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Vivaanta Restaurant & Gin Bar, Warwick

Warwick's new Indian restaurant is causing much excitement with its high-end cuisine - and gin bar. Muddy went for a family curry night to check it out.

 

THE LOWDOWN

Owner Ali Ahmed has just taken over the former Wheatsheaf Hotel, on West Street – just opposite the main entrance to Warwick Castle. It’s his fourth restaurant with three others in Halesowen outside Birmingham, Hanford near Stoke-on-Trent and Heanor in Derbyshire. Ali, a former chef turned restaurateur, lives in Perry Barr, Birmingham and his family originally hails from Bangladesh which inspires the restaurant’s style of home-cooking. He chose Warwick because of fond memories visiting the castle on school trips – he says he likes “the calmness” of the historic market town, and its contrast to busy city life.

 

THE VIBE

Inside it’s intimate and cosy with low-beams and seating for up to 80 covers across two rooms. Newly-decorated stone walls are painted pale grey and white with linen tablecloths and pink flowers in vases. It feels bright, smart and minimal. Service is warm and courteous; the atmosphere congenial.

Ali likes to give back to the community and frequently cooks curries for the homeless in the other restaurants he runs. He’s looking to do the same in the Warwick area, and would welcome any charitable organisations getting in touch.

 

SCOFF & QUAFF

Vivaanta only opened last month, so is still very new, but word is quickly catching on – and no wonder. The freshly-prepared dishes are full of flavour and I loved the menu – so many interesting fusion dishes, as well as the ‘National’s Favourites’.

Edinburgh Pomegranate and Rose liqueur gin with Fever-Tree

I headed straight for the Gin Menu naturally, everyone else was on the Diet Coke’s. The small but perfectly-formed Gin Bar has 10 gins, as well as a fridge stocked with Prosecco, wines, beers and champagne, including Bollinger. It’s run by an experienced bartender. I decided to try something new, the fruity/flowery Edinburgh Pomegranate and Rose liqueur gin with Fever-Tree on her recommendation – really good with poppadoms.

We ordered a mix of veggie and chicken Fusion starters.

Clockwise Left to Right: crisp Paneer Pakoras in a herb batter, Fluffy Spicy Aloo Garlic Mushrooms, Chicken Basanti (chicken in a smokey, sweet onion and pepper sauce) and Chicken Fara Sira (shredded chicken in light spices with tomatoes & onion wrapped in a laccha paratha).

For mains I went for one of the Fusion Specialities created using traditional Bangladeshi methods, the pan-fried Lime Ginger Sea Bass, served on a bed of sauteed spinach, potatoes and red pepper with another gin, this time Whitley Neill’s Blood Orange Gin. Really good. Why did I never think of a curry-gin combo before?

Seafood Fusion: Lime Ginger Sea Bass

My other half ordered Ali’s Special – voted best curry by a local newspaper in Shropshire – chicken tikka strips cooked with pepper, green chillies, fresh spinach and garlic in a spicy sauce served on a sizzling skillet. Both were very tasty. Other Fusion dishes include Duck de Maska Scallop Buna, Tandoori Jhinga Special (Tiger Prawns) and Scallops Buna.

One of our teenagers is veggie so Ali recommended a spicy chickpea, spinach and pepper dish also served on a skillet; the other chose a Chasni Korma. They each said how delicious they were. The 10-year-old, who’s also vegetarian, loves a Korma but decided to try a vegetarian Masala for a change, however she found it too sweet, so the waiters very kindly brought her out a special pizza-like Nan. We also ordered a couple of sides – Coconut rice, pilau rice and a variety of Naan.

Clockwise L-R: Popular Calcutta dish Chasni Korma; Popadoms & accompaniments; Vegetable Masala; Ali’s vegetarian chickpea special

Our daughters shared a Strawberry Cheesecake for dessert.

OUT & ABOUT

Perfect for exploring Warwick, and Warwick Castle, as it’s literally opposite! Attractions include St Nicholas Park, the Collegiate Church of St Mary, the 16 restored Victorian hedged plots and summerhouses at Hill Close Gardens, the Grand Union Canal, Market Hall Museum, Bridge House Theatre and Warwick Racecourse. The Mill Garden at the end of Mill Street is a hidden gem located on the banks of the River Avon with breathtaking views of the Castle. Pubs worth a visit in the vicinity include The Rose and Crown, The Saxon Mill for great riverside views and for the more eclectic, small champagne bar The IronWorks. Hatton Adventure World, a rural farm park with heaps to do for kids under 12, and the Grand Union Canal where you can hire a narrow boat or enjoy some lovely walks.  Leamington Spa is a 5-minute drive away and Stratford-upon-Avon, 15 minutes.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for  This is a real all-rounder, so pick your occasion. It works equally well for a family treat, a more intimate date night, a birthday get-together or a Saturday night out with gin and gourmet Bangladeshi home-cooking. It would be a great venue for a post-work get-together.

Not for Beered-up boys looking for, stacks of tandoori sizzlers, poppadum’s and lager lager lager.

The damage: Reasonable. Starters from £3.95; Fusion appetisers, £4.95 – £11.95; Fusion mains, £10.95-£16.95; Nation’s Favourites mains, ££7.95-£11.50; Chef’s Specials £8.95-£9.95. Vivaanta does an excellent value 3-course Sunday Banquet for just £9.95.

54 West Street, Warwick, CV34 6AN, Tel: 01926 408408, vivaanta

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