Some of the best local cooking I have tasted
- Credit: Archant
After the fourth person told me that I had to try Infuse, I took the hint. People often tell me where they have been for dinner, and what they thought of it, but it’s rare for lots of people to be so overwhelmingly positive about a new opening.
So on a quiet summer evening (St Albans empties in the school holidays) I went with glamorous pals to try the new restaurant tucked away on Waddington Road.
We were too late for the 'Ladies Night' two for one cocktails offer advertised outside (a little cheesy, but they did sound delicious) but chose a bottle of rose on the advice of the waiter who said it was definitely dry. It was lovely, and went well with the food we ordered. We were given a generous bottle of tap water quickly too.
We loved the short, one page menu organised by snacks, tandoor and grill, curries and biryani, and sides. Our waiter explained that you can order tapas/sharing style or just jump into main courses, and showed us a short video of some of the dishes. I thought it was a bit gimmicky but we did choose a few things we didn't know from the video, so I was wrong, it was helpful. We chose a range of things, with some as shared starters, and then more for main courses - prices are very reasonable so its a great way to try some new dishes.
Co-owner Sameer came over to say hello, and explained that the ethos behind the short menu is to cook fresh food with lot of flavours typical to the cities the dishes come from, such as Delhi makni paneer (£8.50) and Kerala Prawn Curry (£14.50).
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We loved both of these; the paneer was cut into generous chunks and grilled lightly so pillowy inside. The prawns were generous and lightly cooked, so full of flavour.
The tawa fish ajwani was delicious too; beautifully cooked pieces of fish and well presented. Salmon tikka from the tandoor menu would make an excellent healthy main course on its own, but we all shared a bit - again, perfectly cooked. Each dish was delicately spiced, and you could really taste the flavours, with no overwhelming chilli.
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We shared the Chana peshawar with ginger matchsticks (£8) and baingan hydrabadi, which had generous pieces of softly cooked aubergine. I think we also had a Jaipuri Aloo, but after the second bottle of rose, I can't remember. You can definitely eat well here if you are vegetarian. The baingan is usually served with the birianis, which are Infuse's signature dish, cooked in the proper way with a dum (dough lid); the flavours are sealed inside, and the lid is opened at the table. As we don't eat meat, we had to pass on this, but Sameer said they are experimenting with a vegetarian version. I will go back for that, and meat-eaters; this is the dish people are raving about. I think one (£12.50) is enough for two to share, with a couple of side dishes, which is a steal in this area.
I noticed that they also do a lunch menu, with wraps and curry bowls for £5. You pay more for that at the food stalls in town, so this is a great deal.
Head chef and co-owner Ganga Dutt has worked with some very prestigious London restaurants in Mayfair and central London like Chutney Mary, Tamarind, Kricket and Indali lounge. I think we are incredibly lucky that he is now cooking here in St Albans. The cooking at Infuse is among the very best I have tried locally; excellent ingredients and with delicate cooking, full of flavour. The location, overlooking the side of a building, isn't the nicest, but go for the amazing cooking. I think you will love it too.