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Britannia Spice – restaurant review

Barry Turnbull fails to catch a fish so heads for madras on the marshes

Published on March 17th 2011.

Britannia Spice – restaurant review

Dusk rolled in over the Dee estuary, effortlessly eclipsing a waning, pink- blush sky.

A dark silence settled on the Parkgate wetlands while on the Welsh hillocks beyond, a swathe of street lights glittered and danced like luminescent fireflies.

In the distance a dog barked and then much closer to us, a wading bird hopped by. A typically tranquil scene when the sun bids farewell over Wirral. But we shouldn’t really have been there.

Plan A was to set sail for a rare Merseyside species - the dedicated seafood restaurant. That idea had been sunk faster than Liverpool’s title hopes in October.

Apparently the Loch Fyne at West Kirby has reverted back to being a pub-grub outlet. Drowned the same murky depths as the likes of Jenny’s and Mister M’s.

It’s a bit odd that a city with such a large marine catchment area finds it hard to sustain a seafood outlet.

OK the Mersey and Liverpool Bay are still not exactly awash with fishy friends, despite the occasional “sighting” of a salmon in the Mersey. However I did notice, recently, a gaggle of illegal cockle pickers combing the foreshore at Leasowe.

Anyway, there was no time for carping, it was time to conjure up Plan B. I recalled another seafood outlet, the Lobster Grill in Parkgate, had also floundered, but this had be replaced by Indian affair, the Britannia Spice. So it was back in the old banger to head south.

The building housing Britannia Spice is a maze of a place, spread over two floors with a couple of tables tucked into nooks and crannies. We flopped down out of sight in one such nook in the hope that four year old Kate would not cause as much mayhem as she might in the main dining area.

The outing was meant to be Mrs Turnbull and I, but she had an exam to cram for - the ludicrous British citizenship test that is simply another way of squeezing cash out of Johnny Foreigner

While she sweated over the test books - oh yeah, a compulsory purchase at £40, I braved a night out with Kate and her two brothers.

Of course the diversity of our culture has been shaped by Britain’s colonial plundering down the ages but it does mean we have a rich variety of cuisine. Britannia Spice provides a wide choice of Indian and Bangladeshi dishes. First up, the inevitable popadoms (60p each) and pickle, particularly appealing to Kate who thought they were oversized crisps.

I was surprised to find the mushroom bhaji (£3) merely appear as slices of funghi. Bombay allo (£3) was a couple of lumps of potato in spices so to drown my disappointment I got stuck into a Kingfisher beer.

For a main course Sam was in the mood to experiment and chose the chicken tikka pathia (£7.80), tender pieces of poultry bathed in a rich red glaze. He wondered what combination of spices could produce such striking colour but I thought it best not mention food colouring.

The dish certainly brought a shade of vermilion to his cheeks as the spicy sauce hit the mark, prompting deep slurps of orange juice. Matthew’s chicken dopiaza (£6.95) was also reported to be a mouth-burner although not much of a challenge to a seasoned curry gobbler like myself.

A small dish of pilau rice (£1.95) and bronze chips (£1.60) accompanied the mains and in truth all the portions seemed a little curmudgeonly. Nevertheless, not everything was vaccummed up in the end.

Lamb madras (£6.95) was disappointing. It didn’t really deliver a kick, in fact it was just, well, pretty ordinary.

I told the kids of my first curry experience, which was during a stopover in Bombay and was so long ago I think My Boy Lollipop was in the charts.

I had beans on toast but Dad mischievously suggested I try his authentic Indian dish - it felt like he’d placed a piece of burning coal in my mouth. In retrospect it was probably no stronger than an Uncle Ben’s korma, but at the time it brought tears to my eyes.

The boys could not resist the dessert menu, which is one common to most curry houses in these parts. The same laminate card, the same bought-in dishes. The Fantastica (£3.30) was a triple decker pud featuring coffee cream which disappeared faster over the horizon than the horse I backed at the Cheltenham festival this week. Funky pie (£3.30) was also wolfed to appreciative grunting noises.

It was an enjoyable occasion with attentive staff who turned a blind eye to Kate’s explorations around the premises. A neat touch at the end though when I was given a complimentary brandy and the children received a chocolate bar each.

This was OK but you wouldn’t go out of your way - in this case out to Neston - for a run-of-the-mill plate of scoff.

However, the setting is great and if you bag a window seat with spring on the horizon all manner of wildlife will meet your gaze. Mind you, that happens in Liverpool city centre too.

Word of warning though, the prices on the restaurant website are not reflected on the menu. Inflation is not the word for it, the set course meal for two on the website is £19.50 but in reality is £32.

As we left there were a couple of other punters scanning the menu. Outside, however, Parkgate’s favourite chippy continued to do brisk trade.

Breakdown:6/10 food
2/5 service
2/5 ambience
Address:Britannia Spice
18-19 Parkgate Parade
CH64 6SA
0151 336 1774

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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Dicky SamMarch 18th 2011.

"Do you know, for instance, why the Huguenots came to England in the 17th century?"

Of course I do! They were French Protestants who came to England to escape persecution in France. Local music writer Paul Du Noyer is descended from Huguenots, as was the proprietor of former Liverpool landmark Atticus Books.
Liverpudlians aren't thick you know!

Hooray HenriMarch 20th 2011.

Does that mean I'm a Huguenot?

Ian ThompsonJuly 15th 2011.

travelled to parkgate yestesrday meeting some old friends and they took me to there local indian britannia spice, i said to them, i read a negative review on liverpool confidential on this place, either this was a different Britannia Spice or I was drunk, it was excellent food, excellent service and value for money, with a quality finishing touch to end of night (BRANDY). highly recommended....and with the price issue it says set meal £19.50 for take away, which is discounted, seating in is £32.00 but that includes 2 dessert and choice of 2 coffee's. It seems Barry you should stick to your fishes, or go to Indian and explore the different cuisine there as they vary from North to South and East to West.

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