Eating Out: Scaling dizzy heights of Trip Advisor charts at Kathmandu Kitchen
9 Botanic Avenue
028 9024 9264
LAST month, for a few fleeting moments, a restaurant that didn’t exist found itself top of Trip Advisor’s rankings for London. Rather than a shimmering three Michelin starred celebrity chef branded behemoth, it was in fact the garden shed of a journalist who thought he’d see just how far he could push his ruse.
As he knocked back bookings from ever more desperate would-be diners, he managed to push it all the way to the top, providing a cautionary tale about just how much stock to put into the website’s review-driven hit parade, where posting fake reviews on the site is something of a cottage industry, and something Trip Advisor insists it’s on top of.
Of the 844 restaurants listed on the site for Belfast (you have to wade through plenty that are duplicate entries, aren’t open any more or are different branches of the same chain), Kathmandu Kitchen on Botanic Avenue was, at time of writing and probably at time of reading, top of the pops.
That fact probably had a fair hand in filling it up on our visit, though it was also the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, and the place buzzed and hummed all night,
culminating in a dimming of the chandeliers and a well-lubricated rendition of Happy Birthday To You for regular punter Graham. He got a chocolate cake. Our birthdayless table was offered free booze to round off the meal.
All this might have been classed as bribery – maybe to knock together a favourable review somewhere on the internet? – if the food that preceded it hadn’t been so good.
Kathmandu used to have some Nepalese competition in Belfast, in the form of Everest on the Saintfield Road, but that has changed its name to Diwali and shed all but a couple of dishes you’d find different from your average Indian. Kathmandu provides the usual Indian stuff, but it’s in its Nepalese offerings that it really stands out.
Momo – steamed dumplings – came stuffed with chicken, but the vegetable option, with chickpeas and onions, were punchier and both were helped along by a slightly smoky, mildly warming sauce. Sekuwa – tender pieces of grilled lamb – had a bit of deep bite in both texture and flavour, while the chicken wings confused the life out of me.
They didn't look like wings – with a long, exposed bone topped with a ball of meat – and tasted more like smokily spicy thighs. But a retrospective Google revealed my ignorance and the way the drummette part of the wing gets transformed into fantastic savoury lollypops.
Chicken saag, from the recognisably Indian-restaurant-in-the-west bit of the menu, was a good example of the type, as were the pilau rice and garlic naan.
The dishes weren’t straitjacketed by particular levels of heat, with all available from mild up to incendiary.
The Himalayan and Nepalese curries, both with well-cooked lamb, were ordered medium/hot. The former, sharp with yogurt, leaned towards the hot side while the latter, rich with tomatoes, went the other way.
Dhal-bhat-masu was a platter of the Nepalese curry, an earthy lentil dhal with a more interesting texture than you'll find most places, boiled rice, bread and a punchy lime pickle there wasn't nearly enough of.
A side of slightly sweet chickpeas with a creeping warmth of spice was maybe the best thing on the table although at £6.95 they weren't cheap – a trait shared with main courses that ranged from £10.95 for the vegetarian options up to £15.95, before bread or rice came into the equation. Maybe it took three attempts to get the bill from the generally efficient staff because they weren't sure how we'd take it.
The dessert menu was a pleasant surprise, with only the ubiquitous ice cream veering away from sub-continental fare – if you want chocolate cake come on your birthday or remember to wear your fibbing trousers – with the buttery, sweet, gently spiced carrot halawa hot pudding the standout. The sweets were also more keenly priced at £3.95.
I don’t think Kathmandu Kitchen is the best restaurant in Belfast, but it's a bloody good one – even at these prices. But don't take my word for it, let alone Trip Advisor's – find out for yourself.
Vegetable momo £5.95
Chicken momo £6.95
Chicken wings £5.95
Lamb sekuwa £6.95
Himalayan curry £14.50
Nepalese curry £14.95
Chicken saag £13.50
Garlic naan £2.25
Pilau rice £2
Channa masala £6.95
Diet coke x6 £13.50
Large cobra beer x2 £11.90