Food review: Golden Moments, Ludlow
The chef was late. And that’s probably not what you’re looking for when you’ve got a reviewer making an unannounced visit to your restaurant. The restaurant manager was apologetic and said he should have been there 20 minutes ago….. but wasn’t.
I asked if I could book in anyway, presuming the chef would be there soon. The manager shrugged. Maybe in 30 minutes, he told me.
I waited. I’d spent the previous 30 minutes pounding it out on a treadmill and was determined to eat and drink, even if it meant an unexpected wait for a recalcitrant chef.
My friend arrived. He was late too. And, remarkably, he said he knew the chef. He sent him a text message, asking where he was. Nothing. Oh dear.
I’m guessing the head chef wasn’t the only member of staff on duty for we ploughed ahead and ordered. And the food was pretty good, if not a little overcooked. Spices and sauces were both delicious, which is probably the most important thing if you’re running a Bangladeshi-Indian restaurant.
Golden Moments opened in Ludlow in 2001. The family-run restaurant offers a fusion of traditional South Asian recipes, with strong influences from Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine. For my money, it’s been the best in Shropshire for many, many years. A cut above the traditional curry houses that sit in most of our market towns, Golden Moments offers culinary delights of a higher standard.
And while it doesn’t compete with the best in the region – there’s no pretentions to fine dining or attempts to match the delights of, say, Opheem, in Birmingham – it’s head and shoulders above the competition in Shropshire. Especially when the chef makes it into work on time.
The restaurant is clean, contemporary and capacious and the restaurant manager has exemplary skills. Attentive and charming, he was engaged from the moment my friend and I stepped in until a member of his team opened the door to show us out.
The Golden Moments menu is a work of art. Offering interest and intrigue, excitement and dynamism, it’s far removed from the regular selections available at venues across the region. Of course, there are the traditional dishes that everyone knows and loves. So you’ll get a decent biryani or bhuna, a fabulous dansak or dupiaza. But the specials is where the best of the action is; that’s the place where the chef – when he turns up…. Okay, we’ve had enough of that joke now – shows real flair.
My friend and I took a while to browse the menu. We munched our way through the obligatory four poppadoms while doing so. The dips were far better than those you might ordinarily find. The thin, wan yoghurt and mince sauce was absent; replaced by a thicker, silkier more luxuriant variety. The sweet, syrupy mango chutney that so frequently tastes and looks like mango jam was substituted for a dip with body, depth and flavour. The onion salad was precisely cut and mixed with small pieces of tomato, to add sweetness. If a decent dinner is all about the detail then the Golden Moments kitchen were all over those like a rash.
We opted for the same starter. A chicken tikka puri featured marinated chicken cooked in a thick bhuna sauce with tomato, garlic and fenugreek served with a fried puri bread. The bread had been wrapped around the filling, given it the appearance of an uncrimped pasty, and it was served with a decent salad. Again, the details were all. While most restaurants offer apologetic slices of shredded iceburg lettuce, Golden Moments provided a neat and tidy arrangement of rocket leaves. The puri was good. The filling was simultaneously sweet and spicy and the sauce viscous and satisfying. Delish.
We both ate one of the house specials for our main. He had the morich masala with naan while I ate a fiery chat moza chicken and pillau rice. Both impressed.
The morich masala comprised pieces of chicken tikka cooked with minced lamb, onions, green chilli and coriander. It was a medium heat dish and the plate was served with a slightly scorched naan bread that had been cut into quarters. My friend used it to scoop up the sauce and he made light work of the dish.
My chat moza chicken was a real stand-out piece of cooking. Though the chicken had been cooked for a little too long and had become dry in the process, the sauce was exceptional. Hot, sweet and sour, it had a chilli kick and heat that left me as hot as the moments after driving past an unmarked police speed van. The sourness was subtle, rather like the taste of a pathia, and it was a welcome addition to my range of favourite Indian dishes.
Service was good throughout. The restaurant manager made frequent visits to the table, bringing more Cobra beer for my friend, more sparkling water for me. He checked that we were enjoying our food and took more than a passing interest in our comments. The food was very good; full of possibilities and daring in its construction.
And while the chef ought to buy a new alarm clock, his team didn’t let him down. There was great balance of flavour in each of the two dishes that my friend and I ate. It avoided the smash-you-over-the-head heat beloved by some curry houses and adopted a more sophisticated approach to flavourings.
It’s difficult to see past Golden Moments as being the best restaurant in its category in the county. Though a number of restaurants have really good service, none can match it for flavours, spices and sauces.
Tellingly, the restaurant opened when Ludlow was in the middle of it’s now-past gastronomic boom and regular customers included a number of the town’s Michelin-starred chefs. They rated it highly – and so do we. If you’re looking for a curry with interest, intelligence and sophistication, Golden Moments has it all.