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The same old spice: Indie Spice, 23/24 Sandymount Green

Sandymount has recently had the addition of a new Indian restaurant in the form of Indie Spice. I say new, but it is not a totally new concept; it's a new branch of a long-established group.

Indie Spice started out with a restaurant in Belfast about 20 years ago and, in recent years, has expanded to Swords and Naas, where they seem to be popular neighbourhood restaurants.

I visited the Swords branch a few years ago and wasn't particularly impressed, feeling that, food-wise, it was very much in the 'high street traditional curry house' mode. I was hopeful, with Sandymount, that they might have moved on a bit. We have excellent restaurants in Dublin offering Indian food that is sophisticated and contemporary in its approach and style, in line with Indian restaurants in London such as Benares, owned by Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar; Tamarind, or the fantastic Amaya.

The Indie Spice Sandymount website certainly conveyed these ambitions, enthusing "a "place to experience modern Indian food at its best. The ambience is stylish and contemporary and filled with vibrant colours."

Certainly the upmarket borough of D4 is an area inhabited by worldly denizens who probably would appreciate a top-notch, sophisticated Indian restaurant. Indie Spice, however, sticks with the more traditional-Indian-restaurant approach. It has to be said it seems to be going down well with the locals.

Located over the local Spar shop on Sandymount Green, the entrance hall was certainly impressive, with its disabled lift, but when we got upstairs we were in a dimly lit room, with what looked like dark-blue wallpaper, and the space was filled with lots of black-ash tables very close together. To the right was a canteen-style, stainless-steel open kitchen hatch and counter. The windows were covered with dark-wood latticed Indian screens and red curtains and pelmets, which reminded me of a scene from EastEnders recently, when characters Zainab and Masood were decorating their new Indian restaurant, and one said to the other, "Why do Indian restaurants always have to look like your front room?"

Starters (€5.50-€11.95) included stalwarts such as samosas, pakoras, tandoori prawns, chicken tikka and so on. Brendan went with sheek kebabs (€7.95), which were what they were: spiced minced lamb/beef, and served with lettuce, shredded carrot, a lemon section and a splosh of dipping sauces on the plate. I tried the prawn and chilli cake (€8.45), described as "warm-water tiger prawns, ginger, garlic, scallions, fresh coriander, minced and fused on crunchy croutons". Not sure what they meant by "fused on crunchy croutons" but they were two large, well-padded, seared rissoles -- filling and stodgy, and tasting a bit woolly.

Mains are listed in different sections with "All Time Favourites" offering chicken and lamb curries (€14.95/€15.95) -- korma, rogan josh, dopiaza and so on. Chef's recommendations run from €16.95/€22.95. Biryanis are there, and seafood dishes, too, warrant another section, the latter being the heavy hitters, at €21.95/€23.95 for Malabar monkfish and Goan fish curry and so on. I had jhinga dum achari (€21.95), which had four fine big prawns, smothered in a ton of sauce, while Brendan had Chettinad chicken (€17.95) which was a pleasant enough curry, but pricyish sans rice.

With these dishes we had side orders of brinjal achari -- aubergine -- (€6.95), which was nice, and we shared one rice (€2.45).

The staff, while pleasant enough, didn't strike us as very experienced, and those that I spoke to did not have great English, which wasn't their fault. We had a bottle of Argento Reserva Malbec (€22), bringing our bill with optional service to €96.

A neighbourhood Indian restaurant which, when it settles in, will probably be a welcome addition to the area.

Indie Spice,

23/24 Sandymount Green,

Dublin 4.

Tel: (01) 232-0220


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