Here’s what we thought…
Type in ‘Worcestershire restaurants’ into TripAdvisor and a little Bangaldeshi restaurant in Upton-Upon-Severn pops up at number 1. Pundits Fusion was started 22 years ago by its founder Sultan and was Upton’s first Indian restaurant. Sultan and his team have kept the business going over the years through difficult economical climates and some of the worst floods the UK has seen. Pundits is more than just a restaurant, it has a voice amongst locals and the wider community, and continues to be supported by its loyal customers, many of whom many have become good friends.
I’ve had the fortune of dining many times at Pundits over the past 10 years since living in the area, and so it was a huge surprise to me and others when Sultan announced that he’d be retiring from the business at the end of 2017. We knew the restaurant would be left in safe hands when Sultan revealed he’d be passing on the reigns to Pundits’ manager Juned Miah.
When we return for the first time in the New Year, it’s just the two of us for a midweek dinner and we decide to try out some of the specials and fusion menu for a bit of a change. After working through a basket of papadoms and pickle tray, our Pundits starter selection arrives individually plated and garnished with a fresh salad. The selection includes mushrooms, an onion bhajee, tamarind chicken and a mashed potato croquette made with tasty herbs and spices. At just £7.95 this was great value and a new favourite for us both.
Pundits introduce their main menu with a selection of fusion and their own signature dishes with a choice of traditional dishes also available. One of the great things about Indian food is that it’s ideal for sharing and sampling a mix of flavours and textures; luckily my dining partner was in the mood to share. The tak jal mishty is the star dish for me and a Pundits signature creation – a dish now more commonly referred to by us as a ‘mixed mishty’. The combination of hot, sweet and sour is delightful and our preferred ‘Pundits mix’ of king prawns, lamb and chicken tikka is taken as a given.
Our second choice is the Nasi Goreng; an Indonesian stir fried rice with chicken, tiger prawns, soy sauce and fresh, hot green chilies – Pundits style. The rice dish comes with a spiced potato and cauliflower accompaniment, an oversight on our part which subsequently lead to the over ordering of vegetable sides. Paneer is melted amongst the spinach in a twist on the classic sag paneer, with the addition of fresh chili as seems to be the theme. Although a little wetter in texture than usual this time, the slow cooked tarka dal is intensely garlicky and still the best I’ve had anywhere. Naan bread is impossible to resist with its crispy exterior and soft, pillowy middle which can only really be achieved by cooking it in a tandoor. What we don’t finish they are happy to box up and the following day I polish off the leftover curry, mopped up with my half eaten garlic naan.
Although food is a very personal thing, there are also certain factors that set some restaurants apart from others. A warm welcome and the sense of community customers feel when they step into Pundits is what makes this restaurant different from others offering a similar style of cooking and cuisine. Now in the new ownership there’s no doubt that Pundits is still the heart of Upton as it has been for so many years.