My first visit to Purple Poppadom a few months ago, where I tried chef Anand George’s innovative tasting menu, rates as one of the best Indian food experiences I’ve ever had – so when I was invited to try Anand’s new summer menu, intriguingly named ‘Deep Blue’, I was more than a little bit excited!
Deep Blue showcases some of Anand’s seafood-based dishes, inspired by the South Indian festival of Chaakara – a kind of fishy harvest festival for the sub-continent – alongside some firm favourites from Purple Poppadom’s original menu. Many of the ‘trio’ starters we’d looked at last time were gone from the a la carte, but several of the popular mains, such as the lamb shanks and Goan porc, have made it onto this second incarnation of the menu.
There’s also a new tasting menu, focused entirely on seafood, which we decided to try – it’s £39.95 per head for an impressive number of courses, or £47.95 to include a small glass of beer paired to each of the savoury courses. I really like this idea as for many people, wine and curry is not a comfortable pairing, so paired beers is a clever concept which shows that Purple Poppadom is a step up from your average curry house, but still recognises the way that people like to enjoy their Indian food! As it was, I was driving and Mr W had already started the evening with wine, so we declined on the beers, but went full steam ahead with the tasting menu!
Up first was a trio of starters: Salmon Mel – honey marinated salmon cooked in the tandoori oven, which was one of my highlights of the entire meal. It melted in the mouth and had a gorgeous flavour. It went really well with the Golden Green – a salad of avocado and mango with a passion fruit and chilli dressing. There was also a Tuna Pillow – a fairly dense tuna fishcake, with a spicy kick to it. Mr W wasn’t very keen on this, and it wasn’t my favourite either, but it was well cooked, nevertheless – moist tuna with a crispy crumb.
Next came Spirit of the Sea (I know some people have commented that the menu descriptions are a little bit too ‘arty’ – but I really like them as they’re creative, and I’m a marketer, and I feel it adds to the whole experience!) Fortunately, each of the dishes is described underneath the more ‘poetic’ names, so you’re not left in any doubt as to what you’re eating. The waiting staff also explained each dish to us again as they brought it over, should we have failed to memorise the menu when we ordered! This dish was grilled swordfish loin marinated with coriander, mint and spices, served with a South Indian style risotto and a chilli garlic oil. This was a fantastic dish, Mr W’s firm favourite of the evening. The swordfish was meaty and tasty, and the risotto was a really unusual take on the more traditional Indian rice, which really worked. My first couple of mouthfuls did seem a bit heavy on the flavour of raw onion, but as I went on eating, the tastes seemed to balance out really well.
I would say that we then had a palate cleansing sorbet, but this was anything but, as the flavour was green apple and chilli! The green apple was a fantastic fresh flavour, but for me, the hit of chilli that followed on afterwards didn’t work in a sorbet, especially not as an intermediate course between Indian dishes. I’d have liked it to have cooled my mouth – but instead it did the opposite. Next time, I’d like the green apple on its own, please! Perhaps as a pudding for chilli lovers, or as an accompaniment to a rich chocolatey dessert it could work, but not here!
It’s worth mentioning at this point, actually, that I’m not a lover of really spicy food, but aside from the apple and chilli sorbet, there was actually nothing on the menu we tried that was too hot for me – the focus at Purple Poppadom is definitely on flavour and spicing, rather than heat.
Up next: Petits Filets and Kalamari. The Petits Filets were thankfully nothing like the McDonald’s imagery that momentarily flashed into my head at this name, but rather pan fried Kerala style marinated sardine fillets, served on salad leaves and tomato, with a mustard dressing. I’m not a great fan of sardines, but I didn’t mind these as they were very thin fillets with a delicate flavour – although I did have to negotiate my way around some bits of celery (ugh!) in the salad. The sardine fillet was served with crispy battered calamari, which for me was the joint highlight of the meal, along with the salmon mel. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with calamari – when it’s good, it’s very good, but when it’s bad, it’s horrid. This was, if it’s possible, very, very, very good – meaty, not the tiniest bit chewy, with perfect crispy batter, not in the slightest bit greasy, and a tiny amount of delicately spiced sauce. Give me a whole plate of this calamari and I’d be a very happy lady!
Lemon sorbet did the palate cleansing trick this time, and we were ready for the main event: The Halibut Islands. This was pieces of halibut cooked in a choice of three different sauces – we went for Moilee Sauce, which was a sauce infused with garlic, lime leaves and turmeric, laced with coconut milk, and sounded like the least spicy option! When it arrived, we actually wondered if there’d been a mix up, as it was a tiny portion – four small pieces of halibut in sauce, which was admittedly delicious with a delicate flavour that worked well with the fish. Of course, we’d already eaten a lot of food, so didn’t need a huge portion, but when we saw the quantity of rice and vegetables it came with, it all seemed a bit disproportionate. Nevertheless, the rice and veg were lovely too – light, steamed basmati rice and Stir Fry Vert, which comprised asparagus, baby corn, mange tout, french beans, cashew nut and coconut cooked with mustard and curry leaves. All really good, but we left a lot of the vegetables and rice as there just wasn’t enough halibut or sauce to go with it all.
Finally, we enjoyed a trio of puddings. Two of them, tandoori pineapple and ‘chocomosa’ (a chocolate-filled samosa served with a slice of banana and a shard of caramel) were the same as we enjoyed last time and were just as good. The third was supposed to be a mango brulee, but sadly they’d run out of this dish, so offered us another mango pudding instead – we both went for mango ice cream, which was very good indeed, with lots of natural fresh mango flavour, and went really well with the rich chocolate samosa.
We had another thoroughly delicious meal at Purple Poppadom. I’d certainly recommend the tasting menu – although it’s more ‘fish’ than ‘seafood’ and I would have loved to have had some of the soft shell crab or prawns that we enjoyed so much on our first visit included in this taster.
Since our first visit, they’ve been named Welsh curry house of the year, and it’s easy to see why. Anand’s innovative twists on traditional Keralan cooking are a delight to behold and to taste, and eating there is as much of a visual treat as it is a culinary one. I still have my reservations about the ambience in the restaurant (discussed at length in my last review!) and whether it matches the quality of the food, but on both occasions we’ve been, it’s been full of people all seeming to thoroughly enjoy their food, which certainly counts for a lot. I also still think it’s a shame about the location of the restaurant, but that can’t be changed, so we’ll say no more about it!
We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Anand – he’s quietly spoken and unassuming, but his passion for the food he develops and serves absolutely shines. We asked whether he’d consider going for a Michelin star, but despite having worked in several top Indian restaurants in London, his sights are set firmly on expansion, rather than going down the Michelin route – which is great, as it means that more people will be able to experience the fantastic Purple Poppadom menu!
I love the fact that we’re seeing a new menu already, despite the fact that the restaurant has already been a roaring success, and I think Purple Poppadom is going to be the place to eat continuously innovative Indian food in South Wales for a long time to come.
Purple Poppadom, 185 Cowbridge Road East Cardiff, CF11 9AJ
We visited Purple Poppadom on this occasion as a guest, and as such our food and drinks were complimentary. Many thanks to Purple Poppadom for the invitation.