Following recent visits to Bundobust in Manchester and Leeds, Indian street food is a current favourite of ours. So, when we saw that a new Hockley restaurant had opened on Goose Gate serving just that, it shot to the top of our Must-try List.
Kar-O-Bar is situated where Boozy Bones used to be and Jim’s Smokehouse before that (the original Red Hot Buffet location, if you remember that, Nottinghamites!) We liked some aspects of Jim’s and Boozy Bones but neither lasted very long. We were interested to see what was on offer here that might have more staying power or a more exciting USP (please no more bbq restaurants, Notts, we beg of you). It is hard not to draw a comparison with Bundobust as Kar-O-Bar have, in fact, a VERY (suspiciously?!) similar model and menu: Indian street food sharing tapas with craft beer, even some of the unusual menu items and unique ingredients to make them are the same (e.g kale bhajis). However, Kar-O-Bar serve some meat options, too.
The menu lists a variety of small plates of Indian food native to many different regions to share, tapas style. We didn’t go mad but ordered 5 things between us for a light dinner, it came to £25.80 with two halves of Camden IPA:
- Lamb bhuna with basmati rice
- Onion, mint and kale bhaji,
- Papri chaat
- Chicken tikka
- Paratha from the sides menu
You can’t possibly order Indian food as a Brit without a bhaji of some sort, of course. It seems to be in our DNA. One of our fave dishes on the Bundobust menu is the kale, onion and mint bhaji, the same ingredients were used here.
While not quite to the Bundobust standard, it was still ok. It was crispy on the outside yet soft and fragrant with onions and cumin inside, but the kale and mint flavours weren’t really evident. It was topped with a coriander sauce which added some freshness but could have packed more coriander flavour. And a slighter bigger portion than 2 would be good for the £3.50 price tag.
Next up was the chicken tikka which was our least favourite dish. The chicken breast was simply drastically over cooked and incredibly dry. The tandoori flavour was ok, but not with much delicious, smoky char. We really did not enjoy this one.
In contrast, the lamb bhuna was amazingly tasty with succulent, fall apart lamb.
The bhuna sauce was flavourful and rich with a good kick of chilli heat and roasted tomato. The accompanying rice was pretty basic but we were glad we had ordered the paratha to mop up that sexy sauce. Yum. Also, special shout out to the paratha – it was one of the best parts of the meal, so delicious.
The papri chaat is potato and pastry layered with yogurt, chickpeas, tamarind chutney, mint and coriander.
We were really glad we ordered this one because it’s such a fresh and light flavour profile that contrasted brilliantly with the other dishes we ordered. On its own, this might not be too exciting for your tastebuds, but as an accompaniment to the other hot and spicy dishes it was beautifully refreshing and zingy – just what you need after a mouthful of hot bhuna. The sweet tamarind chutney with coriander sauce was particularly lovely. Again, an improvement would be to amp up the garnish as it looked a lot different to other pictures we’ve seen of the same dish – lacking pomegranate seeds and more fresh coriander. We had crispy noodles, but they went a bit soft in the yoghurt sauce after a few minutes.
All in all, we really enjoyed this meal aside from the chicken tikka bum note and we will definitely return. It’s a great place for both a snacky lunch or tea or the whole shebang, making it really easy to order a few smaller dishes so you can try different things that you might not find at other curry houses down Maid Marian Way. They need to put a bit more oomph into those Indian flavours and sort out a few cooking kinks, but hopefully this location has now committed to something that sets them apart in Nottingham, rather than falling by the wayside of an over saturated bbq joint market. It may be that they have found the right formula this time, you’ve just got to head all the way down to the bottom of Hockley to find it!
Atmosphere and surroundings: 5/10