On our first night in the U.K., my co-workers and I were pretty burnt out from the overseas flight and subsequent meetings with Naim Audio. We were taken to our hotel for a much needed shower and beers in the hotel's pub. For dinner that night, our company's Naim Audio "expert" Manu (sort for Emmanuel) suggested an Indian restaurant that he has frequented on his many trips to Salisbury over the years - Anokaa. "It's sort of Indian/Asian fusion meets French cuisine," he told us. Indian food was on my list of things to try while I was in the U.K., so I enthusiastically welcomed the suggestion.
Anokaa - which means "exceptional" in Hindi - features a number of modern twists on traditional Indian foods and not another "curry house" that proliferates the U.K. culinary landscape. That's been owner Solman Farsi's mission since he originally opened the restaurant in 2004. Farsi imports many of the spices he uses in his kitchen directly from India.
It was about a 5 minute walk through the streets of old Salisbury from our hotel to Anokaa that evening. (see map) The restaurant has a very contemporary design inside and out, a stark contrast to buildings up and down the small streets of the city of about 60,000.
Inside Anokaa, the decor was sleek and stylish with subdued lighting throughout the place. We had a short wait near the bar up front before we were seated at a long table in the far back of the restaurant. It was very busy in Anokaa, the sign of a very popular restaurant.
The menu at Anokaa is self-described as including "only the freshest of ingredients, authentic herbs and spices plus rare and unusual specialities to offer a modern twist on traditional Indian cuisine." They had a number of starter appetizers on the menu ranging from strips of Welsh lamb meat with ginger and coriander, to hand-picked crab cakes with toasted coconut, to goan beef which were cuts of tenderloin beef filets that are soaked overnight in a yogurt and rum marinade.
For the main entrees, it was far from the normal Indian food that you'll find stateside. They had a cinnamon-glazed duck breast, a spice crusted chicken breast, char-grilled guinea fowl breasts, and a steak filet marinated in a medium-heat spiced onion marinade. They also had their own interpretations of Indian food including an Old Dehli chicken curry that was glazed with honey and orange and placed in a rich tomato and cream sauce. There was also a tandoori-seared rack of lamb cooked with sweet chiles and marjoram, a corn-fed chicken biryani, a curry lababdar with a choice of either chicken or prawns, and a chicken masala stuffed with avocado. Anokaa also had a number of vegetarian entrees, seafood entrees and traditional Indian food such as vindaloos, tikka masala, bhuna, korma, etc., etc.
We decided to just let Manu order up a bunch of stuff and we'd just dig in family-style. But our host, Doug, was sort of wary of this. "The last time I was here with Manu we had so much food on the table after the appetizers, when the main courses showed up we about died on the spot!" Manu promised he'd not go overboard this time.
The first thing they brought out to us was the papadum bread - the thin chip-style bread - along with an impressive array of chutneys and sauces. There was a sweet and somewhat spicy chutney that I damn near drank directly out of the bowl, it was so tasty.
The starters came out soon thereafter. Above left is the goan beef slices. The beef was exceptionally tender and the chile sauce had a bit of a bite on the aftertaste. The presentation was very French, hence Manu's explanation that Anokaa was an Indian restaurant with a French flair.
The duck tikka (lower left) was a big hit on the table. It had a citrus flavor and covered in a seared onion chutney sauce. I'm not big on duck, but those little guys were fabulous.
The pankoras (above right) were a delectable little vegetarian appetizer that were shallow-fried nuggets of spinach, mashed potatoes, onions and crushed coriander seeds. The chutney sauces that came with the pankoras were delicious, as well.
Quite honestly, after the appetizers were over I was nearly satiated. But then the main entrees came out with many howls of protest and derision toward Manu. But everything looked so good that we had to give it a try.
The rogan josh-style Welsh lamb shanks were something that was placed in front of me. I usually don't care for lamb shanks, although I do like a good rogan josh, vindaloo or curry with lamb. But the lamb was so tender and fell easily from the bone without a hint of fattiness in the taste. They really do know how to do lamb correctly in the U.K.
The Old Dehli chicken curry (above right) was also wonderful in taste. It wasn't overly spicy and had a great overall flavor. The chicken was also tender and easy to cut with a fork. I took some of the naan bread that we had on the table and dipped into the curry sauce. It was just wonderful.
Now, I believe the picture lower left is of the duck jaalsha. I remember having duck at the table and how we thought there would be a fight that would break out over the duck. The duck jaalsha featured lean duck breast pieces that were quickly crisped over charcoal, then mixed with apricot, ginger and white wine, then simmered in a strongly spiced sauce with cream of coconut and cardamon. I can't even begin to describe how good it really tasted.
One of the other popular dishes at the table was the curry lababdar with the prawns. The curry had a great little spicy kick and the prawns were good-sized and meaty. The Kingfisher beer that I was drinking helped cut the spiciness of the sauce pretty well.
We also had a medley of sauces that I don't quite know what they were that were served with the naan bread. They were probably a chutney sauce, but they were different from the ones we had gotten with the papadum earlier in the meal. There was one that was sort of sweet and spicy, one that was sort of spicy and the third was a "burn-your-face-off" spicy. I really liked the combination of the sweet and spicy sauce on the naan.
The meal at Anokaa was a great start to our trip to the U.K. I'd heard that the Indian restaurants in England were top-notch and would put many of the ones in the States to shame. While I don't quite know about that (as I have eaten in some pretty good Indian restaurants in the U.S. over the past four or so years), the food at Anokaa was not only excellent, it was very interesting and intriguing. We had exceptional service all evening long with two or three guys taking care of us at all times. I was full, spent, and needing a bed after finishing our meal and the 10 minute walk back to the hotel. Our meal at Anokaa was truly a culinary experience.