THIS week we bring you the third and final instalment of a culinary saga that has become known – to us at any rate – as the great Bedale Spice Wars.

We are not quite sure who, or even if, there will be an eventual winner of this tandoori tussle but we do now know who we would put our money on.

I’m talking about the little corner of Bedale Market Place where there are no fewer than three Indian restaurants within a stone’s throw of each other. Taste of India and Spice of Bengal have been battling it out on the western side of the Market Place for a few years now. Spice is a relative johnny-come-lately on the eastern side in the old Vasey’s newsagents.

Can all three survive or is Bedale’s appetite for chicken tikka marsala, baltis, rogan josh, jalfrezi and biriyani so much bigger than any other comparable community round here?

It’s easy to get confused between the three restaurants. We did, having visited Taste of India twice, the second occasion being a mistake. We were halfway through our meal when I realised I had already reviewed it. Our intended destination for the final part of the trilogy was Spice of Bengal.

Which is where we finally got to in order to complete the tour.

Perhaps in an attempt to stand out from its rivals, Spice of Bengal goes for the totally immersive cultural experience. Diners are entertained by a big telly on the wall belting out Bollywood musical movie favourites and the sound is cranked up to club level.

Now we like a party as much as the next man or woman but we thought the frenetic techno beat of some of it just too intrusive. We asked for the volume to be turned down which it duly was but at no point could it ever be described as background music.

The noise may have had something to do with there being some confusion over our food order and also that of the table adjacent which clearly was served with something they weren’t expecting.

Our waiter – who was in fact the only waiter but he wasn’t exactly rushed off his feet with only two other tables occupied – had to check Sylvia’s main course order. And then there was the little matter of her first course which will go down in Eating Out history as one of the unexpected dishes ever put before us.

She had ordered chicken tikka (£2.75). It arrived in a smoky cloud of sizzling onions but looked decidedly odd. The “chicken” tikka pieces were the right sort of colour but rather strangely shaped. Bizarrely, the chicken turned out to be pieces of smoked mackerel.

We don’t know what was going on. There was nothing vaguely fitting the description of a smoked mackerel dish on the list of starters. Had chef just made a mistake? Had he run out of chicken?

We didn’t fancy having it out with the waiter with the top Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan – the evening was something of an education in Indian film icons – in full flow on the big screen above us and to be fair the smoked mackerel tikka was really quite pleasant – if somewhat unorthodox.

It turned out there was no shortage of chicken because both our main courses featured plenty of it. But Sylvia’s Bengal Special Tandoori Balti (£8.70) – lamb, chicken, kebab cooked tandoori style and then served in a balti sauce – was singularly lacking in character and my Achari (£7.50) – marinated chicken served in a green chilli and coriander sauce and billed on the menu as “fairly hot” was anything but. Pleasant, certainly, but no more.

This timidity in spicing had also been a feature of my starter – Capsi Prawn (£3.50), a whole green pepper stuffed with spiced prawns. Again, it was pleasant rather than memorable.

In fact the only thing that had a bit of kick in it was a very good, smooth lime pickle served with the poppadums. The raita – slightly spicy as well as refreshing – was good too.

We’d also shared a pillau rice (£2.30) – fragrant but a few claggy bits – and a garlic naan (£2.10) which was scorched and rather crispy round the edges which I rather liked but imagine would not be to everyone’s taste.

Th bill was £42.85 which included £9 for drinks (a pint and a half of Cobra beer and a diet Coke). A cheap but underwhelming experience.

As far as the Bedale Spice Wars are concerned, after visits to all three, for us there is only one winner and that’s Spice. Back in 2018 it outscored the others for the quality of its food and particularly its service.


Spice of Bengal, 36 Market Place, Bedale, DL8 1EQ

Tel: 01677 424243

No website.

Open: Sunday to Thursday 6pm to 11pm, Friday and Saturday 6pm to 11.30pm

Vegetarian options

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 6 Service 6 Surroundings 5 Value 7