Spice India is a small chain of Indian restaurants in Carrick-on-Shannon, Longford, Mullingar, Newry and now Athlone.
Spice India Longford won Best World Cuisine for Leinster at the 2018 Irish Food Awards.
I dined at the restaurant on the first day of opening in Athlone, Connaught Street. There was a festive atmosphere with balloons at the front door, a warm welcome on arrival and live music during the evening.
The Food at Spice India Athlone
Just the fact that regular clients from Longford and Mullingar travelled to Athlone especially to support owner Saju was impressive: the place was full but my friend and I managed to squeeze into a table just as the previous diners were leaving. It is recommended to book a table in advance.
Owner Saju Prabha told me the cuisine is mostly from Northern India.
The menu has plenty of options available including a good selection of vegetarian foods, but as a meat eater I already knew from studying the menu on the website that I fancied a lamb dish.
I chose the lamb tikka masala, because I like the flavour combinations. When my food arrived after a complimentary starter of poppadoms and dips it looked very appetising. Good-sized chunks of tender lamb were served in a glossy and creamy sauce, slightly sweet from cashews, almonds and coconut, with delicate fragrant spices imparting gentle heat.
The meat was melting in the mouth from slow and careful cooking. I chose a garlic naan bread to accompany the dish instead of rice – I love the flavour of flatbread cooked inside the tandoori oven. It requires a lot of skill and it has to be made fresh otherwise it will be rubbery. The bread had fantastic aeration from fermenting the dough and it came with plenty of garlic. Thankfully the garlic wasn’t overpowering!
Ambience at Spice India Athlone
On the opening night there was certainly a buzz inside the restaurant. The music didn’t get people that engaged to start with, but later in the evening quite a few of us started dancing and it was great fun. Personally, I feel neutral about having live music in a restaurant. I would be quite happy not to have music while dining, because I want to have a conversation with my friends.
I really enjoyed the décor: it looks modern and inviting. The venue was formerly A Slice of Life and Connaught Bistro. The colours are muted and you feel relaxed while having your dinner. This is the type of place where people of all ages will feel comfortable.
I thought that the owner and the staff were extremely good at their job, very attentive and ensuring everybody has a positive experience. I forgot to ask about their loyalty card, I saw it advertised on their window, I think it’s a good idea because you get one free main course every six meals. I also think it’s good they have a Bring Your Own wine policy and there’s no corkage fee.
I’m delighted that the West Bank in Athlone has acquired one more restaurant with a nice community feel about it.