Turmeric Gold, Coventry

Turmeric Gold, the restaurant Coventry loves to hate? Well…not quite. But currently standing at Number Five in the local TripAdvisor ratings, and with almost as many reviews to its name as numbers one to four put together, it might just be the restaurant Coventry loves to…talk about.

Even the Coventry Telegraph’s at it. In a move it dubbed ‘bold’ and ‘courageous’, it reported in December 2015 that Turmeric Gold had recently ‘unleashed’ a Taster Menu onto an unsuspecting city. It seemed barely able to control its hilarity.

Because apart from the obvious observation that only in Coventry would the launch of a taster menu by an established restaurant be considered news in the first place, the rather depressing subtext of the piece appeared to be one of ‘oi mate, that pretentious crap won’t wash round ‘ere y’know’. Rather than ‘bold’ and ‘courageous’, it was pretty clear that what readers were really supposed to understand was ‘foolhardy’ and ‘doomed’.

Thirteen months on, Turmeric Gold’s taster menu is still available. I might – possibly – have overheard someone ordering it when I was in there the other night. The place was so busy, even early evening on a weekday, that it was hard to tell. The clientèle, mostly middle-aged and affluent-looking, didn’t seem afraid of spending money.

But then, you wouldn’t go to TG if you were afraid of spending money, because – for Coventry – it’s expensive: some of its main courses cost (whisper it) north of £17! But as well as the food, what you’re also paying for is the experience of eating here. The interior of TG, an OTT mash-up of the quintessentially English – exposed brickwork, beams, fireplace big enough to set up home in – and the opulent East shouldn’t really work. But somehow it does. The drapes and plush and velvet and chaises longues create a luxuriously intimate atmosphere that – old romantic that I am – I found rather beguiling.

A lot of care goes into the food as well. My starter of tamarind-infused paneer was artistically presented and jewelled with glistening leaves and edible flowers. And although the tamarind infusion was…on the subtle side, the cubed paneer was superb – light but dense with perfect crispy crust. I do think it was slightly diminished by its vast entourage of sauces, the rather hectic effect of which was to blunt the edge of some potentially sharp individual elements. So while peacock plumes of mustard and mango chutneys are visually stunning, they become meaningless when their flavours simply blur into each other.

My main of chana saag black pepper with naan and yoghurt was good but not spectacular. The spinach was not overcooked, but because black peppercorns were hidden inside dark curry, I couldn’t see them before I put them in my mouth. When I encountered the first one I thought, for one horrible nanosecond between teeth biting down and taste kicking in, that I’d lost a filling. I think I would have preferred a richer distribution of flavour overall to unpredictable odd bursts.

On arrival at TG, I was presented with a copy of the day’s Coventry Telegraph – a thoughtful gesture to a solitary diner, and a curtain-raiser on the attentive service received throughout. Leafing through it while awaiting my starter, I found myself confronted with a food story.

‘Fast food giant Five Guys’ gushed a blatantly sycophantic spread ‘have confirmed they are looking for somewhere to sell their tasty burgers in Coventry’. And that wasn’t all. ‘In a poll run by the Telegraph‘ trumpeted none other than the Telegraph ‘readers voted for Five Guys as the food chain you wanted most’. Oh did they? And how were readers advised to vote if what they ‘wanted most’ was more quality independents?

If TG were located anywhere but Coventry, I might have lamented it as a triumph of style over substance. But – while my food wasn’t perfect – this is Cov and you have to take what you can get. What I got from my visit to TG was a delightful experience and – importantly – confirmation that there is a market for ambitious dining in this city. TG is ambitious. I only wish that, at least as far as food is concerned, I could say the same for the local paper.

Turmeric Gold, 166 Spon Street, Coventry CV1 3BB (menu on website does not appear to correspond with menu in restaurant). Paneer Til Tila, £5.75; Chana Saag Black Pepper, £13.75.

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