Featured Restaurant: K2 Balti

18th October 2019

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

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

Prominently situated on the road into Hemel Hempstead, within easy striking distance of the A41, K2 Balti House is unmissable both architecturally (a bright white building, illuminated with blue lights, set in a pretty garden running down to the River Gade) and culinarily: some of the finest Indian cuisine in the area.

Inside it’s expansive – quite the largest Indian restaurant I’ve visited in this country – and yet it manages to feel intimate at the same time, with plenty of space between tables and a generously high ceiling. Seated next to the big glass windows overlooking the well-maintained grounds (there’s even a gardener out there as we arrive, doing something to the greenery), it feels a world away from real life.

We order a couple of plain papadoms. I recall from previous visits that the K2 chutney offering is a thing of wonder, and I don’t want to miss out. There are two plates – one hot, one sweet – of four dishes each, all very distinctive. The mango chutney is silkily smooth, and the hot selection lives up to its name. My mouth is already singing.

After some negotiation – it’s a serious matter! – we decide to opt for meat-based starters, and fish-based main courses. We begin, therefore, with Lamb Sikampuri Kebab: Medallions of ground lamb infused with lentils, cinnamon, cardamom and freshly ground spices, served with mint and tamarind chutney and Dakshini Chicken Pakora: Fritters of minced chicken with curry leaves, red chilies, served with mint chutney. The lamb patties are plainly presented, but they pack a hidden punch: seriously spicy, they generate a fierce fire in the throat. The texture is slightly grainy, but the flavours are moreish. The pakora are barely bigger than bite-size, but they are full of flavour and beautifully moist. I could eat these All Night Long.

We’ve chosen both our main dishes (which we like to share) from the K2’s Specialities: Meen Moilee: Sea bass poached in coconut and turmeric, served with coconut rice, and Grilled Ajwaini Jhinga: Tandoor-grilled king prawns marinated in carom seeds, mint, green chilies, served with tomato salad. The Meen Moilee is mouth-fillingly gorgeous: the fish surprisingly meaty, and the sauce beautifully blended and coherent. Indeed, by the end of the meal, when I think I’m full, this is the dish I keep stretching my fork towards. Just irresistible.

The Tandoor-grilled king prawns are a generous portion (although, miraculously, they do all seem to disappear…) with a really good texture. The tomato salad is deliciously fresh.

Along with these we’re enjoying a couple of side dishes including Gobi Bhaji – not actually on the menu, but given that Aloo Gobi (cauliflower florets and potatoes gently sautéed in medium spices) is available, we simply asked the kitchen to dispense with the potatoes. Both my guest and I are particularly partial to Gobi Bhaji, and I’m pleased to report that the K2 version ticks all our boxes. We’ve also ordered Sag Paneer: Home-made cheese and spinach in a mild saffron and ginger sauce, which proves to be a really flavoursome variant of this popular dish.

We are replete. There is no chance that we are going to sample K2’s selection of desserts this evening. All we can do is relax, desultorily stab the odd remaining prawn (or scrape the coconut and turmeric sauce from the Meen Moilee plate) and decide which mountaineering metaphor to use to describe the K2’s achievements… apex and acme, peak and pinnacle all come to mind. Pick any of them: they all work.

STARTERS: £3.95-£9.95 • MAINS: £9.95-£19.95
DESSERTS: £3.50-£3.95 • HOUSE WINE: £15.95

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