Restaurant review

Bottled magic at The Spice Genie

To hell with your eyes, man, I thought you said we could go back inside, that there would be no more food truck business. Yes, we enjoyed the food, but we’re tired of sitting outside wondering what the summer vibe is like today. Of course the Covid isn’t gone forever (well…em!) and we want to go back inside to a nice cozy restaurant once more.

In fact, I reviewed food trucks for several years before the first lockdown came, when ‘Pandemic’ was nothing more than an American sci-fi movie and I will review them certainly in the future for the limits of their size tends to focus the minds of their owners/operators, refining attention and inspiring the creative culinary innovation that can make eating truly vital and exciting.

But, I know what you mean, right now, food trucks are reminding us of “that era” that we’re all desperately trying to put behind us, even as Covid still lingers in various corners of the party.

However, Chris Braganza and his Spice Genie food truck have been on my radar for quite some time, even before he came looking and finally won RTÉ. Battle of the food trucks. I never really enjoyed the show, finding the alternative, Paul Flynn’s Favorite Food Trucks (also RTÉ) better encapsulation of street food culture, but Braganza emerged as a deserving winner.

Driving from Cork to Midleton, where Spice Genie sits alongside the Midleton Farmers Market, usually takes 20 minutes, but on today, one of the hottest days of the year, it takes nearly an hour, traffic is halted for several miles until we pass the heist, a single-decker at the side of the road, engine burnt out, passengers disgorged. Yeah, it’s hot.

By the time we reach Midleton we cut it well. A quick run through the market (passing Mike Barrett’s Lobsterman food truck, his lobster rolls highly recommended by this writer) and we find a rather quiet Spice Genie trailer, as everyone in East Cork has directed to the beach.

Moreover, the Gael tend to view spicy Indian food as a cold weather warmer, forgetting that most Indians eat such dishes at temperatures that put an Irish heat wave in the shade, metaphorically and literally – chili actually helps regulate body temperature to an extreme. Heat.

Dosa with coconut chutney, vegetable masala and samosa.

Braganza’s winning menu in the BoTFT finals included a South Indian street food classic, a dosa, a crepe made with fermented rice batter and urad dal lentils, one of my lifelong passions. date. The Spice Genie dosa is smashing, tangy with a slight aniseed note of fenugreek. The textures are gorgeous; the sugars in the rice starch crisp up on the griddle and the lentils provide a nice chew. It’s stuffed with an earthy potato and sweet corn masala, the perfect little package accented with a clean, crisp coconut chutney accented with cilantro and tangy tamarind.

Currently, for reasons of time and space, Spice Genie samosas are akin to an Indian cousin of a Greek spanakopita; instead of the classic dough of flour, fat (butter, ghee or oil) and water, Braganza uses a crispy filo pastry. The filling is a lightly spiced mixture of garlic potatoes, onions and sweet corn. The zesty and fruity tamarind sauce adds a salivating contrast, but I’m looking forward to the traditional Braganza version, which will soon be possible with the planned opening of its new delicatessen in Midleton.

Chicken tikka has tender spicy chicken bites coated in a creamy and spicy sauce, sweetened with cinnamon, tangy with yogurt and astringent clove.

Beef masala in a real taste of home for Braganza born and bred in Goa, blend of spices, made by his mother and tasty, melting Irish beef cooked with potatoes and red beans; comforting, delicious, the spice is sweet, earthy and warm, rather than a scorching firestorm brought on by the chilli.

The Spice Genie Combo Bowl.
The Spice Genie Combo Bowl.

In fact, all Braganza dishes fear excessive heat: personally, he would prefer to raise the temperature somewhat but knows his local clientele, notably the 15-month-old son of a woman from Delhi and her Polish husband who come every Saturday, the infant’s palate pretty much serves as the baseline gauge for spicy heat. For those who want to turn up the thermostat, Braganza offers the option of adding chilli oil or freshly chopped chillies.

Both meat dishes are great and can be enjoyed in a combo bowl, but my favorite of the masalas is a vegan potato sambar masala with lentils and potatoes, a gloopy savory spicy sauce thickened with chana dal and served with cauliflower and sweet corn, inconspicuous and elementally simple. A few chilli pickles aside and I’d really be in heaven; again, additional items that Braganza hopes to add soon when it can utilize the extra space in the new premises. Also forthcoming is sister brand Sweet Genie, which will showcase Braganza’s dessert-making skills, as the man is actually a fully trained pastry chef (and League of Ireland referee!), who worked for more than a decade in the kitchens of the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel.

Overall, Braganza’s cuisine is wonderfully instinctive, adding its own twists, and its spiciness is empathetic and sublimely balanced. He is also not afraid to adapt to his new country of origin by using typically Irish ingredients and products. No 1 Son provides his own sterling imprimatur, applying the remorseless chewing skills of an eternally voracious teenager to every dish and not once getting up to breathe, other than the occasional very approving grimace and thumbs-up, an eloquence primitive that probably tells everything you need to know about Spice Genie magic.

The law project: 32 €

The verdict

  • Food: 8.5/10
  • Performance: 9.5/10
  • Value: 9.5/10
  • Atmosphere: 10/10 (A sunny day at Midleton Farmer’s Market with equally sunny Braganza!)


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