Everything about The Banyan Tree bar and Indian restaurant is special and significant.
Even its name.
The national tree of India was a meeting place for local people in every village who would gather under its shady canopy.
This restaurant at Swan Corner in Pulborough equally deserves to be at the heart of its community.
That’s because its chef owner Keyur Chandorkar is not only passionate about quality food but is equally committed to the area and the local people.
“When I saw this place I immediately liked the village and the people who lived here,” he said.
But the building itself was also ideal.
He wanted a place where people could have drinks as well as good food. “Usually you don’t get that. Either it’s a bar or a restaurant,” he told me.
Uniquely this establishment has both - with a bar and seating area downstairs as well as a restaurant above.
Since taking the helm he has made a huge investment in the interior.
The restaurant is a stunning space combining the privacy of guests with a spacious and welcoming classic design.
It has a real sense of quality about it which is more than mirrored by the menu.
So what makes the food so good?
“It’s very homestyle cooking. It’s freshly cooked and the ingredients are locally sourced, apart for the spices. We don’t use any additives and we don’t use any colouring. Most of the food is cooked to order,” he said.
And there’s a healthy dimension to it as well.
“We’re not too heavy on cream or butter!”
Customers can have every confidence in these claims, for Keyur is a highly trained and accomplished chef.
He went to New York where he graduated in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America. Having worked for ten years in top tier New York, Mumbai and London establishments, this is the first restaurant that he has owned and operated.
It’s a labour of love, and he appears to have not overlooked any detail.
When we visited as a family on a Sunday lunchtime to test the food we chose a wide selection of dishes.
From the appetisers we tasted the Chicken Tikka (£5.50), the Lamb Seekh Kebab (£4.95), King Prawns Amritsari (£6.25), Paneer Tikka - marinated Indian cottage cheese chunks roasted in a clay oven (£4.95), Chicken Malai kebab - chicken chunks marinated in cheddar cheese and spices (£5.50), and Onion Pakoras (£4.50).
For mains we sampled the King Prawns Sookha - prawns cooked in a coastal semi-dry sauce with coconut milk (£10.95), Murgh Chettinad - chicken chunks in a South Indian curry (£9.50), Dal Gosht - delicately flavoured lamb in yellow lentils (£9.50), and Beef Methi - Fenugreek favoured beef curry (£9.50).
The Baingan Bharta - lightly spiced and smoked aubergine mash - proved a perfect side dish (£7.25).
We were overwhelming impressed by it all.
When we ordered we had specifically requested that nothing was served too hot in spice terms. That was reflected in the way everything was freshly prepared.
The spices were subtlety blended and the meats - chicken, beef, and lamb - were extraordinarily tender and flavoursome. We couldn’t fault a single dish.
It’s easy to assume that all Indian meals are the same.
The menus here are creative, cleverly developed, and wonderfully satisfying.
Everything has the hallmark of quality.
So visit The Banyan Tree and enjoy some of Keyur’s friendly hospitality. And be adventurous too - don’t stick to the few well-known headline Indian dishes like Tikka Masala, there is a wealth of new experiences here from which to choose.
There’s also a great three course Christmas menu priced £24.95 with a lovely traditional twist. It includes turkey and cranberry curry and a chestnut peshawari naan.
Happy eating - and happy Christmas too!