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Cardamom, Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff

May 3, 2011

Our first Groupon experience, we timed this for the first day back in work after two back-to-back four-day bank holiday weekends. It’s just after half a year since we got married, and we’re exactly a third of the way through this different-dinner-challenge, and all of these things seemed like a good reason to treat ourselves to a meal out.

We’ve always sworn that the best Indian restaurant in Cardiff is the Balti Cuisine on Woodville Road, which we’ve been going to since we lived on that road in our first flat together in my final year of university and H’s first year in work. We’ve tried others, and nothing’s ever been quite up to that standard. Tonight we’ve guiltily admitted that we’ll be switching allegiance. To the Cardamom.

Just next to Victoria Park, one-time home of Billy the seal

The service is quick, friendly and helpful. A couple arriving as we were paying asked their waiter to recommend a creamy curry with some kick to it, and he spent some time talking through the options on the menu that might suit their taste.

It feels like a restaurant, rather than a curry house. Although there is sitar music playing, the decor is simple and bright, the serving dishes are ceramic rather than metal and the wine list stretches to a few pages and includes a light and slightly spicy shiraz rosé.

We had poppadoms with a chutney tray to start, in accordance with the law of ordering curry. The lime pickle was terrific, and we decimated the onion salad. In a break from our usual tradition (solely, admittedly, because it was included in the Groupon) we had starters: deliciously light vegetable pakoras and a fabulously spicy chicken tandoori with just enough char to really emphasise the flavours of the tandoor oven. Even the salad was well-prepared; fresh, tasty and well-presented, as opposed to a few sorry leaves of lettuce added as a side garnish to balance the appearance of the plate.

For the main I ordered my favourite dish, and the one by which I judge all Indian restaurants: lamb rogan josh. H deliberated for a while, before deciding to have the chicken tikka saag. We had two pilau rice as sides: you don’t need to mess with rice.

The pilau rice was perfect in its fluffy simplicity. The lamb was meltingly tender, and the rogan josh sauce was simply delightful, the delicate spices infusing the sunniness of the tomatoes for a full flavour without the heaviness of large helpings of ghee or stewed cooking tomatoes. The chicken saag combined the spice of the tikka with the more earthy flavour of a saag aloo, with a generous helping of wilted spinach adding colour and depth. It’s not a dish we’ve seen anywhere else, and it was definitely one to order again.

We cleared our plates,  signed the visitor’s book, and vowed to return again. Even without a Groupon deal, this is definitely worth a re-visit.

Word of warning: the menu on the website must be slightly out-of-date, as the prices have gone up. They’re still eminently reasonable, and it’s easy to see how Cardamom has won its accolades.

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