STEPHEN DAVY-OSBORNE ventures off the beaten track to find a curry house with style and substance

SWINDON has a bit of a reputation for being home to a few really good Indian restaurants – the sort of old favourites that people return to time and time again.

Which is obviously good for business. but it does mean that trying somewhere new comes with a bit of a risk when turning down the chance to dine at your old faithful for the evening.

That was just the conundrum that Adver_Gill and I faced one Thursday evening when one quick drink in the pub after work turned into a few and, before we knew it, it was far too late to be thinking about going home to cook, so we fired up the old Google to try to hunt down something new to tingle our taste buds.

A few taps and a couple of swipes of the iPhone later, and we had both agreed on Mantra.

The restaurant is a bit out on a limb, half way along Devizes Road, which we put down as the reason for it being rather quiet on the Thursday evening we visited. The plus side of this is receiving the undivided attention of the very helpful waiting staff, though I hope for their sake that it is busier the rest of the week, as the restaurant is a great find.

I must admit, I have actually visited Mantra once before this impromptu dinner out – albeit very fleetingly. On that occasion I was actually dining in the Chinese restaurant next door with some colleagues when the better half arrived late, and, mistaking Connie’s for being someone’s front room, he ventured through the front door of Mantra.

I can still remember the look of disappointment on his face after I dragged him out of the brightly-lit, modern lobby of Mantra – apologising to the staff there for him having got his wires crossed – and I made a mental note that we would have to go back and see if the restaurant lived up to its flashy interior. So I actually felt a little guilty to be returning to Mantra without him, rather having Adver_Gill as my dining companion. All thoughts of this soon vanished as we cast our eyes over the rather nicely designed menu.

On there are all the usual old favourites – for starters there are the likes of onion bhaji (£4.50), chicken or mushroom pakora (£4.90) and meat or vegetable samosa (£3.90).

We ordered two plain poppadoms (£2.80) which came with generous helpings of sweet mango chutney, tangy raita and crisp onions, while we finalised our orders, with my dining guest ordering the prawn pathia (£4.90), while I ordered the garlic mushrooms (£3.90), which sort of set the tone for my meal to come, which was far from a traditional order for a night at a curry house.

These mushrooms were not the little battered horrors you find in every cheap pub up and down the country (probably comes in a bag of 500, with more cardboardy “batter” than vegetable).

No, Mantra’s garlic mushrooms were deliciously rich sliced mushrooms cooked in a flavoursome sauce that were incredibly filling.

Adver_Gill’s juicy little prawns also came in a thick, sweet and sour gravy and were wrapped in a flaky, delicious bread with a little side salad. She felt her starter was extremely tasty but rather over-generous - half the size would have been better for her. I am never one to turn away mushrooms though, so no complaints from my side of the table.

For main, I stuck with my pub-themed dinner and ordered the mixed grill. I had been swayed by all sorts of fragrant-sounding curries, such as the shally chicken (£8.90), the keema Kashmiri (£8.90) and even the mushroom roshni – although I probably had my fill of garlicy dishes with my starter.

Eventually I decided that the thick cuts of chicken tikka, lamb tikka, tandoori chicken and sheek kebab sounded all too good to ignore. Plus it came with the largest naan bread I think I have ever seen. It was an absolute bargain at £12.90.

My guest had her eye taken by the achari chicken on the house specials board. Again, it was packed with flavour but she felt it was saucier and sweeter than the usual tang of achari, which she particularly enjoys because of the bitter edge the lime pickle adds.

“The chicken was moist, however, which all too often in curries it isn’t. And the chapati was perfect for mopping up that exuberant sauce,” she told me though a mouthful as she neared her fill of the meal.

Inevitably we had to ask for take-out boxes to take the remainder of our meals home to enjoy at a later date, which we both took as a positive sign that the other had enjoyed their meal thoroughly.

But did our gamble to try somewhere new pay off?


52 Devizes Rd, Swindon


Tel: 01793 250870

Parking: Public carparks nearby

Disabled access: Yes

Our ratings:

Food: 8/10

Choice: 9/10

Decor: 9/10

Customer service: 9/10

TripAdvisor rating: Not yet rated

Absolutely – but keep it quiet, we don’t want everyone to find out about this little gem, or we will never be able to get a table at such short notice again!