips (70p per person) you usually find as an accompaniment in curry houses.
I usually load up on the mango chutney and onion salad, but it was a mixed pickle and tamarind sauce which stood out at River Spice.
Although we were going to skip a starter for fear of over-indulging before our mains, Mohammed brought us a chicken nazakat (£4.50) to try.
The chicken was grilled in the tandoori oven and delicately spiced, which meant you could still taste the meat along with the garlic and nutmeg. And being bitesized, it was just enough to whet our appetites before the mains arrived.
Being a bit of a spice wimp, I asked our waiter – who was lovely – for a recommendation that was still creamy, but with a bit more kick.
He suggested a chicken paharia (£8.95) which is strips of chicken cooked with broccoli, fresh beans, coconut milk and aromatic ground spices, and it was delicious.
The sauce was rich and, although not as creamy as my usual passanda or korma, tasted fresh and spicy.
For my guest, who is a solid tikka fan, our waiter suggested a chicken tamarind (£7.95) which is diced, de-boned and braised chicken with sliced onions, garlic and unground garam massala. The sauce was tangy and almost sweet and the dish was our favourite of the two.
We mopped up the sauces with a garlic naan (£2.60) which was a thin, almost pizza-like, dough with plenty of buttery ground garlic on top, and pilau rice (£2.75).
Being an attentive host, Mohammed also brought us over a platter of seabass to try which was pan-fried and lightly spiced. My guest liked it so much she took one of the fish home as we were both full to the brim with our curries.
The thing that really struck us with both the fish and the chicken was the blend of spices, which were much tastier than our usual, admittedly simple, korma and tikka dishes.
But that’s not to say the traditional favourites aren’t on the menu, as curry fans can pick up a butter chicken (£7.95) as well as more extravagant dishes such as tandoori monkfish massala (£13.95) or a duck sugonda (£7.95).
Stepping off our usual menu was definitely a good move and Mohammed and his team were fantastic guides.
When the sun begins to come out properly, or even if it doesn’t, River Spice is an ideal spot on the river to watch the boats and tuck in to some fantastic food.
- Telephone: 0118 950 3355
- Website: www.riverspicerestaurant.com
- Address: River Spice