So it was Sunday night, flying home to Vero in the morning from London’s Gatwick Airport, a month of great European dining behind me from Lisbon in the south to Nordcapp above the Arctic Circle, but one thing still missing – my Indian food fix.
Generally, I periodically get this in London at Tamarind, which first won a Michelin star in 2001. But Tamarind closed a couple of months ago to “reinvent” itself, and with an early morning flight just ahead, I didn’t feel much like schlepping all the way into London to try an unknown Indian restaurant for dinner.
What to do? Well, I had heard a while ago that an Indian restaurant not far from Gatwick, Jai Ho, was serving great dishes. Possible? Well, I looked on the web, and while you can’t always rely on TripAdvisor, it ranked Jai Ho the top restaurant of all kinds in the entire area.
So, we summoned a cab, and off we went to Jai Ho. (It turned out to be a 15-minute ride from Gatwick and cost us 14 pounds. ‘Outrageous,’ the proprietor snorted when we asked him to summon a cab for the return. So following his instructions, we had a nice stroll back to our hotel following dinner. It took 20 minutes and only cost us calories.)
But Jai Ho, which won the English Curry Awards for the South East of England two years in a row (don’t laugh; this is a big deal in Britain), is in fact the kind of Indian restaurant we would all love to have in Vero. In fact, Indian food lovers would be thrilled to have it within a 90-minute drive of Vero.
We were so excited as we glanced over the menu that we hardly knew where to begin.
We started by ordering two kinds of Indian bread – the garlic naan, leavened bread flavored with garlic and baked in a clay oven, and the lacha paratha, crispy and flaky flat Indian bread.
Then we ordered three different curries: the chef’s special Goan prawn curry, consisting of king prawns prepared in Goan homemade spices; the chicken vindaloo, chicken and potatoes cooked in a spicy curry sauce; and the lamb Madras, tender lamb in a spicy coconut curry sauce tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds.
These were served with a wonderfully fragrant, perfectly prepared pilau rice.
Hard to tell which of the curries was best, though the Goan prawn curry was pretty wonderful. But they all were pretty spicy. In fact, they were all very spicy. An SOS for a side of yogurt helped ameliorate the heat, but next time (and there will be a next time) we will order a slightly better balanced selection of dishes.
We also ordered a vegetarian dish, brinjal bhaji, aubergines cooked in a north Indian style, which were milder and delicious.
The population of the Town of Horley, where Jai Ho is located, is about 22,000 – not all that much larger than the population of Vero Beach. Sure would be wonderful to have an Indian restaurant as good as this in Vero Beach. In fact, it would be wonderful to have a great Mexican, or a great Chinese, restaurant close to home in Vero.
I am increasingly confident that one day soon, some worthy representatives of these cuisines will open nearby. But in the meantime, I’m happy to share with you off-the-beaten-path restaurants like Jai Ho that I discover in my travels.
The Vero Beach 32963 food columnist, who has been on holiday, will resume reviewing local restaurants this coming week.