Cafe Marhaba

Back Piccadilly
October 2011
Fish, lamb and daal
Excellent little trip this - the fish was garlicky and delicious, the lamb tender and tasty and the chana great - as it always seems to be. The service was pretty snappy and all in all it was a productive little trip. Not masses to be said about the food as it was kind of 'standard curry' - but in a good way. I do really like it here, I just never know how long it's going to take - this is partially due to the fact that you order and wait - where as in other places you ask for stuff and they ladel it out while you watch - you know what's happenig. I always have a sense of uncertainty here. If you're not stuck for time that's not an issue - the foods great and the tandoor bread superb.

Jan 2011
Bit of a change of fortunes today - really good food, 6 curries ready to roll, rice pre-cooked and ready and roti being done steadily - so infinitely faster usual. It was an enjoyable meal, the rice was quite strongly flavoured with cloves (too much some might say, but we liked it)  the meat was tender and tasty, as was the chana. Tandoor roti is always a treat. Slightly small portion but hey ho - no big deal. chapatti are only 50p. Rice & 3 now £4.85. We were all geared up to have full portions of the special curries but as everythig was ready and we were on the clock a little bit it was rice & 3 that prevailed. However this meant that we essentially got the standard stew version of the meat before the additional ingredients are added to make it karahi or jal frezi or whatever, which looked that little bit more interesting. Still, we can't complain about timing and then want special dishes. Hope we can make it back pretty soon.

Nov 2010
Slightly disappointing trip after a long break, no major complaints but only OK. The tandoor bread was as good as ever and the rice excellent, but if the carbs are the talking point the curries can't be all that interesting. Chicken Karahi, channa and aloo saag. In fairness the staff were friendly and engagaing and perhaps it was my own fault for ordering what was ready rather than waiting - but time was pressing and these guys aren't known for getting a move on. It was enjoyable and tasty on a cold day, but not as interesting or flavoursome as we've had before.

Feb ‘10
Marhaba hasn’t been the easiest place to get a grip of.  It’s a bit slow, the supposed rice & 3 deal is slightly misleading and the seating is not great. The first time we visited we were totally mislead with talk that anything on the menu was available and ready and so on.  That way of doing things still exists and is a bit annoying if you’re stuck for time.  The key here is to ask what’s ready and pray that they either don’t say ‘everything’ or do say it and mean it.  In this case we were told ‘nearly everything’. Three of us had rice & 3, ordering lamb, chicken, fish, chickpeas and daal between the three 3s – and 2 roti. Worrying about whether it supposed to be lamb rogan josh or karahi or chicken bhuna or jal frezi is not what this place is about.  Part of the hold up last time was the rice – in this case platefuls of it arrived from the back and were microwaved up individually, curries were then heated individually and added to the plate – this took a while even for three diners. First person took ten minutes to get served, third (me!) took maybe twenty. This is an issue but is part of the character of the place.  There’s only seating for 2 at a table anyway so it’s hardly like big parties will be held up. The food was excellent – the fish was a standout dish, being subtle and tasty. The lamb and chicken were properly cooked – quite a cheap cut of lamb but slow cooked so as to be soft and tender. The channa and daal were both good – but usually are.  The roti were exceptional too – straight form the tandoor – crisp, fresh hot and substantial – about as good as it gets.  Even the rice gets a mention, nicely flavoured with cloves and a few subtle spices – with some chickpeas in too, making it a bit nearer to the Pakistani classic chickpeas pilau.  If you can forgive/accept/ignore the organizational short comings it’s a great place - and at £4.60 for rice & 3 and 50p roti is a bit of a bargain – remember to ask what they’ve got first though.
Key Ingredients 18.0 (out of 20)
Other Food 9.5 (out of 10)
Service Setting 7.5 (out of 10)
Value for Money 4.5 (out of 5)
Range 3.0 (out of 5)
Average Rating 8.5 (out of 10)

Kebab Trip Jan ‘10
After a too lengthy break Cafe Marhaba was revisited today. The previous review criticised how long it took for Rice & 3 to be served as they don’t have curries ready to go. Well this is still the case and I’d be worried about getting that done in a short lunch break – no matter how good it is. However – (this was one of my very few solo trips normally there are two or three of us to compare notes) – I was the only customer at 12pm. I duly, on the advice of ‘b’ below, ordered the chicken tikka kebab. Well obviously there weren’t many surprises – it’s chicken and bread! However it was done very well.  The chicken skewers and bread were done freshly in the tandoor. The salad and sauces, it could be argued, were pretty standard – but that’s not a complaint – they were fresh and tasty.  The marinade on the chicken, although uniformly orange and without visibly individual herbs and spices, was tasty and interesting. The plentiful chicken was perfectly cooked and the tadoor naan was a rare treat - particularly in Pakistani places and particularly in town. Chicken in a tandoor takes as long as it takes, as does the bread – so no complaints service-wise.  Seating (5 very small tables) remains a problem, but so be it. Certainly as good as any in town and better than the majority. There will be a return trip for curry.
Scores out of 10
Meat 9
Bread 9
Salad/Sauces 8
Service/Setting 8
Average 8.5

Rice & 3
The assumption with the 3 curries and rice format is that several curries are readily available and eating will commence immediately. Marhaba fails in this regard by having nothing pre-made and ready to eat. The three curries are allegedly any available form their resonably extensive menu, which means that for a meal for two the chef may have to concoct 6 different dishes individually - in practice they were not distinctively different. A wait time of approximately half an hour makes Marhaba bearly vistiable for a lunchtime meal. This is compounded by it only having seating for eight. Once the organisational flaws are accepted the food is actually rather good and plentiful: lamb, daal and bread from the tandoor in particular. Definitely due a revisit, but the time it takes here is an issue.

Key Ingredients 14.0 (out of 20)
Other Food 9.0 (out of 10)
Service Setting 5.0 (out of 10)
Value for Money 4.0 (out of 5)
Range 2.5 (out of 5)
Average Rating 6.9 (out of 10)

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  1. I think you've got this completely wrong, all the city centre curry cafes do a three curries deal but Cafe Marhaba has without doubt the best chiken tikka kebabs in the city centre. The marinade for the chicken is excellent, the bread cooked fresh on the premises is perfect, the chicken tikka kebab price has gone up recently but it's still good value for money. The kebab is fresh and ready within 10 minutes of ordering and the staff are really friendly. Seating can be a problem but it's a minor inconvenience for the excellent food.


  2. cheers for posting my comments, i've calmed down a bit now :o)

    i'm surprised you had a bad kebab at Marhaba, at the beginning of last year I was there nearly every week for several months and never had a bad kebab, my benchmark is always a chicken tikka kebab and theirs hit the spot every time - you should try it next time you're there.


  3. One of the best if not the best curry houses in town. Good honest homemade traditional pakistani cooking not like some of the bigger places. This is a regular haunt of mine and gets better each time. The limited seating shouldnt put you off as takeaway is always available and if your in a rush at lunchtime ring beforehand and put your order through. Ive done this many times and also had them deliver. Little hidden gem!

  4. The Chicken Tikka Kebab I had here was excellent, the marinade was definitely not a bland orange one! It was yellow with little bits of green and black. Some wonderful little explosions of flavour in there. The meat was perfectly cooked, almost melt in the mouth which is difficult to do with chicken. And the nan bread was just perfect too.It is tiny though, you couldn't bring many of your mates with you!

  5. Just been there today after reading your recommendations and me and my mate opted for the chicken on nann, i gotta say that was one very nice kebab, the samosa's were not up to much.., my maye just took a rice and 3 for the wife also so ill let you know what he thought of that, they normally have it from this n that's but ill be back for chicken kebabs again, you just cannot beat food done in the tandoor

  6. Thanks for the feedback. The kebabs are very good here, but it is all about the bread. We've never had samosas here - so maybe we'll stay clear. That tandoor is a real bonus.