The Coconut Lagoon is one of many restaurants situated along Warwick Road in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK. It is part of an expanding group of restaurants, run by the Muthalagappan family, including another Coconut Lagoon in Sheep Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. It describes itself as 'Britain's first South Indian restaurant, which brings to you the truly outstanding and varied cuisines of Kerala, Goa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh under one roof'. From the outset, this enticing introductory paragraph suggests that this isn't your average Indian Restaurant. In fact, the restaurant has two RAC Dining Seals. Even more impressive, though, is that Pat Chapman's 2001 Good Curry Guide placed the restaurant in the Top 100 UK Indian Restaurants, and the Coconut Lagoon was the only restaurant in Warwickshire to be recognised in this way.
The Coconut Lagoon deals with cuisine from the Southern Indian states, and the food reflects Hindu, Muslim and Christian influences. The setting is pleasant, although nothing special in itself. Through the kitchen door, the perfume of the many dishes available can be smelt - and it isn't one of strong, offensive spices.
The menu is extensive, and grouped cleverly to aid the diner. Specific details have been avoided, as the menu is updated regularly. The prices are reasonable, although they are definitely suited to a special occasion. Each section has four to six options, with brief English descriptions given underneath. If you don't know what to choose, then the waiters can certainly help, and they'll check with the chef to see if a dish is allergy-compliant, etc.
Prices are around £5 (at the time of writing), or around £15 for the Malabar Trio, which is a large selection plate.
There are two vegetarian options available, then a fish option, a chicken option, two lamb options and the feast platter. Not much indication is given as to the strength of dishes, but there's something for almost anybody. The starters are called appetisers, and this is what is meant. Portions are rich, but small. This is sensible, and adequately prepares you for the main course of your choice.
Prices are around £7 for vegetarian dishes rising to £16.
The main courses are grouped according to the base ingredient, ie, the meat used. Of particular note are the chicken dishes, and the seafood looks exceptional. Again, not much clue is given as to the spice content, so it is best to ask if you are unsure. Courses are generous, well presented, filling and taste amazing. Rather than overpowering spice, the taste and quality of the ingredients is allowed to flow through onto the taste buds. Five vegetarian options are available, and if you're allergic to an ingredient, the staff will advise you as to what you can eat, whether a dish can be prepared without certain ingredients, and which dishes should be avoided for allergy reasons.
These are around £5 and consist of mainly cooling desserts including ice creams and sorbets, but interesting combinations to round off the meal. The mango sorbet is particularly pleasant.
The breads from the Nibbles section are interestingly presented, and have very distinct tastes. They're great to share and are well worth the money. You will be asked about these in between courses, and tempting as it is to resist, it's best to have at least one for the experience. Side vegetables are impressive, but not essential.
Also, the wine list is impressively priced and offers a good range. More notable though, are the soft drinks. There's a fruit smoothie-type affair which is offered before food; but if a spicy option is chosen, one may be required afterwards.
But I Don't Like Spicy Food!
Don't worry about it - there's plenty of mild food to eat. If you really can't stomach anything Indian, don't let it put you off going. Simply ask to eat off the Malabar Room menu, which is more traditional English food. That is, of course, if you can persuade the waiter that you really can't handle anything else!
Tell Me More
The Coconut Lagoon group has its site at coconutlagoon.com, with up-to-date menus and prices, full contact details and directions.
So there you have it - an Indian without the morning after!