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SPICE, BARKINGSIDE, ESSEX When going out for a meal I quite often choose to go to an Indian restaurant. As a pescetarian, I find that most Asian restaurants give good choices for me and for vegetarians generally. When I go out for a curry I don't feel like a second class citizen or even an oddity for not eating meat. I usually find there is a good deal of choice for me as well as the meat eaters in my family. This makes Indian cuisine a good family choice, in my opinion. Spice first appeared in Barkingside High Street a few years ago, although this was the first visit for myself and my husband. I had thought of going there before but had been a little put off by it looking so light and basic inside when looking in. Now that I have dined here I can say I didn't really find this once inside, although we were seated towards the rear of the restaurant. But it isn't a very authentic looking Indian restaurant. I often go to Sharods, which is only a short walk away but, after dining at Spice, I suspect these two restaurants are somehow linked. And so last Saturday I decided, along with my husband, one of my sons and his fiancée, to try out Spice for the first time. We didn't book, thinking that a Saturday evening in January so soon after Christmas would mean most local restaurants wouldn't be full. We thought if it was full then it wouldn't matter as there are several other India restaurants on the High street and close by. We passed Abshar Punjabi Restaurant and saw that it looked nowhere near to being full but, when we reached Spice, we saw from looking inside that it looked full almost to the rafters. In fact we were about to walk on and find an alternative restaurant when the door was swung open and a waiter beckoned us in saying, "Come in, come in we have a table for you!" Well, we couldn't see where this table was as the restaurant was packed but we followed the waiter to the end of the restaurant where we saw a table with two chairs seemingly waiting for us. With super quick speed two more chairs were found, the table pulled out so we could be seated, and a new tablecloth found for our table. It looked like a squash but once we were seated it was in fact comfortable. AMBIENCE Spice was certainly bustling and reminded me of Shard, being noisy yet good natured with a lively atmosphere. I thought it was an improvement on Sharod in terms of more space between tables, although there wasn't much space in the aisle. I would say that it wasn't full of character in terms of decoration yet this didn't really seem to matter for evening dining in a full restaurant with the aromas of garlic and spices pervading the air. It wasn't as particularly light inside as we had thought it would be and really, it was pleasant. We were at the rear of the restaurant near to the toilets and the kitchen. I had thought this might be a problem but really with a partition and further doors between our table and the kitchen the positioning of our table was fine. There is bar roughly in the middle of the restaurant, along one side. MENU We were immediately asked if we wanted drinks and we all quickly made our choice. One vodka with lemonade (guess who for?) two Cobra beers and a cola. Poppadums arrived accompanied with salad and a yoghurt dip. We asked for chutney dip as well. This soon arrived as did our drinks. We looked at the menu. My son stated that it was the same menu as seen at another Indian restaurant in the area, Sharods; I think it was! This wasn't a bad thing and we still had a good look at the menu while munching on the poppadums. Although staff were very busy it was still easy to get their attention and to enquire about a couple of vegetarian choices. I was told that the Vegetable Niramish is fairly dry but it could be made with more sauce if I preferred. I ordered Niramish with mushroom rice to accompany it. My sons fiancée ordered vegetable biryani. Both my husband and son chose Tandoori Tikka Mehti, which is a chicken dish and one of the more expensive dishes on the menu at over £11.00. Both chose plain rice to go with their main dish. My son ordered plain naan bread and a Sag Aloo (spinach and potatoes) but he wanted to share these and actually after getting half way through his meal he NEEDED to share. OUR MEALS Our meals arrived in good time and everything arrived together. Although the meals were hot, I did think they could have been a little hotter as I felt my food cooled perhaps quicker than it should have. But it was warm and enjoyable; not too strong but flavoursome as I like it. The other three all said that their meals were lovely. I helped my son out with the side dish of Sag Aloo but some had to be left. The plates and serving dishes were all pretty much empty by the end of the meal. SERVICE The service in here was good. Our order was taken quickly but we weren't rushed. It was easy to gain waiters' attention and throughout our evening we were asked if our meals were alright; if we wanted more drinks etc. We all thought that the staff in here were friendly as well as polite and helpful, which made the atmosphere in Spice good. When we had finished our meal and had asked for the bill a dish of a selection of chocolates was brought to our table. We were asked to have a complimentary drink. Two of us chose Baileys and two a brandy each. Then myself and my daughter-in-law to be were each given a box of Maltesers. I always think this is a nice touch and makes one feel that your custom is really appreciated. TOILETS A partition divides the restaurant from a door which leads to the lavatories. There are a Gents and a Ladies. There is just the one cubicle in the ladies with wash basin in this. DISABLED ACCESS I don't think there is an adapted disabled toilet but I noticed that the ladies was a spacious cubicle and would expect the gents would be the same. There is a lobby outside and so wheelchair access probably would be possible. The restaurant is on ground level and so accessible, but it isn't spacious. I actually think access isn't too difficult but would definitely advise informing the restaurant if wheelchair aces is required. I feel that staff at Spice would make room for a wheelchair but, that's only my opinion, so please check first. TAKEAWAY Take away is available, or food can be ordered and collected at a small discount. PRICES Our meal came to £79. This included further drinks. For what we had and its quality I think this was a reasonable price to pay. Also, as the two men chose a relatively expensive dish, this pushed the price up. You could really eat here quite a bit cheaper than we did if you were on a budget and still have a lovely meal. LOCATION 103 High Street, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex IG6 2AH Telephone:020 8550 7575 Buses stop close to the restaurant. It is close to Fairlop underground station and to Barkingside; both are on the central line. Taxis serve the area well. Parking is available on the High street during the day (pay and display) but this is free in the evening. In the evening parking is easy on the street outside Spice. There are marked disabled bays which are free of charge to blue badge holders. OVERALL We all enjoyed our meal and our evening. I would be happy to dine at Spice again. The food was lovely and so was the service.