ONE peek at the office diary told me all I needed to know.

It was bulging at the sides with a lifetime of other people's problems.

Truth is, though, my kind of trouble doesn't take a holiday.

But no one ever solved the mystery of the universe on an empty stomach.

I had a big bang theory of my own and I reckoned I could give it a bit of Einstein thinking on a passage to India.

I gave The Moll a bell and told her to look out her best sari for our visit to The Bombay Cottage in leafy Hamilton.

Dress to impress is my mantra, which was just as well because the Cottage was awash with colours and wrapped us in a warm hug of a welcome.

Right now, though, the only colour on my mind was amber in a nectar kind of way.

I was surprised to see the bar didn't stock any Indian beers, such as Cobra, but I was happy to wet my whistle with a pint of Stella. The Moll went down the Magners route as she came on all geographical with me.

"Shouldn't it be called the Mumbai Cottage these days?" she said. A fair point, but not one that distracted me from the task in hand – letting my peepers do the talking over the menu.

The chicken tikka starter was a little pricey. I just hoped it was spicy. Three chunky pieces of tandoori looked like pukka chukka to me.

I'm not used to seeing tikka look so red but the first mouthful told me all I needed to know. A case of nippy days are here again.The chicken was excellent and the spice was right with a couple of sauces that were Punjabi perfect.

Two words about the onions and lettuce: crispy, crunchy.

Saucy is also a word that best describes my own little minx, who was making short work of her own starter.

It might sound pretty bland but The Moll is passionate about her pakora, So it needed to be a starter for a top 10.

Thankfully, the pakora easily passed the taste test and earned bonus points for a generous portion.

By now, tables at the Cottage were filling up faster than a hot air balloon in the desert. Not bad going for a midweek night.

I ordered a reload on the drinks front just as the waiter arrived, But he didn't quite curry favour with The Moll after a Bombay mix over our plates. A quick shuffle sorted the problem.

I had opted for the lamb vindaloo and right from the first mouthful the heat was on. The aroma was just right and the flavour didn't disappoint.

My tastebuds were doing cartwheels over a cracking combo of rich ginger, saffron, garam masala, cumin and cinnamon flavours that came through right away.

Unfortunately, so did the sodium – it was a bit too salty for the Tec's taste. The lamb, though, was a shear-fire winner.

Across the table, The Moll was giving her chicken chasni the ice station zebra look. The reason was simple – she expected the meat to be a golden brown and not a lipstick red.

"That doesn't look right to me, Tec," she whispered. But a quiet word from the waiter assured her she wasn't taking a chance with a different kind of chasni.

Soon this dish was showing its true colours. The chicken – a love me tender job if ever there was one – was done to a turn.

It had just the right balance of sweet and sour and wouldn't have been out of place in a Chinese joint. But the sauce was pure Indian and packed the kind of wallop The Moll usually reserves for the occasional right hook.

Let me throw in a word or two about the boiled rice – smoothly delicious and light on the tummy lining. I also loved the humungous naan, which was brilliantly doughy and not too well fired round the edge.

Having licked the main course, Toots had her eyes on dessert. I was happy to settle for a coffee while she put a full stop on her night with some coconut ice cream to douse the fire in her mouth.

I gave my man the look that said "cheque please" and flashed the plastic. The bill just shaded the 50 mark and it was good value for a feast from the east.


Vegetable pakora £4.25

Chicken tikka £5.25


Chicken chasni with boiled rice £8.50

Lamb vindaloo with boiled rice £8.95

One naan bread £3.50


One coconut ice cream £3.95


Two pints of Stella £7.50

Two Magners £7.50

One coffee £1.95

TOTAL £51.35