I heard about Spice Curry House in G.O.P. after writing a restaurant review on Masala Cafe, a Pakistani restaurant. Over the past two years, I had it on my “to do” list. I had heard mixed reviews of the restaurant. Last night I experienced it for myself.
I was disappointed.
First, let me say that all of my disappointment may not be the fault of Spice Curry House. We had purchased a coupon online from one of the big discount deal websites here in Turkey. Allegedly, we would get a 98tl meal for only 49tl. Dinner for two would include a choice of 2 entrees, two rices, two appetizers, and two desserts. Upon review of the website, there was no way that could add up to 98tl. At most, it’s value would be 84tl. But perhaps they would include water or tea.
I have no confirmation of whether it was SCH or Grupfoni that falsely advertised the value of the meal. However, the taste of the meal and the size of the portions clearly are determined by the restaurant itself.
We quickly learned that nothing else was included. Our choice of entrees were limited to 4, and we would be served the combination appetizer – 6 pieces of vegetarian selections plus one additional piece of lamb samosa. An extra piece of appetizer. All right! Or so I thought. (Priced at 9tl each without the lamb samosa).
Our appetizers came. 4 pieces each. This signaled to me that we were going to be lucky to get a 49tl meal. We proceeded to order the Lamb Rogan Josh (22TL) and Butter Chicken (18TL), both with Saffron rice (3tl each).
Two sad plates arrived at our table. A small portion of rice and a teeny weeny salad on each – no dressing or slice of lemon. One very small piece of chicken breast and a small helping of the lamb – there couldn’t have been more than 6 tiny chunks of meat.
Inhale. Exhale. Taste it all. Hopefully that would change my mind. Boring. Perhaps my idea of Indian food – which is Americanized – is much different than the Australian or British idea. (I was told the owner is Australian, but the menu screams British.) The butter chicken had a lovely color but absolutely no flavor. The sauce was not creamy. In fact, it had separated on my place with puddles of grease. The small piece of chicken breast was overcooked and very dry. Their claim of being “a real crowd pleaser” just didn’t ring true last night.
The Rogan Josh was also very bland. I could barely make out the curry flavor. It also was not creamy, but filled with little chunks of ingredients. The “medium-hot” temperature was lost on me. There was nothing spicy about it.
A small piece of naan was served with each meal. It wasn’t the best I have ever had. It was certainly the smallest, and it wasn’t exactly naan in the way I know it, but I give them a plus for trying. It’s the first time I have seen it served in Turkey.
At last, the dessert. We were limited to two choices, a “Sticky Toffee Pudding” which oddly enough, was described in Turkish as a date pudding, or a traditional Indian cake known as Carrot Halva. (8tl each) My husband went for the pudding.
Perhaps pudding means different things in different countries. It was nothing like I would describe as pudding. A tiny little piece of dark brown cake with a dark brown icing was served with toffee lightly drizzled on the plate. There was the tiniest little scoop of ice cream served with it. I tasted it. It was so dry that I couldn’t make out the flavor (and I didn’t want to devour my husband’s dessert by eating more). But it seemed like chocolate with toffee to me, no sign of dates.
Since I was still very hungry and not the biggest fan of dessert, I decided to test SCH. I asked if I could have an order of Onion Bhaji instead of dessert, after all, it was the same price. (8tl). Our waiter, who was very nice and spoke English well, but who was also very inattentive, even though there was no one there when we came and only one other couple throughout our meal, looked shocked.
His response, with a mouth gaping open, was to point to the menu and say, “No. The whole point of it is to (silence). I will ask.” I smiled and thanked him and chose the Carrot Cake as an alternative should the chef refuse my simple request.
Within a few minutes, I was served HALF an order of Onion Bhaji. The only thing good about it was that it was piping hot, much hotter than the first round of fried appetizers. Actually there was a second good thing, I loved the chutney. I could do without the yogurt though. A traditional mint chutney would have been welcomed as a second dip.
My after-tizer was actually served before my husband was served his cake. This caused me to wonder about the Chef’s sense of timing. How could it possibly be faster to fry my bhaji before slicing a piece of cake?
And half an order. Seriously? I also started to wonder if we were even getting 49TL worth of food? All of the appetizers were clearly cut back, and I feel confident that our meals and my husband’s dessert were also smaller.
I waited with baited breath to see whether we would be offered a complimentary glass of tea. It was never even suggested that we buy a tea or cup of coffee.
We ordered one glass of wine (8tl) and a soda at the beginning of our meal. I specifically asked for a heavy dry white wine. I was served a freezing cold glass of barely dry, light and fruity wine. And I have this thing about drinking wine from a bottle that wasn’t opened the same day. This clearly wasn’t.
At some point we did get his attention and ordered water, since we had nothing left to drink by the time we received our meals.
Usually, when I review a restaurant, I like to take photos. I opted not to since I didn’t like what I was seeing and I didn’t want to tip them off.
Finally, I was also disappointed that our meals were served on a plate, without the beauty of small Indian crocks that usually hold the meals. The restaurant is clean, but there is nothing fancy about it with it’s picnic-style chairs and tables. There was no care to ensure that everything we needed was on the table. So I sent my husband to the neighboring table for a napkin. As is the case with most restaurants I have been to in Turkey, the waiter never returned to the table to see if we needed anything or how we were enjoying our meals.
For those of you who are thinking that this may just have been an off night for SCH, here is something to consider. A couple of months ago we tried to make a reservation. We were told that we were welcome to come, but that there would only be one cook in the restaurant as they were catering a party at an Embassy. So we didn’t go. Last night, there was a full staff, the owner included.
I am interested in your comments. Have you had a different experience at SCH? I won’t be returning as I left the Indian restaurant hungry – a first for me. Sadly, with the new management of Masala Cafe, I’m not a fan of it anymore either. Are there any other alternatives?
Spice Curry House
Cayhane Sokak 30/A
Gazi Osman Pasa, Ankara 06700
ph: 0312 4466885
fax: 0312 4466885
alt: 0537 4187918
Note – the prices contained in this post are the actual prices on the menu at the time of this writing, some of which are higher than listed on SCH’s website. My suspicions about the size of the portions served are confirmed by the photos of full-sized meals on this 2009 blog post: http://eatingankara.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/spice-curry-house/. A coupon should not mean a smaller portion. The idea of the coupon is to get people in, and the restaurant has the benefit of being paid in advance. The restaurant also holds the cards in the risk – that one may not use the coupon in a timely fashion (usually within 3 months of purchasing it), thereby benefiting by being paid for nothing.
Oh, dear! I got so excited when I saw the title – been looking for a good curry house ever since I got back to Ankara 😉 Could it be that they were just having a “bad” day? (yes, I am one of those people who had to ask)…
Yes, yes……tell us if there are any alternatives, pleeeeeaaaaassssssssseeeeee 😉
Two thumbs up on your review…I felt the same, the food is bland, the portions are little and it is over priced….
Thanks Gail. I am happy I am not alone on this.
Yeah the curry is crap at this restaurant. I’m glad you wrote this review, I noticed Spice was in your recommended restaurant list and I wanted to post something horrible about it but I just didn’t have the heart.
Go to Masala, on Paris Caddesi near Kugulu Park. Having just read your review on that it seems you think they have fallen foul, but I have only had good meals there. Perhaps I have lowered my standards (mainly due to eating at Spice, I imagine) – this is the best curry I have had in Ankara. You get a curry that actually has a bit of spice in it. Good service too. And the portions aren’t kid sized like Spice, even when you order the groupon / sehirfirsati coupon menu (which crops up from time to time).
PS as a Brit I can whole heartedly assure you that Spice does not serve a ‘British style’ curry. I would go so far as to say curries in Britain are among the best thanks to our huge quota of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants, but perhaps no-one would believe me 😉
Thanks for the comment Tim. I will have to revise my recommendations list. I will probably give Masala one more try. My 3 attempts under the new management consisted of delivered dinner, lunch buffet, and takeout lunch buffet. All terrible. But perhaps one more sit down dinner is required.
Although I have never been to the UK, I’m sure the food is better. Maybe one day . ..
Firstly, I agree with Tim re. currys in Britain: I have pretty much only had good ones there but they have always been from curry houses run by Indians or Pakistanis.
I’ve had two meals from Spice. The first was a takeaway for three, we ordered 6 main courses and maybe ten starters. There were no left overs (very small portions!) and the food was entirely bland.
The second was the christmas dinner this was pretty good – an open buffet including honey roast ham which was utterly melt in your mouth delicious.The dissapointments were the amazingly lazy service (no salt on the table etc), the desserts which was a christmas pudding big enough for two but aimed to serve 20 people, and the mulled wine whichthey kept promising more of but never materialised (just half a glass for the whole meal).
I’d do christmas again there but never a meal which is actually “Indian.”
One of the happy by-products of moving back to England is the opportunity to eat good South Asian food. The Indian food here in Bodrum is indescribably awful! Interestingly, most ‘Indian’ restaurant in Britain are run by Bangladeshis.
Fax me some when you get there Jack!
Damn! I would have had to step to the plate and swing (confront the owner and chef). I am here and of course you are there and situations like that are handled differently, but darn a whole meal half the size and bad at that. Geez
LOL Artie! It’s so unlike me, right? But there was something strange about the whole thing. Usually, I introduce myself. But I wanted to see how it played out. The owner did peek out of the kitchen to check me out before my request for the after-tizer was accepted. But I don’t think he recognized me.
Thanks for the warning. Having no decent Indian restaurants in Bodrum, I might well have found myself in this one when visiting the in-laws in GOP.
I really don’t recommend going to ethnic restaurants like this esp in Ankara. Even here in Istanbul, good ones are very thin on the ground and without a large community of Pakistanis or Indians, the odds are the place will be dismal, as this one certainly sounds. Having said that, here in Istanbul we do have some really good Japanese places which are patronised by Japanese businessmen and their families but all the others are very weak. Just one little quibble: I think the service at restaurants here is fantastic! Very attentive, polite, helpful, everything you could possibly want! Much better than anything comparable in the UK, that’s for sure.
Hi Claudia, I think we have some decent ethnic restaurants here in Ankara. In fact, I have more of a beef with Turkish restaurants. I’m truly bored of them. But we have some decent Italian, Japanese/Chinese places. Unless it’s a super fancy place, our service is usually rather poor. Bring the food to the table and that’s it. Thanks for the comments!
I have had some great Indian food in Canada, the US and in the UK. This place does not even come close. I have tried it twice and was not impressed. I could cook it myself and do better job. From what I heard its very hard to run a restaurant here so I can understand why they need to make cuts.
Hi Steve! Thanks for reading my blog! I think we should all get together for a make-your-own-Indian-dish night!
I went to Spice two or three years ago (I live in GOP just a few minutes walk away) and thought it was very overpriced, and the food pretty poor, so never went back. I’m from West Yorkshire, so am used to the Kashmiri run curry houses in Bradford, now they are good.
HI Pete and thanks for reading my blog! It’s amazing how many negative things I am hearing about Spice since I posted this. Before it was 50-50.
Went to Spice restaurant and was very dissapointed in the food and the price, and the owner who was yelling at one of the employes made the night a nightmer, 1st we orderd the appitizer very bland, and İ know for a fact that some of it was frozen poor, 2nd the place is in a very odd decore creepie, 3rd we oederd the chicken masala, over cooked dry and the sauce was spliting away from the masala 4th we also orderd the beef randong and guess what İ was right some of the food is FROZEN i seen the OWNER CHEF go into the freezer and MİCROWAVE the beef randong and the rice we orderd 5th we asked to speek with the owner chef nice guy from Algera but was a fast talker and made us feel like he dident want to talk with his customers about his food. Guess one has to be drunk to enjoy the FROZEN food there maby that is why it taste so bland.
Hi David and thanks for reading my blog! It sounds like you had the worst experience at Spice Curry House! I think we are all agreed, it is terrible! The original chef/owner was an Aussie. I am told that he had little experience and has left the country. However, he was definitely visiting the night I was there and in the kitchen.
I am an Indian in Ankara and Spice is definitely not representative of Indian food.
Have been toying with the idea of consulting with a local entrepreneur to start an Indian restaurant…any thoughts?
Hi Neena and thanks for visiting my blog! I would love to see a good Indian restaurant open in Ankara. But here is what I have been told about opening restaurants here. A Turk can easily open one. However, it will be difficult as a foreigner for you to get a work permit. So you will take a risk by working there. There are heavy penalties if you are caught. I have not heard of anyone getting a work permit for international restaurants. Although, it may be possible. And surely, there are expats who proceed to work illegally without getting caught. I am also told that there are high taxes, which is probably why we see restaurants come and go so quickly. But if you do give it a whirl, please let us know!!!
I am very sorry to read this review. I ate at Spice in 2010 and it was my first experience with Indian food. I went with friends who were much more experienced and felt Spice was highly authentic. It was hands down one of the greatest dining experiences I’ve ever had. And considering the many years I’ve had traveling the world that says something. The Chicken Marsala was exquisite, as we’re the bahji, and the saffron rice. The portions were smallish but not so much as to feel cheated. And at the time at least the hand crafted serving bowls were in full use. I had their creme brûlée, which is a favorite dish I’m always on the hunt for a more perfect version of. In this case, mission accomplished. Spice uses lemongrass as an ingredient and it blew me away. It’s the best I’ve ever had before or since. In later visits I also had their carrot cake. Not a favorite dessert to me but still the best I’ve ever had. Drinks alternated between fine wine and that chocolatey Efes beer. Service was very good.
It blows my mind that Spice has fallen so low. I’ve often considered flying to Ankara just to eat there again. Part of me hopes the reviewer caught them on an incredibly bad day or even went to the wrong restaurant altogether. The fact they honored tourist coupons seems to indicate that. When I ate there it was a great favorite for locals and expats alike and none were needed.