Shimla Cottage


A RAINY night in Coatbridge, a fairly empty restaurant and a lone diner about to be put at one of the leper boy tables where lone diners are pretty much always dumped. Slap, bang in the middle of the restaurant floor. Surrounded by a circle of empty-two-seater-table-shame. Near absolutely nobody.

Can I sit at one of those booths at the window, I say to the brusque man who is rapidly showing me out into the badlands. Because, of course, I am that lone diner.

“They’re for four people,” he replies. Which I translate into: Definitely not. “Not all the booths are being used,” I mutter out loud, or maybe I squeak it. They will be, he replies.

Right now the theme tune from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly starts slowly playing in my head. Dooodleooodle-ooh; dooh, dooh, dooh. It’s not quite Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef more Danny De Vito and Lee Van Cleef, but you could momentarily cut the tension with a blunt butter knife. Tell you what, I fire back, the low level light glinting on the dull plastic cover of the laptop which I have been holding down by my side ever since I walked in, I’ll move table when you need it. Eyes lock, music ramps up, dooh, dooh, dooh. he looks at the laptop: I get the booth. Phew.

Funny thing is: I didn’t come all the way to Coatbridge to become involved in a Mexican standoff over a view onto Sunnyside Road – lovely though that it is – but because the Shimla Cottage this week managed to go all viral after someone complained about the value of its £3.50 three course set meal. Setting off a TripAdvisor showdown, involving, I’d like to think, Lee Van Cleef here.

Anyway either he or whoever responds to such things, rightly pointed out: hello, it’s £3.50. The Shimla Cottage comes out swinging on TripAdvisor, taking on all comers which, frankly, is the only sensible strategy for restaurants these days when the internet is nothing more than the Wild West in its maddest, baddest guise. Making for some lively fun.

Anyway more brawling followed, it made the tabloids, the web lit up like a firecracker. I eventually come moseying around wondering: what’s the story morning glory.

Guess what? After all this? The £3.50 three courser is only available Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch. And it’s Wednesday. Dinner. I could just saddle up and ride right out of town, but then I’d look even sillier than normal. And I’m now being roped in by the prices. The weekday set menu for two – in total – is a giddy £14. But I’m not a two. And there never is a set menu for one.

The fish pakora – Scottish haddock says the menu – is £3.50; the bhattura chana, light flakey bread with chickpeas, fenugreek and ajwain seeds is £2.50. I’m tempted to order a chicken jalandari – garlic, green chilies and coconut – simply to see what you get for £5.95 but then decide to go completely mad and order a lamb nasilea at a racy £6.95.

Straight up? The pakora is good, light, crisp, maybe some unusual shapes but it's freshly cooked, the fish is clearly moist and the batter seasoned and flavoured. And there’s enough.

Ditto the fair serving of seasoned chickpeas and a thick, and indeed flaky, but perfectly reasonable bhattura alongside.

I should have paid a bit more attention to what’s actually in the lamb nasilea when I ordered because along with lamb chunks, completely tender, and a rich, darkly spiced gravy there seems to be hunks of dried mango. Sweet, not unpleasant, but also not really my kind of thing, though I still finish it.

“You never opened that laptop,” the man will say to me as I ask for the bill. I take this to mean he has maybe mistakenly taken me for one of those Trippers. There was no need to, I reply, the food distracted me. Doodle-oodle-oh.

Shimla Cottage

109 Sunnyside Road


01236 436030

Menu: Old school Indian restaurant food, pakoras, curries, bhattura chana but with the added secret weapon that it's very cheap. 3/5

Service: No prisoners taken here and it's all a bit burly and brusque but after things calmed down reasonably pleasant. 3/5

Atmosphere: It’s big, it's raised, it has a reasonable view from the booths at the window and it's absolutely fine. 4/5

Price: We only do up to five for value for money and frankly this deserves more given the food was reasonable throughout. 5/5

Food: A good pakora, a reasonable chana and I couldn’t find anything much to moan about with the main course either. At this price…6