Old Bristol would be as appropriate a name as Old India for this grand-looking restaurant housed in the Grade II-listed former Stock Exchange in the city’s historic heart on Nicholas Street. The porticoed exterior, held up by a quarter of elaborate Corinthian columns, gives a taste of the grandeur to expect on the inside, where the dining room is clad in mahogany panelling and decorated with elaborate wood carvings and plaster mouldings. Naturally, the furnishings live up to the setting, with antique-style chairs covered in tactile fabrics.
Old India claims to be ‘Bristol’s finest Indian restaurant’ and to put that to the test, we’d recommend that you go straight to the favourites section of the menu, which has dishes you’re unlikely to see in your average high-street curry house.
Seafood is a strength: try the crab masala, involving fresh white claw meat cooked with spices and curry leaves, or perhaps palak chingry, tiger prawns served in a smooth spinach sauce. If you prefer fish to seafood, sea bream comes in a Bengali-style sauce while salmon is cooked with mustard seeds and tamarind water.
Meat dishes are just as appealing, however. Lamb chops are smoked with pomegranate juice, chicken breast is cooked with spiced yogurt and garlic or there is the classic lamb shank dish of nehari gosht.
The rest of the menu is rather more conventional. There’s seekh kebab and salmon tikka to start followed by the likes of chicken or lamb bhuna and korma, with side orders of dal, sag paneer and masala aloo, with lemon and pilau rice on the side, and naans, roti, paratha and chapati to mop up the sauces.
Vegetarian and vegan choice is excellent, while to drink there’s a short and very well-priced European wine list if you can see past the Kingfisher and Cobra beer.