Fluffy Nan Bread in the Himalayas

Tandoori nights in Acton a hot ticket

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One of my weaknesses is Nan bread. Plain nan, nothing fancy. I could probably eat it non-stop for quite a long time given the right conditions. However, I'm not indiscriminate about it. It has to be the right sort of nan. I have tried the stuff you can buy from supermarkets - admittedly not for quite a long time because once was enough - but it was much too flabby and dense in texture; the flavouring didn't have the hint of sweetness which perfect nan bread should have. I've also had bad experiences in restaurants where the nan was disappointing and tasted too doughy.

However, at the Acton Tandoori Palace as far as I remember the nan has always been perfect: light as air - almost fluffy in texture, very slightly sweet, delicious.  

The great thing about the Tandoori Palace is that, despite the fact that it's on the High Street (not yet even slightly improved by Tom Unwin's admirable campaign) and opposite what must be one of the ugliest buildings in London, it's very pleasant to sit inside. Since the restaurant was given a make-over, you sit surrounded by wall-to-wall pictures of the Himalayas, serenaded by possibly Nepalese muzak. The waiters are always very pleasant but never to the point where it makes you grind your teeth.  

As soon as you arrive, you are presented with pappadams, chutney and relishes. Police cars hurl themselves up and down the High Street and the rush hour traffic streams past. You may feel a little smug as you munch away, looking at the menu.   My most recent trip there was with one teenager fresh from Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (or is it 4?) and my spouse who announced he had just had "the worst week of my career for about a year". However, faced with the prospect of chicken shashlik (marinaded, then cooked with capsicum, tomatoes and onion), which arrives sizzling and fragrant, he seemed remarkably cheerful.  

The shashlik was accompanied by sag chicken (chicken with spinach - very good), some pilau rice (here it comes with emerald green highlights which sounds weird but isn't), chana masala (chick peas in a masala sauce which has a punchy flavour, just right with the nutty chick peas) and the teenager's favourite chicken korma - mild, creamy with a hint of spice. We also had a portion of onion bhajee which was nicely crispy and well flavoured. And of course, the nan bread which didn't disappoint.  

Having polished that lot off, we were given hot, steamy white flannels with which to wipe our hands. Whenever I'm handed these I am put in mind of a story my mother-in-law tells us. After taking her elderly mother out for a curry, they were handed dark green hot flannels on a dish. Her mother said: "ooh lovely, spinach," and tried to  help herself to one of the flannels with a fork and spoon.  

Anyway, our copious meal (more than we could eat) for three - with three Singha beers and some fizzy water - came to about £40 plus tip. If you like curry, this is a great local asset and if you time it right you can even watch the people flooding out of the Bingo hall onto Acton High Street.

Clare Gittins

June 1, 2007