TO BE honest, I didn’t have high hopes for Rangoli.

Sure, the bright and breezy signage had caught my eye as I drove along Groundwell Road, and I’d clocked that it promised ‘contemporary Indian cuisine’, but did Swindon really need another curry house? I thought not.

But Rangoli is a rarity among Swindon’s many, many Indian restaurants in that it is doing something different, and doing it remarkably well.

Anyone fed up with the same old boring tikka masala or vindaloo will love it, but take note: you’ll be substituting those rich and heavy sauces for something fresh and bursting with flavour, and probably unlike any kind of Indian food you’ve tasted before.

We arrived a little late for our 8pm table, but the staff didn’t seem to mind a bit, beaming at us as they seated up our modern, minimalist table.

We were pleased to see the kitchen was in full view of the diners, behind glass, and everything looked spotlessly clean.

One look at the menu immediately told my friend and I that things are done differently here. With just nine starters or ‘sharing plates’ to choose from, and an equally limited number of main and sides, you are spared the usual trawl through pages and pages of curry dishes (before settling on the one you always have) and the choice is simplified.

Our waiter was endearingly enthusiastic when we asked about some of the dishes, pointing out those which we “wouldn’t find anywhere else in the town”. That was our minds made up, and for starters we went for the recommended Golgappa (£2.40) and Polti (£3.50), alongside the more traditional onion bhajis (£2.40) and poppadams with chutneys (£1).

Even the familiar dishes were a cut above those I’ve eaten so many times elsewhere. The sauces for the poppadams – a mint yogurt dip, a mango chutney and a tamarind chutney – were stronger in flavour and somehow fresher than usual, and the bhajis had none of the grease and a lot more herbs than I am used to.

The Polti turned out to be deep-fried parcels, not unlike samosas, filled with spicy vegetables and sat in a pool of mint and tamarind chutney. There were three, but we could easily have eaten more as they were so good.

But the stars of the starters were the Golgappa. The waiter showed us how to fill the crunchy, hollow pastries with the masala chickpea paste and then sprinkle on some sweet and sour water. The idea is to pop them in whole so that all the flavours burst in your mouth at once, but they were a bit big (and we were too polite) and we chose the messier route of crunching them in two instead. The sensation is unlike anything I’ve eaten before – crispy, fiery and more than a little bit strange, with the water mingling in with the food. Definitely something I want to try again though.

Our main courses were the Lausni Jhinga (£7.95) for me and the Lal Mirch Ka Paneer Tikka (£4.60) for my friend. As both dishes were dry, the waiter recommended a daal tarka (lentil curry, £3) to go with them, and we ordered steamed basmati rice (£2.50) and garlic naan (£1.70) as side dishes.

My Lausni Jhinga was tandoori tiger prawns, but sat on a deliciously tangy chick pea and mango salad.

My friend’s Lal Mirch Ka Paneer Tikka was pieces of homemade cottage cheese shaped and grilled, with peppers and onions in a spicy honey yogurt dip. If that sounds disgusting (and I must admit, I turned my nose up), don’t be deceived. It was fantastic and full of flavour, especially when eaten together with the daal. A brilliant recommendation.

Next time I go – and there will definitely be a next time – I plan to try one of the meat dishes, maybe the Pataiala lamb chops (£10), or the Railway lamb curry (£7.95), which is a recipe taken from the Southern Indian railway canteen.

One thing’s for sure, I certainly won’t be ordering a boring chicken tikka massala.

EAT AT: Rangoli Restaurant, Groundwell Road, Swindon SN1 2LT. Tel: 07872 170560. 
Open: Daily from 5.30pm to 11pm