Romy Gill’s Thornbury restaurant – Romy’s Kitchen – has been in the pipeline for a long time. The West Bengal-born chef has worked in the food and drink industry for years, and is well known locally for her own range of sauces, spice mixes, pickles and chutneys. Her hard work and determination have seen her giving food demonstrations, both close to home in local schools and at Bristol-based food festivals, and also at various food festivals around the world. Her focus is not only on authentic Indian cuisine, but on the healthy aspect of Indian food too: she only uses natural colourings (no bright red Tandoori chicken here!), and chooses to use rapeseed oil instead of vast amounts of ghee.
Romy’s Kitchen first opened its doors in September 2013: a small and intimate restaurant on Thornbury’s Castle Street whose decor gives it a very personal feel. Both bar area and restaurant make it clear how close the place is to Romy’s heart, from the shelves stocking her own products to the painting of the restaurant that also includes her two children.
We were seated at a table by the window, and on a rainy midweek evening the restaurant was, perhaps surprisingly, almost fully booked. Romy has, since our visit, said that this is the case on most nights of the week – her brand of healthy and authentic Indian food is obviously proving to be a hit.
During the day, Romy’s Kitchen offers snacks such as pakoras and samosas, along with both meat and vegetarian thalis. I definitely want to head back and try the lunchtime offerings, as I’ve only heard good things! We, however, were there for the evening a la carte menu – and if you’re craving bhunas, tikkas and baltis, you’re better off going somewhere else. Romy’s menu is inspired by the dishes that her mother taught her to make, and combines traditional Indian flavours with local ingredients to create something truly different.
Rather than choose for ourselves, we asked if Romy could send out her own choice of dishes for us to try. While we were waiting, a jug of tap water was brought to our table without us having to ask – a nice touch – and we ordered our drinks: a lemonade for me, a large bottle of Kingfisher for Chris. The drinks menu is varied, including local ciders, spirits and soft drinks – but some of the prices are quite high (£4.50 for a 50cl bottle of Thatchers Gold, for example…)
Our starters arrived on beautiful white square plates, and the presentation was fantastic. We shared a portion of Romy’s sheekh kebab (£5.50), meltingly tender and fragrantly spiced with homemade herb and fruit dips, and also sampled her Murgh Malai (£5): four beautifully soft chunks of chicken, marinated in ginger, cream, paneer, chilli and a range of secret spices. Delicately flavoured, it was delicious – as was the homemade slaw that accompanied it. Chopped apples, cabbage, walnuts and cardamom in a low fat yoghurt sauce – I’ll certainly be trying to replicate this at home! It’s a great cooling accompaniment to the chilli heat of some of Romy’s dishes, as we discovered with our main courses.
Our mains took a while to arrive, but our waitress apologetically told us that this was because of a big group whose order was being prepared: everything here is made from scratch. Another table, who had been waiting longer than us, were given free Tandoori naans as an apology, which was a nice touch.
When our main course arrived, we found that we were lucky enough to be given samples of the majority of the dishes on Romy’s menu(!), along with a steaming bowl of tender saffron rice and a truly fantastic naan – lovely and crisp in places, soft in others, and not dripping in fat as you’ll find in a number of other Indian restaurants.
One of my favourite dishes was the chicken in pomegranate paste, cooked with dessicated coconut and Romy’s spice blend, and apparently a favourite among children. The spices here are not designed to add heat, but to add flavour: and that they certainly did.
We both enjoyed the monkfish – not a traditional Indian ingredient, but its meaty flavour and texture worked well with its sauce of lemon juice, turmeric, onions and various spices. The prawn dish (soaked in milk for 2 hours and cooked with mustard seeds, curry leaves and tomato puree) was a little watery for me, but tasted fantastic. We enjoyed the sweet and sour combinations of the Parsee Chicken alongside the milder Chicken Makhani, and the coconut milk-based gurnard dish (gurnard being another one of Romy’s discoveries since moving to the UK) was delicate and delicious.
One of my absolute highlights had to be the Shahi Gosht – a meltingly tender lamb curry with various dried seeds and onions and a truly fantastic flavour – and I’m hoping to get Romy’s Dal Makhani recipe from her, as it was one of the most enjoyable dal dishes I’ve ever eaten.
The only small issue I had was with the way that the dishes were served – we found that the food got cold quite quickly. It’s nice to see that Romy’s doesn’t use the stereotypical metal dishes that many Indian restaurant use – and it could well have simply been due to the sheer number of dishes that we tried that the temperature was an issue.
For dessert, our choice was between a slice of one of four beautiful homemade cakes, or two different varieties of ice cream produced especially for Romy’s Kitchen by local company Ivor’s Ice Cream. The saffron and cardamom ice cream was a revelation: the saffron turning the ice cream a beautiful pale yellow, the flavours subtle and with just a hint of sweetness, and as a rose addict, the rose petal ice cream, fragrant and delicate, was right up my street.
We left, as you’d expect, feeling completely stuffed, but with the feeling that our long bus journey out to Thornbury was well worth it. With main courses costing between £9 and £12, you truly are getting a bargain: dishes are made to order, the quality of the ingredients is high, and Romy’s passion for flavour is evident. It’s not the sort of place you’d visit for a boozy curry night – there are plenty of places in and around Bristol for those. Instead, Romy’s Kitchen is somewhere you go to enjoy an authentic Indian meal with an interesting home cooking/fine dining slant – well worth a visit.
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
While I have, in the past, been paid to work with Romy’s Kitchen, this was not the case at the time of the review.
2 Castle Street