There is an interesting-looking new local Indian Restaurant, Agra Cottage which seemed to promise a quality sit-down meal in a nice quirky old cottage setting in the heart of a South Nottinghamshire village. It has not been open long and we decided to take a punt.
Firstly the place is miniscule, with just 4 tables downstairs which share a space with the reception/counter/takeaway desk, and the kitchen open to the rear. There is a narrow and very steep old staircase to the first floor where the loos are and two side rooms with additional tables. I really wouldn’t want to navigate these stairs in high-heels or indeed after a drink. Fortunately, as the place is not yet licensed (although you can bring your own) there was no danger of that. It is, though, beautifully decorated and modern.
With only 4 tables downstairs you are very close to each other, this is mitigated a little by the high-backed chairs which do form a bit of a booth effect
The menu is extensive and does contain quite a few dishes I am not familiar with and are not on your usual local ‘Indian” menu, hence our keen interest I suppose.
The daughter declared her onion bhaji to be delicious, and the husband enjoyed his battered Fish Pakora… and indeed, after trying one – simply for research purposes you understand – I agree they were rather nice.
My Chilli King Prawns were tender and very flavoursome. I enjoyed these.
For some reason though, every dish, and I mean every dish, was dressed with spiralised beetroot and carrot. I mean it’s pretty, but on every dish?
The daughter’s chicken korma was good, but, wow, was it sweet, combined with her coconut rice, it was more a pudding than a main for me, but she enjoyed it. The Peshwari nan was fresh and good (but also sweet, no accounting for taste and coconut overload I guess), she was happy.
The husband went wild and had Bengal Labra Lamb Tikka, a new dish to all of us. – spinach and chickpeas cooked with garlic, turmeric and coriander. The lamb was tender, and in his view, a better quality/cut of lamb than the usual fare.
I went with Crispy Chicken fried with green pepper, onion and chilli. Now, what on earth is going on here? There is absolutely nothing crispy about this dish. Nothing at all. It was nice, not very spicy so I found it a bit bland, but mostly it simply wasn’t crispy. I strongly suggest calling the dish something else.
I wish this place luck, the village needs a decent sit-down Indian restaurant. It isn’t cheap mind, each main dish is probably £2-3 per dish more expensive than any of the local competition. Our meal for 3, no alcohol, came to £74. Bear that in mind if you try it.
Finally though, and here’s the rub. Our table backed onto the counter/reception/order desk and the phone rang constantly at an extremely high pitch for telephone/collection orders, so there was a constant conversation going on literally right behind my head (which had I nodded vigorously would have bounced off the counter), this was added to by the staff having a full-on row about something or other right behind my left ear (approx 4 inches distance I would hazard). Right next to my right ear was the music speaker on a window ledge at head height (which I turned round to face the window). There is no place to wait for collections so the small central space is by 7pm full of people waiting only inches away from your table, which is a bit uncomfortable for all concerned, particularly the serving staff trying to navigate the queue and serve your food.
The space is so so small downstairs, I really don’t know what the answer to this is, except to say that you should brave the vertiginous climb and eat upstairs.
I really want this place to do well and be a bit special, and it is, I accept, early days. But it does have some issues and for £74 I really think they need to give some thought to how to solve some of them. I wouldn’t go back until they were.
Oh, and rename that dish.