Published in WH Times 25 April 2018
The chain restaurants in Welwyn Garden City do seem to have nabbed the prime locations on the garden streets, but it is worth exploring to find Neem Tree, a local independent gem just off Howardsgate.
Winner of many local restaurant awards, I had wanted to try Neem Tree for a while; I love the look of the bright pink and green interior and the promise of “naturally Indian” food.
The long menu has many of the classics but I was more interested to see home-style, Southern Indian dishes such as lentil and lime soup, Goan fishcakes and lime and coconut rice. In the need for healthy food after Easter, I chose a vegetable curry with roban sauce, which for 5.25 was the most generous bowlful with crisp green beans, sugar snap peas, courgette, peas, tomato and chickpeas. With the lime and coconut rice, this was a perfect balanced meal – so often vegetarian options don’t contain enough protein, so I was delighted the curry included chickpeas. I had no real need to order the black lentil dahl but it was delicious and enough for a light lunch on it own, for another time.
The Tawa Tak-a-Tak skillet-griddled foods are a Neem Tree speciality, and you can choose paneer, vegetables, chicken, lamb, venison, prawns and duck, each cooked with fresh herbs, spring onions and peppers. My partner chose the prawns and thought them excellent – not over-cooked and with the delicious chargrilled flavour you get from barbecuing. Our naan bread was fresh and griddled too, and I am sure home-made. There is quite a lot of fish on the menu too, including monkfish and seafood biryani.
I’m not sure Neem Tree need to offer such a long menu; I guess people expect to see Indian classics in every Indian restaurant and want to order favourites. I would love them to be able to focus on fewer dishes (does the menu need venison, goat, crab and squid for example?) and play up their vegetarian and vegan options or focus on just Keralan dishes – it would make a really nice change locally.
We loved the interior; the bright pink and lime green walls, furniture and fresh flowers was welcoming, and the contemporary Indian music perfect.
We were at Neem Tree early evening and service was very good; welcoming and efficient, if a little old-school. By the time we left downstairs was full and people were heading upstairs to extra tables so you do need to book, especially for weekends. They are also very popular for takeaways and deliveries – 01707 333253 to book and order.
It is easy to see why Neem Tree has won so many awards, including Best Restaurant in the 2017 WGC BID Awards and Bob FM Best Restaurant – the food is delicious and the restaurant is very appealing – we will definitely go back!