“ Address: Abshar Punjabi Cuisine, 43 High Street, Barkingside, Essex, IG6 2AD „
ABSHAR-LUTELY LOVELY I have eaten at Abshar Punjabi restaurant many times since around the time it opened, back in 1997. In my locality we have a great choice of Indian restaurants and sometimes it's difficult to decide which one to go to. My two favourite Indian restaurants are both on the same high street and they are Abshar and Sharod. I usually favour Abshar if dining out on a Saturday evening, as one is more likely to secure a table than at the neighbouring Sharod. As for sharod, even if a table is booked one has to wait for it which puts me off dining there at busy times. But, then, if I'm going out to eat during the week or on a Sunday night I'm more likely to choose Sharod as it is smaller and more intimate resulting, in my opinion, in a better atmosphere. Abshar always seems to attract many Asian families which seems to me to say that the food is authentically Asian and of a good standard. I have taken my friend, who has lived in India for many years, to this restaurant, and she was very impressed and said it comes close to the better restaurants she frequents in Mumbai and New Delhi. I last dined at Abshar on 7th July with my husband as it was our wedding anniversary. Both the exterior and interior are traditionally Asian in style. INTERIOR On the walls pictures depict Punjabi scenes. At the far end of this restaurant can be seen a decorative fountain. The restaurant reaches back quite a long way and can seat 150 guests. Tables vary from those set for four to a round table towards the rear which I would estimate seats about twelve. For larger parties tables are placed can be placed together on request. It is quite usual to see large parties of Asian families dining here with family members including grandparents (or perhaps great grandparents) children and babies. Tables are always highly inviting with clean and well-presented linen and cutlery. WHAT DOES THE ABSHAR HAVE TO SAY? (From http://www.abshar.co.uk/) "Punjabi cuisine is one of the most respected cuisine in the world. The land of milk and honey as it is very often referred is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas bevered by its 5 rivers. Due to its location, nature has been very kind to this northern Indian state which is the size of the uk and offers a large variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices as well as the finest flour to make those delicious naans, chappatis, and parathas cooked in those clay oven, called tandoors. Punjabi cooking is made of the freshest ingredients infused by those aromatic spices that India offers but without overpowering the dish but promotes its primary ingredients, meat fish and vegetables." ATMOSPHERE Although it's pleasant in here, I do feel that as many people seem to be feeling the pinch in today's economic climate resulting in many less able to afford to dine out as often as they might have used to. A few years ago when I visited this restaurant on a Saturday evening I would have made sure we booked or we would probably have turned up and it would be full or perhaps we would have been squeezed in somewhere, but lately there is no need to book and the last few times I've eaten here we have had a choice of tables. But because the restaurant is no more than half full this can mean that there isn't much in the way of atmosphere. I think that they should perhaps take a leaf out of the nearby Sharod restaurant which, even when almost empty, a nicer and friendlier ambience seems to prevail. Management at Sharod never fail to converse with customers; we are always given a complimentary drink; a dish of chocolates is placed upon the table at the end of the meal; a box of maltesers is given to the ladies on departure. The last time we went my husband was driving and so refused a drink and as we left the manager pressed a bottle of Cobra beer upon him to take home. What did we get at Abshar's? No complimentary drink but one very small mint! Not that we need a complimentary drink but I do feel that Sharod makes an effort and diners really feel that their custom is appreciated. But then again this doesn't affect the service or the quality of the meal. I have had a complimentary drink here before but that was when there were four of us and we had spent a great deal on food and drink. I felt that management felt bound to offer a free drink as one person in our group hinted a little (which I found a little embarrassing) but they weren't overly willing. I still would say that both restaurants have their pros and cons and both are an asset to the high street. MENU I think the menu here is a good one with plenty of choice for all. In fact, I always feel spoilt for choice here and very indecisive. I have been here so many times but still find there are some interesting choices to be had. I would highly recommend the garlic chilli mushroom shashlik, which is from the tandoori section of the menu. This consists of mushrooms, onions and peppers which have been marinated in yoghurt and herbs and the cooked tandoori style and served steaming on a skewer with a salad and yoghurt sauce. Poppadums arrive with finely chopped salad, yoghurt dressing and chutney. I enjoy this but on my last visit my husband and I decided to have starters so didn't have the poppadums. I chose as my starter, tandoori garlic chilli mushrooms from the appetiser section and cost £5.50. My husband decided on the prawn puri at £5.25. He hadn't tried this before and was most impressed. I think this will be a regular first choice for him from now on. For my main course I had fish curry (£7.50) which was tender fish steaks served in a spicy brown sauce. I chose pilau rice (£2.50) to accompany my curry. I asked for this to be medium in strength and it was. My husband chose a chicken tikka (£7.95) served with a crisp green salad and also had plain white boiled rice (£2.00). VEGETARIAN As long as one likes spicy food, then I think for the vegetarian, or pescatarian, Indian food is a great option and, in fact, I always feel I'm getting as good a deal as a meat eater and that as much care and thought has been taken with my food. In many restaurants vegetarians are given few choices and they are often boring. OPINION ON FOOD I find the food of an excellent quality here. I appreciate that the food is prepared how one requests it; mild, medium or hot. I've enjoyed every meal I've eaten at Abshar and so has my husband and others we have been here with. DRINKS Abshar has a well-stocked bar and has a separate drinks menu. On my last visit I drank vodka and lemonade and my husband draught beer; I think Cobra. SERVICE Waiters always ask if we are ready for our main course and we usually ask for about a fifteen minutes or so wait to find some room after our first choice. Waiters are knowledgeable about the menu and happy to give advice if asked. Throughout the meal it is always easy to attract attention from staff and even without aiming for this a waiter will appear from time to time to ask if everything is alright and whether more drinks are required. Waiters are very polite but I must admit that I prefer Sharod's in this respect where the waiters will be attentive and also come up for a friendly chat every now and again. But then again, the dining experience is more comfortable and perhaps a little more formal at Abshar's and both experiences can be good, depending on one's mood or the occasion. At the end of the meal a small basket is brought to the table which contains packaged hot moist serviettes steaming and smelling of lemon. FAMILY FRIENDLY All ages can be found dining in Abshar's although it is essentially, of an evening, adult. When we last went in here (July) there was a large family group celebrating a birthday in here and two very young children were part of this group. One was making quite a racket and I wondered if we had made the wrong choice of restaurant but the parents took turns in going outside with the child. What a change from the local Wetherspoons which is just a short walk away. The restaurant provides high chairs. VALUE In my opinion this restaurant offers good value. We spent around £50 altogether for a two course meal with drinks. Everything tasted delicious and we enjoyed our evening. FACILITIES Abshar boasts of car parking facilities but this I haven't seen and can't think of any parking other than in the high street outside. When we drive here we park in the main road outside the restaurant, which is free in the evening. Also a dance floor with music and entertainment. I haven't ever been here when there has been entertainment and so I cannot comment. TAKE-AWAY Items from the main menu can be ordered as take-away and can be collected in person or delivered by Abshar. If ordering by phone then the menu can be downloaded and an estimate as to how long the food will take to be delivered will be given. TOILETS The ladies and gents are placed at the rear of the restaurant. They are clean and modern. DISABLED On entering the restaurant there is a slight slope leading to the main area and then the ground is level. There is a disabled toilet in Abshar. OPENING TIMES Abshar opens every day except Mondays and now also opens for lunch. Tues-Thurs: 5.30pm-12a.m. Fri-Sat: 5.30pm-12.30am Sun: 5.30pm-11.30pm ADDRESS 43 Barkingside High Street Ilford Essex IG6 2AD Tel:(020)85506213 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.abshar.co.uk OVERALL We enjoyed our last meal at Abshar as we always do at this restaurant. I expect that we will be returning for a meal in the not too distant future. The only thing I think would make this a better dining experience would be the practise by Abshar of offering a complimentary drink, as when other restaurants in the vicinity do this it does show up the lack of this.