Review: Turmeric Gold, Coventry
August 10, 2021

[Disclosure – I paid in full both times we visited Turmeric Gold. And it was worth every penny]

It’s fair to say Coventry is upping its food and drink game quite significantly. Growing interest, a huge amount of investment and what seems to be much more open mindedness about what it has to offer thanks to the City of Culture spotlight has seen a flurry of new restaurants open to great fanfare.

But amid this excitement and focus on all the new places, there’s a risk that we have missed out on some of the great places that have been right under our noses all this time, yet somehow overlooked. By some of us anyway – including me.

Turmeric Gold has been tucked away on Spon Street for years now, and certainly hasn’t been overlooked by the various organisations who have given it awards over the years, from gold at the British Curry Awards to triumphing in the Curry Life Chef Awards. Yet I can’t help but feel like it still doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves from lots of us in the local area – including me until very recently.

Perhaps it’s that perennial issue of so many places in Coventry being overlooked, or perhaps because it’s incorrectly popped in that clumsy, all-encompassing, category of an ‘Indian restaurant’, leaving people to assume that it’s serving up anglicised versions of classic curries like a million other places in the city and is a place for a post night-out face-fill rather than a lovely dining experience. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

Look on the Turmeric Gold website and it promises food that “does not conform to the norm” and “challenges your taste and provokes the senses”. But talk to chef owner Jay Alam and it’s a bit more complicated than that. Alam recognises that when it comes to Indian food people often know what they like and will always gravitate towards the familiar dishes.

So rather than drag them kicking and screaming away from that, he has put together a menu full of dishes that bear some similarity to those firm favourites that you see elsewhere yet take things to another level. It’s a menu that only really works with a decent bit of explanation from the person serving you, and luckily Alam is just the right person to do that. A born showman, his passion for the dishes he has put together is impossible to escape, and he will easily find you a dish that will push you just the right degree out of your comfort zone without forcing you into something that doesn’t appeal.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry
Turmeric Gold, Coventry

If the menu – which even offers the option of a five-course tasting menu – hadn’t alerted you to the fact Turmeric Gold is that little bit different, the moment an amuse bouche is set down in front of you might be a clue. Like everything at Turmeric Gold, on both occasions they’ve been a play on classic traits of Indian restaurants that you may have experienced elsewhere.

Spiced potato bites that are delicate in spice and texture, and light crackers topped with the base of Bombay Mix. Light and unassuming, but the suggestion that this is somewhere that little bit different.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

We’ve visited twice now and both times it’s been a challenge to decide what to have. We’re yet to opt for the Tasting Menu but with an array of dishes this tempting, it’s probably a wise choice to try as much as possible. On our first visit, my mango-glazed shashlik with anarosh was a perfect balance of barbecued char and refreshing citrus, while Jamie’s goa king prawn was a fat juicy specimen set on a pool of light, earthy-yet-delicate spinach cream sauce.

On the latest visit the aptly-named Chef’s Khazana, which means treasure trove, was a winner. All the classic starters – chicken tikka, sheekh kebab, onion bhaji and samosa – yet clearly a cut above the average offering. Stand-outs were the moist, tender and perfectly-spiced chicken tikka while the onion bhaji was safely the best I’ve had.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

Alam describes his menu as a rainbow, offering all the different ‘colours’ that you’ll find on a classic Indian restaurant menu, yet with a difference. You’ll find heat and spice in some, rich creaminess in others, a pathia-like sweet-sour offering or a lentil-laced dish reminiscent of a dhansak.

Duck achari is lean, gamey duck breast in a sweet sauce with a punch of pickled vegetables. It’s full of layers that incorporate all the different flavours that make up a well rounded dish, taking the taste-buds on a journey of sweet, savoury, spice and sour. It’s light and simultaneously moreish – with the accompanying sauce perfect for dunking light tandoori roti into.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

A ‘test’ dish that Alam is trialling on the night we visit and asks us to test it out. Another hefty prawn, served in a light citrusy sauce with a contrasting crispy, earthy beetroot puri. He tells us he hates waste, so is always looking for ways to use things in dishes – even if they don’t conform to some of the more traditional ideals of a ‘curry’.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

The advantage of being served by someone with as much passion and knowledge as Jay Alam is that when your mother-in-law doesn’t know what to choose and outlines what she likes, he can hit the nail on the head with a recommendation, adapting it slightly from what’s on the menu to suit.

And so to her bespoke king prawn version of the Lamb Khatta Masala, a south Indian sauce packed with tangy, tart tamarind and a citrus hit of lemon, tempered by the addition of coconut. As bright in flavour as in colour and another thumbs up.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

For Jamie, a clear choice straight from the menu – Rawalpindi Lamb. Generous chunks of lamb, infused with garam masala, cloves, chilli and bay leaf, with a simultaneously sweet-sour note in the sauce and a slow-burning madras heat that grows then retreats, like a carefully-controlled throttle pushing hard yet never losing control.

A saag side dish is pretty much my staple in lieu of rice or bread when we go for an Indian meal, so it was only fair to try it here. Turmeric Gold’s saag paneer is a winner – the spinach retaining its structure and bite rather than dissolving into a messy mush. The paneer, which I’m assured is homemade by the team, has bite without being rubbery. It’s a well spiced dish with all the same depth of flavour as the mains we’ve tried. It seems nobody leaves sides dishes in the corner here.

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

Turmeric Gold, Coventry

If you’re looking for some kind of proof point on whether Turmeric Gold is good, one could be the fact that our second visit came within weeks of the first. With a list as long as my arm of places I want to visit in Coventry and Warwickshire, this is no small thing.

Both times, we’ve felt simultaneously relaxed and impressed by Turmeric Gold. The interior is elegant and decadent, the service welcoming and warm. While Jay clearly steers the ship, he appears to be keen to pass his knowledge on to his staff and convey to them the importance of great service.

The food is ambitious. It’s innovative and break from the norm, yet more than delivers on flavour. As an overall experience, it’s fabulous, and the best part is that Jay Alam is always looking to make it even better. He’s already got plans in the pipeline, so that must mean another visit is in order very soon.

So yes, Coventry is upping its food and drink game. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t places that have long been doing that. Perhaps we just didn’t give them the attention that they deserved.

[Disclosure – I paid in full both times we visited Turmeric Gold. And it was worth every penny]

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