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There is music playing, the pleasant hum of people talking close by. Soft lights and, over your table, hangs one of many similar big red shades guiding illumination down to where you want it. It is a colourful place - you spot garlands hanging and balloons in a row.
You begin to think that this, the Royal Spice in Kilkenny, must be a big place. But it is not - mirrors make it appear that way. It is something of an illusion.
But nothing illusionary about the food on your plate. A bit of oriental magic maybe, worked on splendid local produce, but no illusion whatsoever. Just excellent Indian dishes for you and the twenty plus around you (yes, this room doesn't take much more than thirty) to enjoy.
This is one of the better Indian restaurants and one suspects that it is their desire, a desire they daily put into practice, to support local producers that helps it stand out from the crowd. As well as their own expertise in the kitchen. Not everything is Irish, of course; black tiger prawns, for instance, are imported.
After the customary poppadoms and dips, the starters arrive. There is a terrific choice here. My selection is Murg Tikka, fresh Irish chicken marinated overnight with mixed ground spices, yoghurt, garlic and ginger, delicately grilled in their tandoori oven served with their authentic dohi chutney. Top quality and absolutely delicious.
Good reports too from the other side of the table where the superb crispy Samosas filled with mixed vegetables and served with their homemade beetroot chutney is going down well.
I take a few sips of my local beer, the lovely Costello’s Red, as we sit back and await the mains. Soon my Lassai Gosht, fresh Irish lamb pan-cooked with sliced garlic, onion, coriander seed, peppercorn and yoghurt served with the chef’s own special sauce and garnished with chilli arrives. Something that little bit lighter about the Indian dishes here and this is another delight.
Not quite as spectacular though as CL’s Chicken Shashlik. This consists of fresh chunks of marinated chicken with pieces of onion, peppers, tomatoes, cooked in a clay oven with tandoori mixed spices, served sizzling on cast iron. It makes a hissing smoking entrance and the substance lives up to the showy part. Another brilliant dish.
We are very happy with the meal, with the friendly welcome and service and the immaculate cooking. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.