Featured Restaurant: K2 Balti

16th June 2017

5 Two Waters Rd • Hemel Hempstead • HP3 9BZ • 01442 239993

Reviewed by Alan Cox

There’s no denying that K2 Balti is imposing, bright and beautifully furnished. Its location may lack a little kerb appeal, just a stone’s throw from Hemel’s infamous ‘magic roundabout’, but inside it’s a different world: big and bold in every sense, from the size of the place and the extensive menu, to the troop of efficient waiters.

K2 has an almost cavernous interior, with its vast proportions cleverly split up into different areas. We find ourselves at the rear of the building in the chic, glass conservatory. With its stone floor, terracotta tones and cream linen table cloths and napkins it’s all rather airy and elegant. On a bright sunny evening, and with views of the gardens beyond, it feels very summery (and far removed from the image of a dark, flock-wallpapered, plastic-flower-clad local curry house).

A selection of vibrantly coloured chutneys and dips arrives, together with those oh-so-moreish popadoms, almost before we’ve sat down or even ordered drinks. This keenness seems to be a trademark, sadly, meaning that the pace of our evening feels rather rushed throughout.

With some quite different dishes on offer on the menu, we choose a contrasting duo to start: the Samudri Scallop – pan seared with home ground spices and served with smoked bell peppers and tomato chutney – and the more traditional stalwart, Chicken Tikka.

The scallops, neatly presented on a long white plate, are soft, and a little floppy in texture. They’re delicate, certainly, and served with a spicy sauce to awaken the taste buds, but I’m not convinced. To me they seem little out of place in an Indian restaurant. The more traditional Chicken Tikka has all the hallmarks you’d expect… a striking orange colour, moist pieces of chicken and with those familiar Tandoor aromas. I find this much more satisfying and authentic.

Main course options are endless. Along with the ubiquitous Korma, Madras, Dansak and Vindaloo, there’s also a good selection of more unusual dishes. Mangalorean Fish (Monkfish simmered in coconut and coriander sauce and served with steamed rice) finds its way onto our table along with a Tandoori Butter Murgh (Chicken, off the bone, cooked with butter, cream and mild spices). We complete the line-up with Kalonji Baingan (Aubergine cooked with onion seeds, tamarind, garlic and fresh tomatoes) and our all-time favourite: Peshwari Nan, stuffed with ground almonds, coconut, sultanas and single cream.

How appearances can be deceptive. The sludgy green looking Monk Fish curry certainly doesn’t say ‘eat me’, but the flavours, thankfully, are immense. It’s delicious – a beautifully seasoned and well balanced dish, with a sauce that never upstages the distinct flavours of this fleshy and robust fish.

With generous and succulent chunks of chicken in a thick and rich creamy sauce, the Butter Murgh hits the spot perfectly too. Our Peshwari Nan – light, fluffy and piping hot – couldn’t have been better, and the tasty Aubergine side dish, which could so easily turn mushy, retains the texture of the eggplant perfectly.

For dessert, I try Matka Kulfi, which arrives in a little china pot, straight from the freezer. It’s so cold and firm that I struggle to break the surface with my spoon. Once it has thawed a little the tastes become more distinct, but it lacks any real flavour.

K2 is clearly a popular and handsome restaurant, serving some good authentic food – but for my money it could do with slowing its pace just a little. That would elevate eating here from simply ‘a meal out’ into an occasion that does the cuisine justice.

STARTERS: £3.95 to £8.95 • MAINS: £9.95 to £19.95
DESSERTS: £3.50 - £4.95 • HOUSE WINE: £13.95

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