Tandoor El Gouna
El Gouna, as we all know, has a vast range of restaurants catering to everybody’s individual tastes. It is therefore only fitting to include Indian Cuisine into this melting pot. Indian food is very popular in the U.K. and is one of the most sought-after cuisines for a night out, a night in, or an evening with friends. I’m guessing that the centuries-old trade between India and England, which introduced flavours and spices to the British, ignited a taste for the exotic food that has never diminished. And rightly so. With an endless supply of flavours and spices, it is a firm favourite to many pallets. Many people see Indian food as simply too hot for them but fear not, all you do is ask for mild. Yes, it’s true: one person’s version of mild is still too hot for another – so just be clear. But with or without spices, Indian cuisine is among the tastiest food anyone can find in the world.
Everybody knows that Egypt is hot. And it is a dry heat. El Gouna, although on the coast, is not exempt from this dry desert heat. But ironically, the night that we went to Tandoor Indian Restaurant, the humidity was at 92%. I remember thinking to myself earlier that day, “I feel like I’m in India rather than Egypt” – India’s average humidity is circa 70%, rising to 95% in the summer. And so, it was surreptitiously fitting that we sat down for some authentic Indian food.
Upon arriving at Tandoor El Gouna we were greeted by a beautiful waitress dressed in traditional Indian Sari. We were shown to our table where we sat down and were introduced to John Gamil, assistant to the Marina Hotels General Manager, and food and beverage manager, Karim. Tandoor is actually a part of the Ali Pasha hotel and extends out to the Marina with great views of the boats. Opening with the hotel in 2005, the restaurant serves a la carte menu to hotel guests and public guests alike. John has been with Orascom since 2005 and has steadily gained experience and position. He has never looked back. It is always a very healthy indication of the intrinsic health of any organisation when staff turnover is as low as this.
Both John and Karim, who are very proud of their restaurant, quickly called head chef, Vijay, over to meet us. They were even more proud of him since it’s his handiwork in the kitchen that keeps the customers coming back. Chef Vijay started in El Gouna in 2003 at Club Paradiso as the resident Indian chef. Various circumstances led to the Indian restaurant closing there. Samih Sawiris, founder of El Gouna, saw the need to keep Indian cuisine alive in the growing town and asked Vijay, personally, to work at the new Tandoor he had envisioned.
Hailing from New Dehli, Chef Vijay explained how all the spices and flavours are imported directly from India, sometimes by himself as he knows exactly what he needs for a perfect curry. Heading back to the kitchen he took our orders, which were largely influenced by his recommendations, and so the evening’s taste sensations began.
The food in Tandoor El Gouna
First on order were glasses or red and white wine. In my opinion, few drinks go better with Indian food than red wine. Shortly after, Karim personally delivered an Aaj ka sabzi, excitedly telling us to try it – his personal favourite starter. With the Aaj ka sabzi came the freshest Naan bread – a traditional flatbread that compliments any Indian dish.
Shortly after, we were presented with Chicken Tikka Masala, a personal favourite of mine. The chicken is marinated in spices and yoghurt, then grilled, often on a skewer before being mixed into the delicious, red sauce. Flavours of cumin, masala, turmeric and ginger all rising to the surface while savouring the tender chicken. On the side was a Briyani rice served in an ornate bowl. Rice is always a compliment to saucy dishes and the 2 worked extremely well together. Interestingly, the rice had enough flavour to support itself but was certainly outdone by the main dishes.
Instead of the usual western way of serving food – ordering a meal which gets served to you on a plate, Indian food is all served separately. This allows you to scoop up as much or as little as you want at a time. But more importantly, it facilitates sharing and, in turn, facilitating a more intimate and happy dining experience.
Also working well with the Briyani rice was the Lamb Rogan Josh. Rogan josh consists of pieces of lamb or mutton braised with a gravy flavoured with garlic, ginger and aromatic spices including cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, and cinnamon), and in some versions incorporating onions or yoghurt. The first bite is usually the tastiest, but with this dish, every single mouthful was truly blissful. It was remarked upon how I sat back and savoured the flavours in happiness on more than one occasion.
These dishes all worked extremely well together and rotating between dishes helped to revisit the pleasure of the first mouthfuls. We enjoyed our tasty dishes so much, that we asked chef Vijay to come to our table in order to compliment him personally. We even applauded him as he approached. I realised that this is his life’s calling and his ultimate passion. He stays at the restaurant until every last hungry mouth is fed and pours his dedication into each meal he cooks.
Tandoor El Gouna closes takes last orders at 10:30 pm during the week and 11 pm on weekends. We were reluctant to leave as the warm evening, in an Indian ambience with good friends was so perfect. Being the only Indian restaurant in El Gouna, and being of such high quality, we will certainly be back for more.
Tandoor El Gouna