Rapidly gaining weight each week so you don’t have to, food critic Emily Priest, brings you the best places to eat in Southsea on her weekly Food Tour. This week she finds an authentic, Indian establishment to bring spice to your evening.
When Kassia first opened in April this year, I was intrigued by their offer of Indian tapas as, when tapas comes to mind, I only think of the Spanish variety. They reminded me of a similar restaurant, Koh, on Kings Road, a Thai tapas restaurant. Both have tempted me with their unique cuisines but it was Kassia’s lunch deal that won me over this time.
Every day between 12pm and 3pm, Kassia offer 3 lunch options for £15 so, I arrived on a Thursday at 2.40pm to grab the offer. The restaurant was empty when I arrived with only one server at the bar. He didn’t say anything to me, so I sat myself at one of the tables and read the menu.
Inside is spacious with soft chairs cushioned in pink or blue crushed velvet and abstract portraits on the walls. The bar is large and pristine, boasting plenty of spirits and bottles. The decor isn’t Indian-themed but creates an airy and comfortable ambience.
I looked over the lunch menu, the server saying nothing to me but lingering silently in the background. When I stood up to order ten minutes later, he finally spoke.
‘Sorry the kitchen is closed now.’
I smiled awkwardly, put down the menu and left, telling him I would come back in the evening.
I was annoyed. The server should have warned me as I came in that the kitchen was closing at 3pm. On the website, it says ‘Open for lunch from 12pm’; the exact food service hours are on another page, in tiny text. I was frustrated that the server waited for me to look over the menu for 10 minutes before telling me I couldn’t order anything.
First impression: disappointing.
Undeterred, I returned at 6pm. Inside was dead, with just a few servers around. Once again the staff were silent and in the background. No one welcomed me as I took a seat at a booth and once again, set about inspecting the drinks and food menus.
Kassia’s drinks options are very extensive with a good range of spirits, cocktails and some unique offers, including the option to buy a paddle board of shots with flavours including crispy bacon. The range of cocktails includes traditional Martinis and Daiquiris, alongside Indian styled cocktails like a Rangpurinhia – Tanqueray Rangpur, cardamom syrup and pineapple juice. The cocktails are average in price at around £5.95 each. There was also a £395 bottle of champagne on offer, The Ace of Spades.
The restaurant also sells spirits by the bottle with 2 pitchers of any mixer, including Crystal Head and Sailor Jerry. At first, listed at over £100, the price seems high but, once you do the maths, you save around £30. This is perfect for parties and groups or an individual who doesn’t wish to wake up in the morning.
About five minutes later, the server came over and started to talk to me about the meals on offer, the best items on offer, and how the ordering process works.
‘You write your order on here,’ he said, pointing to a sheet on the table, ‘and if you have not been here before I suggest you get the tapas. It’s 5 for £23.95 which is perfect for two people. Or there is the Tiffin which is 3 curry dishes and a rice chosen by our chefs for £16.’
He went on to tell me that, in the evening, Kassia becomes like a club. Food is stopped at 9pm and a DJ set begins. This is a great place for large groups, I thought. The tables are clumped together to seat 4+ people and the order sheet makes it easy to jot down countless choices. The tapas and tiffin options are perfect to share and when everyone finished eating, you can share a bottle of vodka or a paddle of shots. This place will be heaving at Christmas with work dos.
The food is authentic and average in price for curries, naans and rices. The tiffin offers good value but the tapas, at £5 – £6 each, are slightly above average. There are several vegetarian options on offer, including Alloo Chilli Chana – chickpeas with fresh green chillies, onion, garlic and potato. The meat options are mainly lamb or chicken with different spice and vegetable variants.
I wrote down my order on the sheet, gave it to the waiter and asked for a Strawberry Daiquiri, which arrived shortly after, with the right level of sweetness not overpowered by the rum. It was chilled and almost creamy. My food arrived shortly after, on a large heated tray, but as it did, unfortunately so did a horrible nuisance.
A couple entered and sat down on the table next to me. I didn’t pay them much notice at first but they soon made themselves very difficult to ignore. The woman started talking obnoxiously loudly, swearing repeatedly at her partner about something on his phone. I tried not to pay too much attention but with a ‘f$&k’ on her every breath, it was hard. The staff looked at each other awkwardly, unsure what to do. It wasn’t Kassia’s fault but what had started as a pleasant visit had become a potty-mouthed earsore.
But back to the food. A large tray arrived with the tapas neatly laid out next to naan bread and rice. First I tried the Holoi Chingri: 5 tiger prawns in a sweet chilli sauce. These had a bit of a kick but were very tasty and moreish, thick and succulent. Next up, the Tamarind Chicken Chaat: strips of chicken cooked with ginger, garlic, onion and tamarind. Also spicy, I enjoyed it too, and devoured the meat and soft onions quickly. The onion bhajees looked delicious, and although not normally a favourite of mine, these were flavoursome with a creamy mint sauce on top, not too greasy and were surprisingly light.
The Kofta Kebab arrived: thick, springy balls lathered in a sweet brown sauce. They tasted beautiful and didn’t last long, as the lamb fell apart in my mouth. The Shingara were okay: small pastry parcels with lamb and vegetables inside. I didn’t finish these as I found them a little greasy. The Egg Fried rice was tasty and gooey but I had to send the Garlic Naan back as it was over cooked. The waitress kindly got me another which was far better – soft, warm and tangy.
After the food was cleared, I was stuffed. Although the portions were small, they were flavoursome and filling. I waited for some time for a dessert menu or the bill but the servers didn’t come over. There was nothing on the menu to indicate sweets so I stood, paid my bill and left.
Kassia, despite some issues with the service and the people next to me, was lovely. It offers something different and tasty and looks to be a great place to spend the evening, as well as to eat. I want to go back and experience it in a group: chatting over curry and tapas and ordering shots as the night goes on. The vibe is good, and the price is worth the quality. However, I would like to see some authentic Indian desserts, such as a Kesari bhath or Kulfi, and suggest more attentive staff.
If you are wanting to chill out, experiment and add some spice to your life then try Kassia. You might even see me there.
Photography by Emily Priest.