Sitting right at the top of Andover’s high street, Spice Route is slightly out of the way when it comes to meals in town. Away from the bright lights of the main thoroughfare, some people may not know it is here, having only opened in its current form back in February. But though it’s not the most obvious in town, it’s certainly worth a trip for flavours that are hard to find anywhere else in Hampshire, or even the UK.

The restaurant was opened by Satish Kesavarapu, after he took over the former Mumbai Brasserie and rebranded. After relocating from India, and working in five-star restaurants and hotels around the world, he final decided to open his own business earlier this year, of which Spice Route is the result. Like the man himself, the initial impression for visitors to the restaurant is a pleasant, unassuming one which promises a lot – and can certainly deliver on it.

As with many Indian restaurants in Britain, it’s traditional to start with some poppadoms, and they get things off to a great start. It’s clear these haven’t been bought in bulk and reheated, but instead made from scratch. Each one is light and crunchy, with a good, crisp snap. Among the accompaniments, each has something a bit out of the ordinary. The mango chutney has an extra zing that is hard to find elsewhere, while the tomato and coriander sauce is full of flavour, and one this reviewer has never come across before.

Moving onto the starters, the recommendation by the friendly and attentive wait staff of the kolhapuri lamb chops is a good one. The combination of herbs really packs a lot of different flavours into each bite, with the chops cooked until they are particularly tender. The meat really does melt in the mouth, and gives the diner a great promise of the meal ahead of them. The presentation is excellent, while the accompaniment of potato salad helps cleanse the palate before the main dish.

Though there are a range of classic Indian dishes on the menu, the chef’s specials are well worth seeking out. Reflecting the range of different cultures and flavours present across India, there are a selection of authentic dishes that bring a taste of the sub-continent to Andover. The railway curry, for instance, brings a creamy, well-balanced dish that blends together seafood with north Indian spices. Make sure to go for a naan bread alongside as well, in which you can taste the freshness of it just coming out of the oven, and with a healthy amount of butter. Kanika rice to accompany is also something that is hard to find elsewhere, adding fruity textures into the mix.

Though you might be feeling full at this point, there’s always the option of dessert, with a range of Indian and more British options to choose from. But sticking to the restaurant’s ethos, the malai kulfi is a great choice, being a light dish suitable for even the most stuffed diner. Its nutty flavours complement the ice-cream like dish well, and is presented in a stylish bowl to boot. It’s certainly worth saving a little extra space for the desserts if you can, because they’re more than worth the wait.

Once you’ve finished your meal at the Spice Route, it’s clear that chef Satish and his team really know what they’re doing with flavours. The combination of different herbs, spices and pulses allows them to create a range of tastes that you’re unlikely to find in many places in the UK. It’s also a lot of quality for not a lot of money, and offers an affordable but quality experience perfect for a range of different occasions. In a year of lockdowns, with international travel all the more difficult, a trip to Spice Route is just like eating authentic dishes over in India itself, and is worth visiting if you get the chance.