There are so many things not to like about the Banana Leaf that it says something about the quality of the food that it was able to overcome them all to provide one of the best Indian meals I've had.
Located in a run down area of West Croydon, there is an icy draft blasting through the door on my first visit. The walls and tired looking decor tell of past glories from the 1990's. The tablecloths are frayed and stained with the juices of thousands of curries and the glasses and cutlery are tired and tarnished.
Not a good start, but the friendly waiter greets us like long lost friends and presents us with a menu that specialises in authentic South Indian dishes.
We started by sharing some large, juicy and subtlety spiced King Prawns. Served on a sizzling platter with onions they were a good introduction to the delights to come.
Sadly, the photo doesn't do this justice. One of the best Indian dishes I've ever had. I've been back since my first visit to have this dish again, which is rare for me, as I always like to try something new.
The dish consists of tender bits of lamb marinated in garlic, ginger, almond powder and coriander. It's one of the house specialities and is served dry, which allows the flavours to come through. It's not too hot (medium/mild) but the different flavours come through to make a truly memorable dish. Very impressive.
Grace and I have increasingly been having more vegetable dishes when we go for a curry, as we've found them more interesting than some of the traditional meat dishes.
At the Banana Leaf we shared a spinach and mushroom dry masala and an aubergine curry.
The spinach and mushroom had a real kick to it and provided a bit of heat to go with the subtler main. The aubergine curry was in a thick sauce, but had a generous helping of soft aubergine that had soaked up the flavours and was also very good.
I wish I could say that the Banana Leaf was a new discovery, but it's been in the Harden guide for a number of years and it's been the place I've been recommended by local people in the know. It definitely lived up to my expectations and will definitely become my curry house of choice in Croydon...