Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Keralan Karavan, Cardiff pop-up Indian restaurant review

*Update* - Keralan Karavan now have a permanent residency at Small Bar (great news). They are open for lunch and dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday and dinner the rest of the week.

Keralan Karavan is the brainchild of Krish Pankaj.

A former owner and chef at the sadly departed Spiceberry, he’s served his South Indian homestyle cooking at a number of pop-ups in Cardiff over the last couple of years.

They currently have a kitchen takeover at the brilliant Small Bar in Cardiff city centre, running every day until Sunday 28 January.

To accompany our food, Mrs G inhaled a can of Northern Monk x Deya Hops Rye IPA, a staggeringly good beer with heaps of stone fruits and a peppery twang. The designated driver (myself) had a half of slightly sweet and farmyardy Hallets perry. 

Keralan Fried Chicken (£3.50) saw tender, moreish pieces of meat coated in a fine golden crumb spiced with fennel powder and red chilli. It was served with a drizzle of tangy mango chutney and a light slaw topped with fragrant nigella seeds. 

Kottayam-style beef pepper roast (£4.50) comprised of yielding pieces of beef coated in a light yet deeply spiced paste heady with the warmth of black pepper and the fragrance of ginger and curry leaf. 

Our Maharaja’s curry bowls for mains were a cornucopia of delights. Each included fluffy rice, bubbly poppadom tubes drizzled with mango chutney, a crisp and soft chapatti and a generous quantity of flavour-packed curry. 

Mrs G had Aunty Maria’s beef curry (£7.95). A big flavoured meaty dish, the soft slow-cooked pieces of beef were bathed in a sauce twanged with coconut and spice. 

'Dagadfool' Malabar chicken curry (£7.95) combined loads of chicken in a creamy coconut gravy fragranced with 18 spices including the woody aroma of dagadfool (a species of lichen). I don’t really have a clue what the other 17 spices were but the flavour combination kicked ass. 

A side of banana blossom thoran (£4) was arguably the standout of the night. The soft slightly-bitter banana blossom (it reminded me of spinach) combined beautifully with the sweetness of grated coconut and a big thwack of chilli. 

A mango cheesecake (£4) paired a super-light creamy and tangy lassi-like topping with an enjoyably unsweet chocolate biscuit base. A drizzle of sweet mango coulis, pieces of coconut and pretty basil seeds finished off the dish. 

There was a minor issue with one of the small plates and thoran arriving after we’d pretty much finished the rest of the food. But, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of our delicious meal. 

Keralan Karavan's food is a winter-warming flavour-packed treat and it’s great value to boot. If you're a curry fiend then it's definitely worth checking out. 

The Details:

Address - Currently at Small Bar Cardiff, 17 Church Street, Cardiff CF101BG
Telephone - 07774820289