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Restaurant review: Monsoona promises Holy Grail of tasty but healthy Indian cuisine

Monsoona on Bridge Street in Aberdeen offers up fine curry cuisine with a twist - it's healthy.
Monsoona on Bridge Street in Aberdeen offers up fine curry cuisine with a twist - it's healthy.

The previous time I was in Monsoona it was to shelter from a real-life monsoon – courtesy of Storm Corrie.

The big blow had knocked out power in Stonehaven, so my missus and I had retreated to a cheap hotel room in Aberdeen for those nice-to-haves in life – like heat and hot water.

Mind you, we also didn’t hesitate to go for the hot food option, courtesy of Monsoona – conveniently across the road from where we were biding.

The next time we visited this Bridge Street restaurant the weather was behaving itself, but things had changed for the pair of us.

Monsoona offers a lovely space for dining.

Instead of the challenge posed by Mother Nature we now faced a challenge set by ourselves – getting in shape for a 10k race as a precursor to training for the London Marathon.

So, how do you square training for a big run with stuffing yourself with curry, you might ask.

The Venue

Which is where Monsoona comes in. On our last visit, we clocked the fact this is an eatery that prides itself on healthy Indian cuisine. Out goes the ghee, in comes the sunflower oil, along with low-fat yoghurt and cream and an easing back on salt and sugar.

So, back we jogged – not literally – to satisfy the spice cravings without getting into our running gear the next morning and bemoaning “we shouldn’t have eaten that”.

The tasty mixed starter with the “squiggle” of sauces.

It was nice to return to such a pleasant space, too – a wedge-shaped room, like an oversized Trivial Pursuit piece of pie that’s all red walls, contrasting with crisp, white tablecloths and framed Buddhas dotted around.

And it’s not just healthy eating that is the hallmark of Monsoona, friendly and swift service is clearly their thing, too.

The food

Now, as a fan of starters in curry places, our usual go too will involve a bhaji or some pakora at some point. But, being unconvinced even Monsoona could pull off a low-fat version of fried food, we opted for the mixed tikka instead.

The thinking was simple – low-fat and a portion to share equals guilt-free face-stuffing.

The dish that arrived was a pretty thing, arriving with a squiggle of tamarind sauce and three dots of chilli sauce to go with the lamb and chicken tikka.

The chicken iteration was tasty and subtle, almost a suggestion of spices, that invited you to dip in the chilli splodge to bring the heat.

Nice touches, like fresh flowers, make the Monsoona so pleasant.

No such help was needed for the lamb, though. Mouthwateringly tender it had a red coating on it that just shouted “spice alert!” And it was, indeed, fiery but without the chilli overwriting the depth of flavour offered by the lamb.

Starters – or starter, to be more precise – suitably devoured, we didn’t have too long to wait until the mains arrived.

Not as pretty as the starter, these two bowls of curry – along with ubiquitous garlic naan and pilau rice of Begbie curry dining – looked fairly pedestrian. But looks can be deceiving.

Mrs B had decided to try out the chicken chasni, with its heady promise of being sweet, hot and tangy all at the same time.

Now, as an old curry hand, I’m often delighted but rarely surprised when it comes to trying something new. This chasni managed to do both.

The chicken chasni was a tongue-teasing mix of flavours.

It was a tongue-teasing mix of coriander vying with mint, honey sweetness competing with earthy tamarind, shot through with mango chutney and ream notes up against a baseline of chilli, onion and garlic.

All of this with tender chicken breast that was infused with this flavour bomb of a sauce. I could have happily spooned in the lot, but courtesy – and my other half – stopped me.

Besides, I had my own food to be eating, thanks very much. I was drawn to the lamb naga zhaal by the promise of special chilli pickle. What’s that when it’s at home, then?

The first forkful pushed my eyebrows up… a huge hit of dark spices, cassia first then cumin and then the fierce attack of naga chilli. That’ll be the pickle, then. Wowzer.

A fine feast at Monsoona on  Bridge Street with mixed tikka, chicken chasni, lamb naga zhal, pilau rice and garlic naan.

But for all the strong-arming on the Scoville scale, it wasn’t overwhelming the other subtler flavours in there of ginger, onion and garlic – mainly because the latter was hanging around in thick chunky slices in the tomato-based sauce.

Also lurking on the dish were those dried brown chillies that experience teaches not to touch.

Everything was working in harmony with the lamb – again so full of flavour yet soft enough to mash with your fork.

I made short work of it, up to and including using the naan to mop up every last drop of sauce.

And when Mrs B pushed her not-quite-finished dish over the table, I did the same to it.

Full of dark spices and fierce chilli pickle, the lamb naga zhall was fiery but full of flavour.

The verdict

Finding somewhere that offers healthy Indian cuisine without sacrificing flavour is a bit of a Holy Grail. Yet there it is, sitting on Bridge Street and doing just that.

Authentic cuisine with a contemporary twist in a nice space, Monsoona will rapidly become a go-to place when I’m looking for a fine curry feast – even after I hang up my running shoes.


Address: Monsoona, 20 Bridge Street, Aberdeen, AB11 6JJ


Price: £62.40