The two girls playing football in the street outside the door were South East Asian; the music was pure Bollywood, my fellow lunchers were all Indian and the beer was Spanish. One of the reasons I enjoy living in Puerto de la Cruz is that it occasionally reminds me of a mini-Manchester. There’s quite a multi-cultural scene going on here.
The day before Christmas Eve and we had a yen for an Indian curry. This was our second Indian curry (at a restaurant) in eight years of living on Tenerife. The last, two years ago and also at Christmas, was at a party in a museum and was supplied by the Indian club. This time we decided to try one of the other venues in town to get authentic Indian grub; the Jai Mata Di Indian Bar on Calle Virtud.
The Inside Scene
The fact that it was an Indian Bar rather than restaurant intrigued. The interior is indeed bar like with booths rather than tables and chairs and a wooden bar whose Indian personality is revealed by the music, a small shrine and a neon Shiva (apologies if I’ve got my Indian deity wrong).
An open kitchen is at the rear of the bar where the chef/waiter/barman prepares food fresh to order and from which spice fuelled, enticing aromas dance a Bollywood extravaganza which has your nostrils applauding…metaphorically speaking.
We immediately warmed to the place. It had a sort of quirky unpolished vibe which made it feel authentic Indian rather than the typical British version found in most UK towns (not that I have anything against those). There were a couple of other things about Jai Mata Di that promised authenticity. The fact that the people occupying the other booths were Asian; the fact that the menu was relatively small compared to high street Indian restaurants; and the fact that the items on the menu were mostly classed as sauces rather than curries.
After a bit of negotiation (a couple of menu items weren’t available) we chose lamb samosas, poppadoms, chicken madras, king prawns in a spicy sauce, chapatis, onion pilau rice and a couple of beers – it’s an Indian so it has to be beer – and waited whilst the smell from the kitchen continued to taunt and tease us.
Poppadoms are poppadoms but the dips that came with them were slightly different than you find in most Indians. One was dark, smoky and fruity – like a mango chutney for grown ups. The other was intriguingly more-ish; possibly slightly minty, definitely coconut-ish and something else that we couldn’t figure out. Asking the chef didn’t help as my brain just wouldn’t register the elusive ingredient we made him repeat three times.
The golden samosas were crisp, bulging with savoury minced lamb and got on particularly well with the mysterious coconut dip.
The two sauces with the main courses were quite contrasting. My madras wasn’t as kick ass spicy as I expected, but I’d opted for medium hot rather than hot hot. It was rich and full of eastern flavours but slightly over salted…which the chef actually told me himself as he served it, offering to change it after I’d tasted it. But it wasn’t over-salted enough to be a deal breaker. And anyway, having had a taste I wasn’t about to give it up again. Andy’s prawn ‘curry’ was the more flavoursome of the two dishes (benefiting from not being over salted) with chunky succulent prawns that absorbed the heady blend of spices that flavoured the dark as dusk sauce.
The onion pilau rice (a chef recommendation) was gingerbread house pretty as well as possessing delicate flavours that complimented the curries (as promised by chef) and the chapatis were surplus to requirements (as warned by chef).
It was exactly what we had in mind when the curry yen came on us – good, authentic Indian food in a setting that didn’t feel oddly out of place on a sub-tropical, Spanish speaking island. The bonus is that Jai Mata Di also does takeaways.
Puerto de la Cruz, Calle Virtud; +34 600 54 82 81; Meal for two with beers cost €30