There’s something very English about Indian food. You could say it’s Britain’s traditional dish. In fact, there are more Indian restaurants in London than in the whole of Mumbai, that’s a fact. It’s on the internet.
Cayman has a new one too.
Tucked away in the corner of Camana Bay you’ll find Pani Indian Kitchen. This is the latest addition to the fast-growing Market Street Group’s portfolio. I ventured inside for their lunchtime special knowing it would take a lot to reach my high standards.
This isn’t because I’m some sort of well-versed foodie who’s travelled the world in search of the perfect dish, far from it. My standards are so high when it comes to Indian food only because, put simply, I’ve eaten a lot of it.
I remember my first. It was almost like losing my virginity.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect, I was nervous and was being egged on by friends who had already experienced what I was about to.
In the end it probably went too quickly and the second one was far better than the first. But it has to be said, from that moment I was hooked.
My first ever Indian meal was a korma, chicken of course, with rice and a plain naan. Fast forward almost three decades and my palate has evolved a great deal.
Let’s see what Pani had to offer.
The one immediate difference I noticed between Pani and the eateries I’m used to frequenting was its décor. High end, sure. But this is more street market-chic than super fine dining.
As well as the intoxicating aroma coming from the kitchen, the venue also gives off a fabulous, relaxed mood. From the drapes lowered from the ceiling to the artwork on the floor (created by the fabulously talented local artist Bella Ghinea), everything about it just screams comfortable.
Sure, it’s got the decorations you’d expect from an Indian restaurant, but much more subtle than slap bang in your face.
At 12 noon the place was near empty. By half past, on a Tuesday, almost every table taken. Why? I wasn’t sure… but after an introduction from our waitress, Melissa, I worked it out.
The lunch time special is $14 for three courses. Let me repeat that slower. Fourteen dollars… for three courses… in Camana Bay… in the Cayman Islands.
Now there’s not much you can get for $14 if you stop and think about it.
A few beers at a bar maybe? Cocktail and a half perhaps. A taxi ride home, if you’re willing to walk half way. Cinema tickets, or should that be ticket – or a bottle of half decent wine with a few dollars change.
Now granted, the lunchtime special menu wasn’t quite as varied as its bigger brother. And the portions not quite as vast but this was lunchtime. And who wants to go back to work after eating a curry big enough to feed a small army?
The choice was plenty, and the portions absolutely more than enough.
Confession time, with so much to offer I went for a few extra dishes to sample a wider range of foods available.
I opted for samosas to start, one beef, one vegetable, both perfect, and was told by the extremely knowledgeable Melissa I had to have the soup. She was right.
It was, to coin a phrase more commonly heard throughout Indian restaurants in my home city of Liverpool, ‘pure boss’.
The mains were not as small as I’d thought. Far from it. Chicken tikka masala – rude not to. A vegetable korma, for old times’ sake, and a pork vindaloo, at the insistence of my host.
I’m not averse to spicy food, far from it. This offering wasn’t in the slightest bit blow your head off, but at the same time, had enough heat to gently remind you, you were ordering the hottest dish on the menu.
Granted vindaloo may not be to everyone’s taste, but the pork was cooked so good, the hot kick paled into the background as the meat just melted in my mouth.
Naan breads and white rice finished off the mains.
Normally that’s my lot. But this time around I was persuaded to try a dessert, and in particular try Gulab jamun. This was the first time I’d had it, and it won’t be my last.
So, did Pani Indian Kitchen live up to my high expectations? For sure. Was the $14 lunch time special value for money? Too right. And was it up there with the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever eaten at in my life? I suppose it was, but my life’s far from over and there’s plenty more out there to try.
This is, after all, my traditional dish, and as Noel Coward would have probably written, only mad dogs and Englishmen eat vindaloo in the midday sun.
Indian food facts
- Chicken tikka masala, that dish that made Indian food famous the world over, was invented in Scotland.
- Wikipedia lists nearly 200 types of Indian desserts.
- India has the lowest meat consumption in the world per person, which does not come as a shocker since 40 percent of the population is vegetarian.
- The largest naan bread ever made was 3.79m long and 1.4m wide, and weighed a whopping 26kg.
- The first Indian restaurant is said to have opened in Britain in London in 1809. There are now more than 9,000 Indian restaurants and curry houses across the U.K.
- There are more Indian restaurants in London than there are in Mumbai.
- 70 percent of all the world’s spices come from India.
- A proper Indian meal has six different courses: salty, sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and astringent