Monty's Doesn't Tikka the Boxes

Bhajee below par on High Street Indian

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Monty's Nepalese Restaurant

31 High Street

W3 6ND

020 8992 5678

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Where do you go on a rainy Friday night in Acton if you feel like a curry fix? Monty's has been attracting attention of late. Some have remarked that it is a sign that things are looking up in Acton that a chain (other branches in Fulham - yes that's really Fulham - and Ealing) had taken over the Acton Tandoori Palace. People have even phoned me up saying "Ooh lucky you - Monty's have moved to Acton."

There were around 6 people sitting at three tables and four members of staff standing around the bar. The welcome was a little disappointing after what we were used to - the staff at the Acton Tandoori Palace always managed to be professional and warm at the same time. However, a little later on one of the waiters we recognised from Palace days popped up to which was a cheering sight.

The Tandoori Palace was usually humming on Friday nights and we had enjoyed many evenings eating home-cooked spicy food while a fug of delicious smells wafted over us from the kitchen. We would watch the High Street looking for signs of big wins amongst the ranks of clientele exiting the Bingo Hall across the road.

We were immediately given two plain papadums with relishes. The mango chutney is an alarming colour, which made me think it must be full of colouring and 'e' numbers. The onion relish, though spicy-hot wasn't as fresh tasting as it should be and the green yoghurt concoction tasted fine but had an unwelcome glossy sheen to it.

We chose to start with onion bhajee - hardly adventurous, but surely you can't go wrong with an onion bhajee. However, that's where you would be mistaken. And we were hungry, to boot. But one mouthful each and our two onion bhajees - each the size of a squashed grapefruit - went back untouched to the kitchen. They were greasy, full of some sort of oily, floury curry paste and the soggy, limp onion was unpleasantly salty and hadn't ever known what it was to be crispy or fragrant. My companion commented that, "these taste like they have been brought back to life several times in a microwave." I love unhealthy food of all types, but this was a step too far - a coronary by-pass on a plate, with unpleasant texture and taste.

To give the staff their due, we weren't charged for the bhajees, nor for the papadums. Excuse me if I mention nostalgically that - before standards slipped badly over the past year - Tandoori Palace onion bhajees were usually very light, often crispy, delicately spiced ensembles.

I know I'm picky, but I'm looking at the Monty's menu now and some of the dishes even look unappetising written down. Who is going to order Chicken a la King - £7.50 (chicken breasts stuffed with king prawns cooked with masala sauce)? If you do, I'd like to hear about it please.

Anyway, we still retained hope for our mains. My partner had stuck to his guns and ordered chicken shashlick. This was rather too bright orange (more food colouring?) and the flavour was ok but nothing to make you rush across the High Street with your Bingo winnings. A sprig of something green and flavoursome was an oasis of freshness and taste amidst an otherwise unremarkable dish.

My Kathmandu dal chicken was swimming in lentils and unadvertised kidney beans. The chicken was reasonably tender, but there was no inspiration to be found either in the meat or its (?tinned) swimming companions. The Pilao rice was fine, but again nothing special. I will give the Plain Nan top marks for fluffiness, though there was too much ghee splashed all over it but it takes more than competent Nan bread to make me feel warmly towards a restaurant. By now I was feeling rather sorry for everyone concerned. The waiters seemed to be trying too hard. Then our scented hot towels arrived. I always enjoy these, but mine emerged from its plastic wrapping barely warm.

The bill, including Kingfisher beers and excluding bhajees and papadums came to £29.15 for two of us.

I can't hold out too much enthusiasm for Monty's if they can't even heat their complimentary warm towels properly. Maybe people in Fulham don't mind, but I do.

Clare Gittins

July 18, 2008