This article was originally published in the January 2014 edition of Viva Lewes magazine:
There’s only one sure-fire way to deal with a cold winter’s evening. “I’m wearing my curry dress tonight”, says my wife. “It’s stretchy”. And I’m wearing my curry shirt, which contains an explosion of colours guaranteed to hide any spilled sauce. Suitably attired, we’re going out for a meal in Ringmer. When it comes to food, the village is surprisingly well catered for… if you’ll forgive the pun. All three pubs serve meals, there’s a fish & chip shop, a pizza franchise, an excellent butcher and a brewery as well as tonight’s destination: the Ganges restaurant.
We’ve not booked but things are relatively quiet on this particular Sunday night. Greeted like long-lost VIP visitors and seated at the back of the restaurant near the bar, we notice the tablecloths are also dressed for curry. They’re fashionably black, contrasting with the pale walls and contemporary décor. Our charming waiter offers poppadoms (60p each) and chutneys (60p per person) while we read through the two menus. Yes, two. There’s an entire menu of ‘specials’ alongside the regular dishes. We still haven’t chosen when the poppadoms arrive but, by the time we’ve demolished them and inadvertently tested the tablecloth with each of the three chutneys, we’re ready to decide. I’m curious about the Vegetable Paneer roll – something I’ve never seen nor heard of – while Mrs B is intrigued by the Duck Tikka. We’re following this with a Chicken Chettinad for me (£7.95; ‘full of South Indian spices’) and a Chilli Masala Lamb Shank (£8.95) for her, plus saag rice (£2.95) and a plain naan (£1.95) to share. Oh, and two pints of Cobra beer (£4.50 each). Just for authenticity, of course.
Duck Tikka was exactly as my wife had hoped: marinated duck breast served with a small salad. Gently spiced and not too much to ruin an appetite. My roll was also gently spiced – paneer cheese wrapped in a flatbread with onions and peas – although it would have made a perfectly acceptable lunchtime dish on its own. Perhaps I should have worn my curry trousers with their elasticated belt. Our main courses arrive on the wheeled trolley beloved by most Indian restaurants, accompanied by an impressively puffy naan. I load my plate with the chicken and some of the spinach-enhanced rice before digging in. There’s something fruity in there, a hint of coconut I think, some heat and then – woah – more heat. Not excessive but certainly very warm. Apparently that’s the Chettinad tradition. Time for another pint. Later we swap plates, allowing us both to marvel at how easily the lamb fell off the bone and how non-greasy our food was. As traditional music played in the background – mainly love songs and wedding tunes, the waiter told us – we finished our meals with a coffee (£1.50 each) and prepared to head home. It was still chilly outside but the warmth of the restaurant’s welcome and the heat of its food had more than compensated.
Ganges, 72 Springett Avenue, Ringmer, 01273 812003.