Since moving down South I have discovered a real love for Indian food. It’s so full of flavour, fragrance and spices and so much care and passion goes into their cooking. Ironically I went to university in Manchester where I lived literally a stone’s throw away from the curry mile but I wasn’t a huge fan of Indian food then and I’d only go when my parents came to visit, or if we had a social at a curry house. I’d love to go back now and eat there again, especially to compare the quality to some of the Indian restaurants I’ve visited in and around London!
We are lucky enough to have this place on our doorstep, and I’m honestly not biased when I say it’s my favourite Indian restaurant that I’ve visited to date! For me it definitely beats Dishoom in London, which is ridiculously popular – I’ve known people to queue two hours for a meal there! We’re spoilt for Indian restaurants in St Albans and all are independent, though we’ve noticed that that’s a general trend with Indian cuisine.
At Veer Dhara they pride themselves on the authenticity of their dishes with a traditional menu cooked using the finest ingredients. They have a team of over six chefs who have worked in some of India’s finest five star hotels and they claim that Tom Cruise has even visited the restaurant..
We’ve been several times now and the service at this restaurant is always impeccable – from the moment you walk in, you’re greeted by friendly waiters.. one time when we went, one even smiled and clapped delightedly as he realised from my voice that I was the one who booked over the phone earlier that day (this isn’t the first time that this has happened to me – apparently I have quite a distinguishable phone voice – it possibly sounds like a five year old is making a booking!). As soon as you walk in, they bring a plate of poppadums with a selection of chutneys and dips. The waiters happily provide recommendations, descriptions of their dishes and they always keep our drinks topped up – I hate waiting for drinks when dining at restaurants.
They have a huge menu of both vegetarian and meat dishes, a mix of grilled items, curries, biriyanis, rice and breads. They also have a range of set menus and the waiters are more than happy to recommend combinations of dishes too. We usually order a couple of non-vegetarian starters along with the assorted vegetarian starter which is the perfect mix. I usually go for prawns and Marcus will go for lamb or chicken but we’re both in agreement that the assorted vegetarian starter is perfect. It includes aloo tikki, paneer tikka, onion potato bhajiya and vegetable samosas. I’ll be honest – I’m really not usually a huge fan of samosas, particularly budget ones which are 90% greasy, soggy pastry and 10% limp and tasteless filling but these ones are just incredible. They’re more of a pyramid than a triangle shape, and they’re so tasty, packed full of filling and flavour and fried to perfection so they’re crispy and golden. The aloo tikki is a mashed potato patty stuffed with green peas, spices and shallow fried so it’s crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I’m a huge fan of paneer and they serve theirs in a delicate sauce. I find that sometimes Indian food can be more greasy than it needs to be, but they have the perfect balance of crispy, golden brown coating whilst keeping it light and fresh.
For main course, we’ll usually share a couple of curries with a biriyani and a huge basket of naan bread. Bread is my biggest weakness and their naans are absolute perfection. They’re warm, soft and incredibly fluffy.. I’ve never had a naan like it and I just don’t know how they do it. My friend told me to try a peshwari naan and I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical – it’s only recently that I’m getting over the sweet-stuff-in-a-main-course boundary, and to have coconut, almonds and dried fruits in a bread to eat with savoury curries has never been something I’d have previously considered. HOW I WAS WRONG.. I will never go back to plain naan again – they are insanely good!! Sweet coconut wrapped in soft bread with a sprinkling of sesame seeds dipped in curry sauce.. I think I could just happily eat that for my entire meal! We never ever leave this place without being in a serious carb coma – the naans are huge but they’re so soft, more-ish and perfect for mopping up curry sauce that we’re just incapable of ordering a sensible amount! We’ve also tried their roti and paratha but nothing beats the naan breads for me!
It’s not just the naans that make me rave about this place though.. every single other dish we’ve tried has been perfect. Their chicken tikka has huge chunks of the most juicy and succulent meat in a creamy, tomatoey sauce. Their biriyani comes in a seemingly never-ending pot with soft, perfectly spiced rice, generous chunks of meat and a vegetable curry on the side. There’s a huge variety of vegetarian curries filled with spinach, paneer, chickpeas, aubergine, cauliflower, mushrooms, lentils and anything else you could possibly want.. and despite an incredibly extensive menu, each dish is cooked to perfection.
I can’t recommend this place enough – we have been back time and time again and it never fails to deliver. We are planning to try other Indian restaurants around St Albans though as this is just one of many.. but it will definitely take some beating!
Would I recommend it? Definitely!
Worth going out of your way for? Yes
Would I go back? I’ve been back many times.. and I’ll definitely be back there soon 🙂
Link to their website: http://www.veerdharauk.com