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Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
One of the finest Indian restaurants in Essex Caraway Indian Brasserie, in Gants Hill, has won the prestigious Best Local Indian Restaurant Award in the Restaurant Guides

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Review

Laksha Bay

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Laksha Bay is a restaurant in the Wapping area with a quiet atmosphere and a very good line in traditional Indian restaurant cuisine. It seems bigger on the inside than it has any right to be, a fact made more obvious by its festive decorations which make it appear a bit like the inside of a Christmas tree. The waiters were noticeably friendly and helpful for a late dinner during a sparsely inhabited time of the holiday season, although we still felt bad about keeping the staff waiting and tried to hurry through the last two courses.
We opened with a starter of hot, falling-off the bone sardine and spicy king prawns with the usual accompaniment of pappadoms. To me sardines are the most interesting kind of fish if done well, and these were cooked in a way which combined their natural salty goodness with just enough heat and piquancy. The prawns were juicy, huge and frankly delicious: some Indian restaurants seem to be able to do King Prawns while some seem to have trouble packing in enough flavour to keep them interesting, and fortunately this was the former kind. With an average price of £3-7 these are the kind of starters you can get your teeth into: enough flavour to be worth the money but small enough that the meal had some significance afterwards.
At the manager’s recommendation we had Katmundu lamb and Gosht Kata Masala for our main courses. The Katmundu was described as very popular and “as hot as Vindaloo” (although heat is no basis for deciding which curry to buy: most of us aren’t in High School anymore) but there was really no comparism- this was a strong but strangely bland concoction of naga pickle, oily cubed lamb and chilli, and about as delicate as being clonked with a bag of wet cement. After 10 minutes, eating it became a grim uphill battle against its massive overspicing. The Gosht Kata Masala, on the other hand, was delicious for the same £7.95 price: tender slices of lamb cooked in masala sauce with a fiery garlic flavour, with a hint of sweetness and even subtlety. The fact that the former was recommended over the latter doesn’t say much for the staff’s self-confidence, although their cooking skills were still pretty good for most of the meal.
There’s one thing to say about Indian restaurants in London: when it comes to desserts, they tend to stick to the classics, and we were happy to go along with that. For pudding we had spires of icy mango kulfi, which tasted a bit like a milk maid ice lolly and had a comfortingly familiar feeling about it.
Laksha Bay has very few flaws as an Indian restaurant: a good location, fine food, friendly staff and a decent price range. If you want fine- but not brilliant- spicy food in a pleasant atmosphere, this is a good place to get it. If you want something which will shock and amaze you, it isn’t. But sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for somewhere that feels like home.