If the past twelve months of lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that, as a society, we’re an adaptable bunch on the whole.  Where possible, businesses have morphed and twisted to enable them to find a way of trading and keeping in touch with their customer bases.  For some, it’s opened up a wealth of opportunities as it exposes them and their products to new audiences.  One such example is Simla Restaurant who have used lockdown 3 to perfect and launch their Simla At Home Curry Box offering, which bring the best of this celebrated Indian eatery to your own kitchen, via their restaurant near Tamworth.

Ordered online, it arrived promptly and well insulated to keep everything cool and fresh, so first impressions were good.  The Curry Box is just one from their At Home collections – they also offer a Sunday Lunch Surf and Turf and have just announced they will be doing a Mother’s Day Curry Box where every mother will receive a special Mother’s Day Gift, plus a special Box for Two option.  More of that later.

Priced at £60 and serving four people, The Simla Curry Box had all the ingredients to make a veritable feast.  Clearly bagged and labelled, and of visible quality, our menu comprised: Butter Chicken; Lamb Bhuna Masala, Paneer Jalfrezi, Tandoori Palak Chicken; Bengali Machor Jhol, served with Mini Poppodums and chutneys; sweetened pineapple and paprika raita; Malabari paratha and whole wheat chapatis; and brown onion and saffron pulav.

Setting aside a couple of hours, Jon and I – with the help of our housemate, Phil – divided all the ingredients, as per the instructions on the reverse of the accompanying menu sheet.  As anyone who knows us, we enjoy cooking, so we are no strangers to the kitchen.  And whilst the instructions were comprehensively written, the sheer volume of them was a little overwhelming.  Our impression was, very much, that they’d been written by a professional chef well-versed at multi-pot Indian cooking.  They’d have benefited from the instructions being read by a lay person who simply enjoys cooking.  Similarly, a ‘follow me’ tutorial on YouTube would also have been more engaging and easier to cook along with.  Just a thought.

What might also have helped at this stage is a step by step, sequential order of cooking sheet.  When faced with a long list of instructions, but no reference to logical order, we did suffer from some dishes being cooked early, some late and everything in varying stages of warmth by the time it was served.  Again, easily rectified, so we offer them with our best intentions, as we’d love this to be a huge success for this independent restaurant.

But what of the food, as that’s the important ingredient, surely?  Of the dishes we assembled – we put the fish and the lamb into the freezer for future use – the quality was undeniable and plentiful, proper Indian sized portions!

We had halved the main dishes, but still had too much for three people in one sitting.  Was it flavoursome?  Undeniably.  Was it better than the Curry in a Box from Tesco’s, or Marksies?  Yes.  Was it more expensive?  At £60, yes, but in truth you get so much food, it’s probably on-par per plate and represents one of the best value At Home box options on the market currently.

The highlights from our Curry Box were certainly the Tandoori Palak Chicken with its delicious and tender smoked chicken breast, creamy spinach and brown garlic.  A relatively simple dish, it looked as good as it tasted and was certainly something to enjoy with the pulav rice; and also the Paneer Jalfrezi, which was definitely ‘tens, tens, tens across the board’.  Lip-tinglingly spicy, it was rich, deeply flavoured and with a kick that let you know who was da’boss.   What was evident was that all the ingredients used in the dishes were of restaurant quality and super fresh.

Described as a ‘unique cooking experience’ by Phil (the housemate), it truly was.  And that’s the real appeal of this Simla At Home offering, which we realized in hindsight.  We approached it all-wrong.  We hadn’t expected the level of assembly that we were faced with and whilst we had earmarked a couple of hours to do it (before our weekly Zoom quiz), it wasn’t enough to do it justice, based on so many dishes.

Realistically, the assembly wasn’t too taxing, it was the pressure of doing it in the right order that brought sweat to the brow. It also showed how useless men (generally) are at multi-tasking and time management.  Lol.

The truth is, this At Home box IS your entertainment for the evening.  Whether served with friends or family, or cooked as a special treat for the Mother in your life, a more leisurely approach to the feast – perhaps with lots of wine – could see this unique way of cooking really dishing up a night-in to savour.

Quality: *****

Price: ****

Easy: **

To order your Simla at Home Curry Box FOR MOTHER’S DAY and to find out more click here.

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