London is an amazing place for halal food lovers, yet there are times when it can be an exasperatingly arduous task to find a restaurant that meets everyone’s requirements, especially if it’s a large number of people who are anthropologically as different as they can be.
So what would be an ideal venue that could possibly satisfy everyone’s divergent needs? Well for starters, the setting would need to be of an ample size to accommodate a sizeable number of diners; offer a selection of dishes to meet the needs of the different people in the party; cost would definitely be a factor, and a great bonus would be to have some form of entertainment to keep the children amused while the adults revel in conversation while relishing in food hedonism.
If the above catalogue of requirements is what you are searching for then search no more, as Spice Village Ilford fulfils all of these requisites.
Spice Village Ilford is a buffet restaurant specialising in a selection of authentic Pakistani cuisine, located in, you’ve guessed it, Ilford. The venue is palatial, with segregated dining areas that cover two floors, so a great option if you want to hire a private function room. The cost per adult, not including drinks is £13.99, so not as wallet violating as other buffet establishments.
The other simple yet ingenious idea that we have never encountered from a restaurant that is based in a busy city centre is that they have a bouncy castle situated within the premises so to keep the youngsters enthralled and jubilant. Restaurant gatherings are not the most exciting of places for children, so this is definitely a marvellous concept.
On to the food. It is not possible to review a buffet restaurant with the same standard as an A La Carte restaurant, as cooking for the masses is quite different to cooking for individual diners. Our review will therefore focus on the overall experience, highlighting key positives and areas of possible improvements.
For starters, the choices were plentiful. However, our interest was piqued by the chaana chaat. Chaats are irresistable as it is and this had the perfect balance of coolness from the yoghurt and tanginess from the tamarind sauce, followed by a hint of heat from the chilli.
The selection of traditional Pakistani starters ranged from chicken and lamb kebabs, to chicken drum sticks and tandoori chicken pieces to masala fish bites. The two starters of noteworthy were the masala fish bites and chicken sheesh kebab. The chicken sheesh kebab was authentically flavoured with a strong hint of carom seeds coming through, whilst the masala fish, consisting of bite-size pieces of mild-flavoured white fish fillets, had a fragrant masala coating that was also subtly spicy.
The chicken drumsticks and chicken tandoori pieces, although good, would have benefitted with the tandoori flavour being more prominent, whilst the lamb sheesh kebab did not quite deliver the inherent flavours you associate with Pakistani kebabs. Nonetheless, the selection of starters is ample and whilst the flavours are subtle, this is more of a reflection of appealing to the masses. Younger diners are just as well catered for with a selection of pasta dishes.
The curry dishes available ranged from classic Pakistani cuisines to Spice Village specials. The “Chilli Lamb” was irrefutably the best dish. The lamb was succulent, in most parts, however, the chilli, which there were an abundance of, lifted the heat level so high that it could be a serious contender for the Scoville scale. However, the spicy heat levels are balanced incredibly well so not to diminish the intrinsic flavours.
The “Shahi Chaana Masala” and “Tarka Daal” were also good; creamy, mild yet flavoursome.
The “Kirila Ghoosth” and “Alu Ghoosht” both had the traditional home-cooking taste to it. The lamb pieces were succulent and cooked long enough for the rustic flavours to penetrate. The other dishes however, were somewhat standard.
No Pakistani meal is complete without the ubiquitous biryani. However, not only did you have chicken and meat biryani, there were also pilau and plain rice; a little something for everyone.
Dessert consisted of a range of Pakistani classics, from “Zarda” to “Kheer” to “Halwa”, and not to forget the younger diners, there were “Jelly” and “Fruit Trifle”. If you enjoy traditional Pakistani desserts, then you will not be disappointed.
Buffet restaurants are ideal, especially for large gatherings and also when you are feeling ravenously hungry. Standards and quality of food have seen considerable improvements in recent times, which is great news for all us food connoisseurs.
Spice Village Ilford is one such restaraunt that is attempting to improve the dining experience for buffet enthusiast, as they do offer some great traditional dishes, however, as it is still a buffet restaurant and catering for the masses is no simple feat, some dishes are still standard fare. Nonetheless, Spice Village Ilford does stand out, due to its palatial venue, its innovative entertainment offering for young children and its authentic flavours, with some dishes leaving a lasting impression.
*Disclaimer: We were invited to review the restaurant.