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When it comes to culinary success stories, award-winning chef Sudha Shah has long been ‘one to watch’ in the competitive sphere of contemporary UK- Indian cuisine. As former executive head chef to the internationally acclaimed Saffron Restaurant Group, Saha’s CV is the envy of aspiring gastronomes everywhere, boasting an AA Rosette award plus recommendations in the Michelin, Hardens and Good Food guides.
So just what is it that brings a powerhouse like Sudha to the leafy suburbs of rural Worcestershire? The answer... An utterly unique concept in contemporary fusion cuisine which balances an ambience, menu and approach that is at once reassuringly traditional yet refreshingly innovative in outlook!
Situated off Kidderminster Road in the picturesque surroundings of Cutnall Green, Droitwich, the restaurant has been tastefully refurbished to a slick modern brief. Exposed stone walls, leather armchairs and plush patterned carpets marry effortlessly with light and spacious interiors, back-lit bar areas, industrial-style light fittings and contemporary dining chairs accented with notes of violet, indigo and teal. Together, they create an informal yet sophisticated ambience that’s poised somewhere between contemporary gastro-pub, friendly ‘village’ local and upmarket Indian bistro.
Upon arrival at Entouraj, we were immediately made to feel at home by the attentive waiting staff, each of whom knew the menu inside out, offering their own recommendations with signature aplomb and what felt like genuine passion.
Settling into our booth overlooking the surrounding Worcestershire countryside, our attention was immediately drawn to the Duck Varuval Pie starter; a mouthwatering combination of spiced confit duck breast, cumin-scented potato mash, mixed berry compote and chilli oil, all washed down - in my case - with a refreshing glass of Gordon’s Pink Gin served with aromatic tonic. Presented with a pain-staking eye for detail and undeniable theatrical flair, the lightly spiced duck melted in the mouth upon first contact, whilst the fluffy, cumin-scented potato infused with chilli oil added an aromatic depth of flavour and a lightness of texture to rival even the creamiest of traditional cottage pies.
My partner - a traditionalist by default - felt reassured in his choice of Tandoori Lamb Cutlets, which were cooked to absolute perfection. Lightly spiced rather than over-flavoured and presented proudly on a bed of Asian slaw and balsamic glaze, the beautifully tender cutlets found their perfect match in the zesty, palate-cleansing accompaniment of the apple & pear salsa. The natural sweetness of the balsamic glaze added a further intriguing dimension to an already delicious opener.
With the standard for the evening well and truly set, the main course had a great deal to live up to. So I can only give thanks to our waiter for introducing me to the revelation that followed. Opting for the Chicken Tikka Saag Garlic Special, I can safely say - without a word of exaggeration - that this was one of the most delicious, complex and flavoursome Indian dishes that I’ve ever had the good fortune to taste.
Infused with a subtle yet complex blend of aromatic spices and underpinned by a rich seam of garlic, the sublime combination of wilted spinach and garlic-infused tikka breast was contemporary Indian cuisine raised to a fine art. Washing over the palate in waves of untapped flavour, each mouthful of this intense yet by no means overpowering dish revealed new, unspoken delights, stimulating the senses in fresh and surprising ways. Needless to say, my overflowing praise didn’t go unnoticed by our neighbouring diners. I suggest Sudha and his team stock up on the spinach… I feel a signature dish coming on!
My partner’s choice of Murgh Bahari - chicken served on the bone with mushroom and truffle-oil infused kedgeree, vegetable relish and makhani sauce - was a joy to eat in every respect; another fine example of chef Sudha’s endlessly imaginative approach to his native cuisine. The rich butter-based makhani sauce of tomato, cinnamon, garlic and cardamom married perfectly with the earthy tones of the mushroom-infused kedgeree, whilst the risotto-like texture of the rice found its perfect complement in the crunchy vegetable relish. A Punjabi-inspired classic reinvented with skill and undeniable gusto!
As if an excuse were needed to start planning a return visit, Entouraj’s well-stocked bar, complete with speciality gin menu, premium spirit selection and choice of draft beers, makes it a great place to enjoy a relaxed drink with friends and family.
Armed, as they are, with Sudha Shah’s entrepreneurial spirit, creative dynamism, exacting standards of delivery and unmistakable passion for showcasing the very best of Indian cuisine at affordable prices, I can’t help but feel that this particular ‘entourage’ may be destined for even greater things!
I, for one, wish them every success on their culinary journey!
***** Katherine Ewing
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