Saturday 14th November, 2020 – Ambassador General Store, Trishna Seafood Experience
I got wind of the Ambassador General Store restaurant box delivery scheme through one of Jay Rayner’s restaurant review columns in The Observer and promptly noted the details for future use. Having eaten at Trishna back in February, and having loved the experience, the promise of a boxed-up ready to finish at home menu from them was too much to resist.
The order was placed, delivery was completed (not without its dramas thanks to the ever-inefficient DHL who managed to send me a message saying that they weren’t going to be able to deliver it, and then left it on the doorstep sometime around 10 o’clock on Friday night without bothering to ring the bell or find any way of letting me know they’d done it), and so on Saturday I was ready to put a seafood feast in front of us for dinner.
I had ordered the Seafood Experience box because the restaurant claims to be “inspired by traditional coastal dishes found in Mumbai and along the western coast of India” and because “this experience box helps you to celebrate the very best of Indian seafood at home”. At £70 to feed two people it is, I have to say, somewhat more expensive than the average Indian takeaway, even the more upmarket one we sometimes get from the nearby Spice of Bruerne restaurant (which usually comes out around £45 and feeds us for a couple of days), but I also knew there was likely to be enough for at least two if not three nights in the box.
I unpacked early just in case anything was missing. The contents all appeared to be present and correct including a portion of naan dough which I had added to the box on the basis that if we didn’t need it, I could freeze it for another day. The ingredients were almost all clearly labelled (I’ll come to the bit that wasn’t later), and also included were some beautifully printed cards for each dish giving a photo of how the finished dish was supposed to look, along with instructions for what to do to get it to look that way.
We had, for our delectation, the following menu:
- 4 Jumbo Tandoori Mustard Prawns
- 2 x Hariyali Bream Fillets
- 1 x Shahi Salmon Tikka Fillet
- 250g Garlic Butter Pepper Crab
- 4 x Malabar Parotta
- Lemon Rice
- Dal Panchmel
- 200g Green Chutney (there was considerably less than 200g, but we had enough for what it was intended for)
There was also a suggestion that I would need the following equipment:
- 2 x Small Frying Pans
- 1 x Oven Tray
- 1 x Saucepan
Actually, they lied. I needed a few more items than that including three receptacles to put marinading fish in, so there ended up being slightly more washing up than I might have anticipated.
I had also ordered a wine box, liking the look of what was billed as the Future Classics box, £50 for three bottles, one each of:
- 2019 Riesling, Sybille Kuntz, Mosel, Germany
- 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Skin Fermented, The Hermit Ram, Canterbury, NZ
- 2019 La Maldición, Bodegas Marc Isart, Madrid, Spain
Anyway, on to the meal itself, and the prep. The only things that could be done in advance were the rolling out and grilling of the naans, and the marinade stages of each of the prawns, the bream and the salmon. The recipe cards stated that I needed to leave them to develop for at least half an hour, but I decided the longer the better, and so they were prepped and waiting for a couple of hours before I needed to put them in the oven.
I rolled out and then cooked the naan, putting them to one side to reheat at the last minute, having learned from Masala the best way to do that, and I also prepared the parottas, a simple case of putting them into a hot dry frying pan for around 60 seconds a side. They too could be reheated.
That left some spices to add to the crab dish. I started that by throwing the small selection of aromatics and spices into some ghee in a frying pan, and then adding the garlic butter pepper crab. I turned the heat off and left it until we were ready to eat. I also prepped the lemon rice ready to finish off at the last minute.
With everything ready we went for our usual Saturday night dressing for dinner routine, selected some theatre to watch, poured a glass of fizz and got ready to eat at our fold up table in the midst of the current building site that is our house. Never let it be said we don’t know how to live!
So how did it taste? We started with the tandoori mustard prawns which were lovely, tender and moist and full of flavour, alongside the garlic butter pepper crab. The crab for me was the knock out dish, rich and creamy in texture, bursting with garlic and pepper notes, and very, very moreish. It also went beautifully with the malabar parotta, which pulled apart and were more than capable of mopping up any of the gorgeous sauces. The one issue I ran into was the part where I needed to add garlic and coriander butter to the crab, but I couldn’t because I’d use it on the naans – the container was in with the dough balls and the naan instructions told me to butter them once they were grilled. So I did. With the unlabelled garlic and coriander butter. Oops! It wasn’t too big a problem, but it was slightly annoying, as it meant a whole load more garlic peeling and then trying to figure out what I could use instead of coriander.
Having demolished the starters, I then needed to put the two fish dishes into the oven for 20 minutes or so. The salmon was meltingly tender, the marinade mild but complex with plenty of warmth without being fierce. The bream was also perfectly cooked, the haryali marinade packing quite a punch in contrast, with a lot of coriander, mint and chilli, undercut by the sweet sour taste of amchoor (powdered mango). It’s my understanding it’s often used with chicken, but it was perfect with the bream. With naans and lemon rice to soak up the juices, and an accompanying rich, smooth, deep dal panchmel it was an excellent meal (though Lynne didn’t care for the dal – she doesn’t like the texture of lentils).
The wine box came about through a collaboration between the store and independent wine merchant, Uncharted Wines, and we drank the Sybille Kuntz 2019 Riesling to accompany the meal. The pear, lemon, and green apple flavours of the wine went well with the spices, and I was also pleased to know precisely where the vineyard is, in the picturesque village of Lieser on the Moselle in Germany.
The other two wines in the box would prove equally interesting, especially the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Skin Fermented, The Hermit Ram, a 100% sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, allowed to ferment naturally on the grape skins for 6 weeks, then pressed and left to go through a natural malolactic ferment for however long it takes. It is bottled with no fining, filtration or sulphur and consequently, is a very “orange”, startlingly cloudy wine. We drank it the following night with the second half of the seafood experience, and the lime, lemon, and nectarine notes with a hint of salinity worked a treat.
I had been right that it would feed us for two nights, and the two spare naan made it a couple of nights further down the line and were polished off with a spicy fruity sausage casserole that I dug out of the freezer. All in all it was a success and if the lockdown continues into the new year, we’ll probably order from the Ambassador General Store again, maybe trying sometime from one of the handful of other restaurants involved in the scheme.