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The Everest Balti House

3 Portland Street, Cheltenham crack

I like buffets. It’s not that I’m greedy or like to eat as much as I can for a small amount of money. No, what I like is that you get to taste lots of different things. You can mix and match. You can try things you haven’t had before and if you don’t like them, you haven’t wasted a meal.

We went along to the Everest in Portland Street who, I had been reliably informed, have a really good Indian buffet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sure enough, as we entered the restaurant the row of steaming pots were waiting. We were met by Sabi who showed us to our table in the main room. We decided to try the à la carte as well as the buffet and my companion went off in search of something to start with while I had a good look down the menu.

The Everest is one of the oldest established and largest Indian restaurants in Cheltenham – it’s beautiful interior has room for 150 diners spread over three areas, including a balcony. It has been on the present site for nearly 25 years and their main chef has been with them almost as long which is always a good sign. The food is good, old fashioned traditional Indian rather than the nouvelle cuisine indienne which seem so fashionable these days.

Something caught my eye in the Starters section, something that I hadn’t tried before; Tandoori Fish. I discovered from Sabi that the fish was trout so I decided to give it a go. While I was waiting my companion came back with a plate laden with various starters from the buffet. The onion bhajis were the best we had tasted and the vegetable samosas were plump and juicy. The small pieces of tandoori chicken on the bone were very succulent. While I was cheekily robbing my friend’s plate my starter arrived. The trout was not filleted so you have to be careful of small bones but it was very nice indeed. Quite an unusual combination but the trout and all the various spices worked well.

For my main course Sabi recommended Bhuna Murg, a delicious dish of chicken which is marinated on the bone, grilled, then taken off the bone and cooked with medium herbs and spices. This gives it a unique sort of double flavour.

To go with it I had a Tarka Dahl which was rich and flavoursome. There is a tendency these days to make dahl very thin, almost soup like, but this was just right. I also had the Aloo Ghobi and a Kulcha nan, both of which were the perfect accompaniment to my main dish.

Meanwhile my friend was back from the buffet again with her main course. She had a choice of vegetarian as well as meat dishes. Sometimes vegetarian dishes tend to be dry, but the Bombay Aloo and the Chan Massala (chick peas) both were in a beautifully rich medium hot and spicy sauce. She is not a big eater so a spoonful of each of the Chicken Jalfraizi, the Chicken Dhansak and special fried rice completed her choice and were equally juicy. Sabi then insisted she also tried the Lamb and Brinjal Balti. This was superb. The mixture of ground cumin and a lemony flavour, probably tamarind, gave it a mouth watering tang.

We had eaten more than is usual for us but had a look at the buffet desserts. My only disappointment was that they were not Indian. There was cheesecake, a beautiful chocolate gateaux and fruit salad but no kir, jalabee or halva which was a pity. We finally decided to share a coconut ice cream which rounded off a perfect meal.

The Everest buffet is excellent value and changes from day to day. The main menu is long and varied and there is a good selection of beers and wines. If one of you can’t eat spicy foods there are some good English dishes to choose from. The service is impeccable and the team of very smart waiters is hyper attentive. Highly recommended.