Secret Diner: Celebrating sun, sea and Spice

By Time of article published Aug 15, 2020

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The Secret Diner

Spice Restaurant

Where: Bali Hai, 37 North Beach Road, Westbrook

Open: Tuesday to Friday, noon to 2.30pm, Saturday to Sunday 7.30am to 11am, noon to 3pm.

Call: 0329433558

On Women’s Day and with an absolutely perfect sunny Sunday, my friend and I decided we would treat the important women in our lives to lunch.

After all, lockdown meant that Mother’s Day and important birthdays had been reduced to phone calls and Zoom sessions.

We could think of few more ideal settings than Spice out at Westbrook Beach with its wonderful views of the ocean.

The restaurant is not opening in the evenings owing to Covid-19, but only for lunch all week and for breakfasts on the weekends as well. Had I known, I might have suggested we give breakfast a whirl.

And sorry I didn’t ask to see the breakfast menu, so I can’t tempt you.

It was great to be greeted by the same friendly faces as we did before Covid-19 and were shown to our table.

The restaurant was buzzing and, in times of social distancing, would be classified as full.

Spice’s menu hasn’t changed much, relying on classic dishes touched up and enlivened with the judicious use of spicing.

Crispy duck with cumin, served with a port wine, orange and pineapple sauce is one such classic, as is Barney’s seafood bake, a seasonal selection of seafood in a leek, dill and Chardonnay cream, capped with Maldon salted potatoes. A seafood shepherd’s pie if you like.

The roast duck salad with mango is another popular option, ideal for a light lunch.

Starters include an antipasto board, or smoked salmon and fried aubergine with lemon and dill infused cream cheese, or grilled calamari and balsamic cucumber ribbons with a chilli, dhania and lime dressing. We tried the tempura cumin spiced prawns with beetroot relish, and a dhania and chilli drizzle (R95). These weren’t quite as one remembered them, the prawns not so plump and juicy, possibly a testimony as to how difficult it is to get seafood stocks. But we enjoyed them, although I am not sure prawns and beetroot are a natural marriage.

A little cup of Spice’s good spinach and lentil soup was served to those not having starters, which is a nice touch.

The lamb curry is superb, as is its prawn version, but I had had both many times, and I tried the fish curry (R170). The curries are beautifully presented with an array of rice, roti, home-made papadum, sambals and pickles. While not the hottest fish curry, you will find it has a lovely depth of flavour and was a generous portion.

My friend had a chicken and prawn pie (R198) in a creamy sauce topped with phyllo pastry, which he enjoyed immensely. It was served with a side salad, although he won’t touch anything green, unless it’s a peppermint crisp.

His mom had fish and chips off the lunch menu (R98), which came with two home-made sauces - tartare and ketchup.

Mother went for the rack of lamb (R210), something for which Spice is rightly famous. It certainly didn’t disappoint, cooked a perfect medium with the fat crisp. It was served with mash, gravy, mint sauce and vegetables.

I enjoyed the last of the lamb chops and some left over mash for a light dinner that evening.

Desserts could include the likes of milk tart, cheese cake or crème brû* ée but instead we enjoyed sipping on excellent coffees taking in the still late afternoon seascape.

Just a helpful hint to restaurant owners. With all this uncertainty and many unnecessary lockdown restrictions, please update your opening hours on Google.

Many of the trading hours are still pre-Covid and don’t reflect the reality.

There is also a “dine in” and “take out box” that can be clicked. It makes it a lot easier for those of us still keen to support restaurants at this difficult time to make informed decisions without a flurry of telephone calls.

Food: 4

Service: 3

Ambience: 4

The Independent on Saturday

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