When I made aliya five years ago, there were a lot of things that I thought I would miss about the UK. Indian food was not one of them.
However, as the years have passed, my cravings for the UK’s unofficial national cuisine have increased, and I’ve found myself longing for a traditional Indian restaurant such as those found on nearly every High Street in England.
Upon a recent visit to Indira in central Tel Aviv, I finally found a restaurant able to satisfy my craving for good quality Indian food in a traditional setting.
Indira has been open for more than 20 years and was one of the first Indian restaurants in Tel Aviv.
The fact that it has managed to stay open for so long in the everchanging and slightly fickle Tel Aviv restaurant scene is impressive.
Indira isn’t the place to go if you are looking for a spacious, modern restaurant. With only a handful of tables inside and even fewer outside, the restaurant is intimate to say the least. I had to breathe in as a took my seat at a table that was so close to the one next to it, that there was barely room for my chair. That slight discomfort didn’t bother me, however, because it’s all part of the charm.
My dining companion and I went to Indira to check out the lunch deal on offer, which is now available on Fridays from noon to 5 p.m. For just NIS 69, the deal includes naan bread, a side salad, soup, a main dish with rice and a dessert. The offer is exceptionally good value when taking into account that the average price for a main dish runs from NIS 44 to NIS 77.
We started our meal with lentil soup, a dish that is very popular in India. The soup was lukewarm, something that is usually a turnoff when it comes to soup.
However, in this instance it didn’t really matter because the rich taste shone through; and with the hot weather outside, the last thing we needed was piping hot soup.
One of the things that I miss most about Indian restaurants is the fresh naan bread, especially if it includes some extra toppings.
So when the hot garlic naan arrived at the table with a selection of tasty dips, it didn’t take long before we devoured what was offered and asked our attentive waiter to bring us some more.
As part of the extensive menu, there are a number of vegetarian options for the main course, so we decided to try one of them. From a long list, the waiter recommended the Alu-Gobi, which consisted of cauliflower, cubes of potato, ginger, herbs and spices. Without being too overpowering, the ginger added something extra to an already flavorful dish.
Often hailed as Britain’s favorite dish, Chicken Tikka Masala is a personal favorite. While not quite as good as some of the offerings I’ve been lucky enough to taste in the UK, the version at Indira hit the spot perfectly. The strips of grilled and smoked chicken were cooked beautifully, and the traditional tomato and herb sauce was well above average.
Next, we tried a dish that I was less familiar with. The cubed chicken fillet with cream and coconut milk mixed with dried fruits and madras curry, known as Chicken Goa, was delicious.
We enjoyed our main dishes with a generous serving of basmati rice, which served as a great tool for soaking up all the tasty sauces.
Indian food can be quite heavy, so ice cream for dessert was a perfect option. With more of a sorbet consistency, the mango, pistachio and chai flavors were all very refreshing and didn’t make us feel too full.
It’s safe to say that Indira satisfied my craving for good Indian food, but that’s not the only reason I enjoyed the visit.
There was also something about the welcoming atmosphere and friendly, knowledgeable waiters that reminded me of the local Indian restaurants in the UK. The next time I want a taste of the UK, I’ll make sure to stop by Indira on a Friday afternoon to take advantage of the excellent food, welcoming atmosphere and great value for money.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
4 Shaul Hamelech, Tel Aviv
Sunday – Saturday noon to midnight
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