Featured Restaurant: K2 Balti

12th October 2018

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

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

It’s hard to miss K2 Balti House. It makes for an impressive floodlit presence on one of the main roads leading into the town centre of Hemel Hempstead. This is a big, roomy restaurant that’s not quite a ‘local’, and not quite a central, urban one, so you might think it would face a nightly uphill challenge to fill it…

And yet it’s impressively busy and buzzing – and this is a quiet night, I’m told. We’ve passed through double doors into a large, comfortable foyer that feels more akin to a hotel lobby than an Indian restaurant, and are led towards the back of the restaurant to an elevated conservatory-style dining area that looks out onto a very pretty, floodlit garden. (K2 do like their mood lighting.) In the summer, the glass doors can be opened onto the river view, but we’re here on an evening when an early autumnal chill is just beginning to be felt. We’re glad to find it a cosy and inviting space in spite of the wall-to-ceiling glass.

While we choose from the menu, we nibble on papadoms, served with no less than eight different dips and pickles. I make it my mission to taste from each of the mini serving dishes, and particularly like an unusual, dry-textured relish made from dessicated coconut.

The menu is a pescatarian’s dream – the starters alone include crab, prawns and scallops in enticing combinations. But since we’re set on fish for our main course, we choose a couple of meat and vegetarian dishes to begin: the Chef’s Platter – a selection of chicken, salmon and lamb kebabs, and the unusual-sounding Papdi Chaat, described as wheat crisps with spiced chickpeas and tamarind chutney. The kebabs, served elegantly on a white rectangular plate, are dreamy: the lamb chop tender, the salmon plump and sizzling, and the chicken breast, notwithstanding its surprisingly irridescent green colouring, juicy and tasty. The Papdi Chaat is an unusual as its name suggests and… umm… interesting… It’s an interpretation of a popular street dish that’s meant to offer crunchy, tangy, hot and sweet flavours in one go, and to be fair, it does delivers on that, but it’s sadly not to my taste. The fridge-cold spicy chickpeas clash with sugary yoghurt topped with fresh blueberries. It’s a tale of two halves, as if breakfast is battling with dinner. I wave my white flag in defeat.

This is, however, just a blip; the main courses are wonderful. We choose Grilled Seabass, served on a bed of al dente asparagus in a mild masala sauce, and the sweet, creamy gravy marries perfectly with the crispy, salty fish. Murgh Handi Laziz, a chicken dish I’ve never tried before, exceeds expectations too. The large breast fillets confidently stand up to an intense, tomato sauce that has enough heat and flavour to balance the hint of coconut cream. We’ve also chosen Aloo Gobi and Mushrooms Bhaji, and the freshness of the vegetables comes through the kick of garlic and spices impeccably. Since when did cauliflower become such a hero ingredient?

After all this indulgence, we’re tempted by even more – an ice cream dish that’s described with a list of so many lustful adjectives that I wonder for a moment if it’s the blurb for a Mills and Boons novel or just a dessert. And yes, it’s a lovely combination of ice cream, chocolate and mint… but I don’t want to elope with it.

This is a great restaurant that strikes a successful balance between grand and cosy, large and intimate – and where service is immaculate. No wonder it stays so busy.

STARTERS: £3.95-£8.95 • MAINS: £8.95-£19.95
DESSERTS: £3.50-£4.00 • HOUSE WINE: £14.95

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