Review of Indi18, Avebury Avenue, Tonbridge

There are several things that are sure to spark debate when it comes to food.

Who serves the best bacon butty (my husband), the best roast potatoes (my mom), the best sausage and egg muffin (ok, that’s just me but if you want to know the answer, it’s the snack wagon just around the corner from me), the best fish and chips (a seaside restaurant in Devon but it’s a bit long) and the best curry.

Indi18, Avebury Avenue, Tonbridge is a hit with many customers.  Picture: Facebook
Indi18, Avebury Avenue, Tonbridge is a hit with many customers. Picture: Facebook

I ate a lot of curries in my day, some good, some not so good. There have been times when the nicest restaurants have only served “good” in my personal notes, and I’ve also eaten some of the best takeout I’ve ever had only to find out they’re from a dilapidated unit. ‘d never have given a second chance.

And the only reason I tried the takeout was because it was recommended by others.

So when we spotted a place called Indi18 in Tonbridge with a five star rating on Trip Advisor (only one person out of 96 said it was average, but didn’t criticize anything) we had to give it a try.

‘Best Indian food in Kent’ said someone who had been there a few weeks before us, while a regular said ‘I am never disappointed with the quality of the food’.

And its Google rating is almost five stars as well.

Achari Paneer Tikka, homemade Indian cheese marinated in tamarind, herbs and spices gave a great start
Achari Paneer Tikka, homemade Indian cheese marinated in tamarind, herbs and spices gave a great start

“Okay,” I said to my husband. “It looks like one to us.”

I’m not a big fan of eating too late in the evening, and the first time I tried to book, being told I was flexible, I was politely asked if I could arrive at 6.30pm rather than ‘to 19h.

I then had to push our visit back for a week when my shift changed and 7pm this time was no problem.

We thought we would arrive and there would be us, maybe two more tables and a bit of an awkward atmosphere of too many staff just waiting for the 8:30pm rush to start.

How wrong we were.

“It arrived like a photo on a plate, beautifully presented with a modern twist and sweet spice”

The place was absolutely packed and apart from another table we were the last to join the party.

Although we had never set foot in this place, we were greeted like old friends and made to feel incredibly welcome.

We were quickly shown to our tables, drinks were delivered (Indian beer, of course) and we poked our heads around the menus as we munched our way through some poppadoms and the biggest selection of chutneys I’ve ever had. have ever been served (six different sauces and some very hot chilli olives).

We decided to try things we had never had before and started with the Achari Paneer Tikka, a homemade Indian cheese marinated in tamarind, herbs and spices.

It arrived like a picture on a plate, lovingly presented with a modern twist and a sweet spice that was simply beautiful and made you want to return. I was almost disappointed that I didn’t order it as a main course.

The main event.  From left to right: Onion Bhaji, Rice Pilaf, Chicken Zeera and Shaktora Ghoast
The main event. From left to right: Onion Bhaji, Rice Pilaf, Chicken Zeera and Shaktora Ghoast

But then I would have really missed.

I opted for the Chicken Zeera, which was described as coming in a rich herb and spice sauce with “the star ingredient, cumin”. In addition to the chicken, there was a healthy dose of chickpeas which gave it a different texture. I am a fan of dhansak and dhal which means it was up my street. The sauce was thick, full of flavor and just about the right amount of tingle which meant you could really taste the food.

My husband opted for Shaktora Ghoast, a beef dish made with traditional Indian herbs, Bangladeshi lime, garlic, onion and ginger.

Rice pilaf and onion bhaji completed our order and both were just lovely. My go-to for every curry restaurant I eat at is bhaji and it was full of flavor but crispy without being greasy.

For both of us, the Shaktora Ghoast was the star of our show. The lime really lifted the dish and the freshness of the sauce really shone through. That alone will make me go back.

“As for the food, I have nothing to complain about”

The portions were generous but the staff were more than happy to pack leftovers for you to enjoy again the next day.

Food-wise, I can’t fault it. If I had to take a dip, my only very small disappointment was the fact that we were seated at one of two tables which were not part of the main restaurant.

Two tables for four are tucked away just off the main area towards the kitchen.

The downside was that you didn’t feel quite part of the main action and couldn’t enjoy the cute decor. But the plus side was that you could see all the dishes coming out of the kitchen, remembering your favorite for your next return. And at no time did we feel ignored by the staff or left out, quite the contrary – they were incredibly attentive, patient in answering our questions, had perfect timing in taking orders and delivering them and even the manager came to tell us about his restaurant.

And in some ways, this quieter place gave us the time we needed to savor what was in front of us.

Nikki White comes home
Nikki White comes home

The boss is clearly very proud of the place, and rightly so. Many diners had obviously already been there, and the takeaways were also leaving at high speed. The place is not on any app, it does quite well on its direct commands.

That night they had apparently turned down about 70 reservations. The place was still full when we left, already taken over by a second round of diners, and there were people queuing to get in.

So my little, little gripe about where we were seated suddenly didn’t seem so bad after all, because who can blame them for trying to squeeze in two more tables? Glad they did, otherwise maybe I should have waited longer to try it.

And back to those notes. It’s easy to be skeptical if something seems too good to be true.

One reviewer said, “Brilliant Indian this one. Super friendly and eager to please. They even gave us a tour of the kitchen and a naan-making lesson!”

We didn’t quite figure that out, but you know what, I think if we had asked, they probably would have.

So, in this case, believe the hype. We will definitely go back, even if we have to sit on the same table.

Ratings:

Food: all your usual curry dishes with some really unusual chef’s specials including ***** fish dishes

Drink: Again a decent selection including Indian beers. The wine list was very reasonably priced *****

Decor: Very modern interior with colorful mood lighting, apart from the two tables we were seated at where it’s lighter and brighter but still pleasant (even I can’t take a point for that) *** **

Staff: exceptional. We were greeted with a beaming smile, the staff were incredibly attentive, polite and chatted with us as if we had been going there for years *****

Price: Good value for money. Mains starts at £6.50 down to £15.95*****