Dinner At The Elephant And Peacock In Milford
It’s been a while since The Man and I visited this particular historic building in Milford. Formerly known as The Strutt Arms (and probably always will be to locals), a new Indian Fusion dining concept has landed here and been renamed The Elephant and Peacock. This new Gastro Indian Pub is the sister venue to popular Mercia Marina eaterie, Lotus Indian Kitchen; a venue we have visited a few times (though not recently) and enjoyed the imaginative dishes.
Having bagged a spot near to the entrance, we left the jalopy out in the twinkling frost and headed inside where it was beautifully warm. The new team haven’t changed those magnificent floor tiles, which I was really pleased about; these beauties are exotic and colourful and marvellously distinctive, a bit like a Peacock’s plumage – nice tie-in, guys! A superb Teal/Peacock blue colours the walls which have unfussy glass side lights on them as well as wooden, carved frame mirrors. Indian canvasses decorated one wall near our table and there were lovely Taj Mahal-inspired tea light holders recessed into the stone wall too. Perhaps the biggest change to the interior is the absolutely stunning mural that covers an entire wall at the far end of the bar, en-route to the ‘facilities’; there’s nice Cow Shed hand wash and lotion too in the powder room, in case you’re interested ladies.You can’t miss this piece of art, it’s blooming mahooosive!
We were taken over to our table and handed over to the lovely Holly who soon got us kitted out with a pint of Cobra for His Nibs and a large glass of New Zealand Marlborough Sauv Blanc for moi. As with its sister venue, there is a great wine list to select from at The Elephant and Peacock. Sipping on our drinks and perusing the menu, we took in the extra decorations that the team had put up for the festive season: an eye-catching tree in the lobby and wreaths of tinsel draped around the mirrors and lights in the bar and dining areas. The upbeat (mainly 80s soft rock music) was at a nice level to provide atmosphere without impinging on conversation.
At The Elephant and Peacock they encourage relaxed, informal dining, so the starters can also be enjoyed as bar snacks; there’s also some exclusive bar nibbles, Masala Nuts and Bombay Mix among them. We chose the Chilli Fish (£7) and Samosa Chaat (£6) to start and both came beautifully presented on separate flat platters so that we could pick-n-mix bits and pop them on to our side plates, which made it a (very) mini Tapas experience for us.
The deconstructed/smashed vegetable filled Samosas were slathered in herbed Yoghurt and tangy Tamarind and then scattered with fresh Pomegranate seeds. I smacked my lips appreciatively as I bit into the brilliantly crisp Samosa pastry, enjoying the fact that there was no trace at all of oil or greasiness. The softened Potato and Pea filling was plentiful and bursting with spices that tantalised my palate and there was enough moisture from the yoghurt and Tamarind to prevent it being a claggy dish, but they didn’t render the pastry soggy or stifle the spices’ fragrance.
Those of you that like dishes with more heat will certainly appreciate the Chilli Fish! Beautifully juicy, the quartet of battered Tilapia pieces had been fried to give a great, crispy outer and then what the menu describes as ‘a finger-licking sauce’ had been poured over them all. Let me just say that this description doesn’t do justice at all to the rip-roaringly ‘tingle factor ahoy!’ chilli rich sauce; there is heat, pungency and layers of spice to savour here, and we both revelled in its boldness.Visually this was a super dish too, thanks to the contrast between the sunset toned sauce and the verdant micro-herbs that had been scattered on top of it all. A side salad garnish of shredded White and Red Cabbage and Carrot gave this dish a blast of texture and a cool element that our mouths certainly appreciated!
Holly had checked that we were enjoying our starters as we chomped merrily away and when we’d finished, and she came to take the serving platters and our plates back to the kitchen, we asked if we could have some water for the table. I thought it was lovely when she asked if we wanted our mains straight away or if we wanted a short interlude, bless her.
For mains we decided to cover both sections of the Elephant and Peacock menu; The Man had Puff Pastry Biryani (£14) from the ‘Pub Classics via India’, and I Fish Pollichathu (£15) from the ‘Curries’ selection. To go with our choices we had Peshwari Naan (£3.75), Chilli Garlic Chips (£4) and Raita (£2.50); both our dishes had rice in, or with, them so we didn’t order rice. Be aware that most other choices need to have rice ordered to accompany them.
My Seabass fillets were bathed in a deliciously tasty, tomato based Masala Shallot sauce and cocooned in Banana Leaf to steam-cook them. The result was scrumptiously soft, moist fish that was moreishly sweet in my mouth, with tendrils of spice at the periphery that partnered, rather than bullied, the delicate character of the Tilapia. Simple plain, steamed rice had been arranged in a timbale and then a side salad of the crunchy Cabbage and Carrot mix completed the ensemble. This had been a surprisingly filling dish; at first glance it didn’t look that much, but dismiss it at your peril!
The Puff Pastry Biryani concept is a bit of a brain twister for us Brits (containing both rice and pastry), but it really isn’t that different when you think about it; after all, do we not happily combine double-carb whammies in several of our beloved meals? – Pie and Chips being the glaringly obvious one. As with my dish, this ‘pie’ had been steam cooked, with the pastry lid sealing in the Chicken Breast meat and Rice mixture, and as a result the rice was light and fluffy, the poultry juicy and tender. Chef had used a superb blend of spices to flavour the meat and grains, and ‘gravy’ (tomato based curry sauce) was served in a separate pot so that you could add your perfect amount. Fence-sitters can now climb down; you’ll like this fusion dish when you get your chops round it, trust me.
I don’t know about you all, but I can’t have an Indian meal without having some sort of Naan bread; I just can’t! In the past I’ve had all manner of Peshwari Naans (some better than others!) but I have to say that we both really liked the one served here at The Elephant and Peacock in Milford. For a start there wasn’t too much filling; ok, a bit fell out, but not the usual avalanche that lands all over your lap, and it was solely Coconut, rather than Coconut and Sultana. The finely shredded, pressed Coconut wasn’t tooth-tinglingly sweet either thanks to the distinct notes of Cardamom tempering it – this was a very tasty accompaniment.
Being perfectly honest, we’d ordered the Raita to provide an injection of moisture in case the Biryani had been a bit on the claggy/dry side, which it turned out to most certainly NOT be, but the cooling Cucumber and Yoghurt mix came in blooming handy with the unexpectedly ardent Garlic Chilli Chips!
Skinny fries have been glammed up Bollywood style at the Elephant and Peacock and if these morsels were alive they would be working the gastro red carpet and winning Oscars! The crisp, golden outers of the fries have been bathed in a super-sticky glaze that swaggers around in your mouth like it owns the place and, to be fair, it totally does. The only thing I can describe the glaze’s composition as is that if you imagine Sweet Chilli dipping sauce reduced to its absolute minimum liquid content, then you’re getting somewhere near! Chilli provided the heat, with Garlic lingering nicely in the background rather than being at Dracula slaying concentrations. I don’t think my (or anyone else’s, for that matter) palate could’ve coped with an intense tag-team of Chilli and Garlic; one element needed to take the lead with the other supporting, something that Chef clearly had given a lot of thought to. These minxes are our new favourite thing – where have you been all our lives??!!! If I had one criticism, it would be that they aren’t on the bar snack menu; seriously guys, c’mon!!
Holly had been keeping an eye on our progress and had come over a couple of times to check we were happy with everything. When she took our plates and side dishes away she asked if we’d like desserts and, when we said yes, whether we’d like a little breathing space before they were brought out. This young lady is an absolute super star and, as her confidence increases, will just get better and better.
As soon as His Nibs spied the Gulab Jamun (£4) that was his dessert decision firmly made, and I can never resist the charms of Chocolate Chai Brownie (£5) so that was what we had! The Man Birds’ fried, sweet dumplings came with a choice of Vanilla Ice cream or Kulfi and he opted for Vanilla Ice Cream.
My generous square of warmed Cardamom and Ginger pimped Chocolate Brownie was slowly melting the scoop of Ice Cream and it seductively oozed down the sides and I urged His Nibs to hurry up with the photos so that I could tuck in! This was a perfect example of a Brownie: a light, crisp crust and wonderfully gooey centre that coated the insides of my cheeks and mouth, lingering for a while so that I could fully appreciate its charm. The rich cocoa was partnered by the unmistakeable perfume of Cardamom, with Ginger subtly flirting at the periphery of the flavour profile. This was a superb dessert that had several layers of taste to it and I’d happily eat this all day long!
His Nibs was an equally smitten kitten with his Gulab Jamun; he really does love this classic Indian pud! The small dumpling spheres have a satiating, dense texture that makes them the ideal vessel over which to pour intensely fragrant, sweet syrups, in this case a Rose one. Without wishing to be rude (I’ll leave that to all the ‘innuendo bingo’ players out there!) this pair of balls were beautifully tasty and lip-smackingly luscious, thanks to the syrup’s moistness. This is a classic example of a dessert being small-but-mighty; you couldn’t gorge on more than a couple of these treats without feeling podged, but they are the perfect end to an Indian meal.
This had been a wonderful experience, not that we were expecting anything less from Lotus Indian Kitchen’s sibling site. Thank you to Jaina for the kind invitation; all that remains for me to say is that Hot Wings have happily been awarded to this fab Milford team.
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