THE new restaurant that replaced the Boathouse offers a great taste of south India with fantastic views.

Elai, at Mill Stream Approach, saw an overwhelming turnout at its soft launch on Wednesday, August 2.

When I spoke to co-owners Unni Bala and Nidhin Satheesan ahead of the opening in June they told me the food they're serving in Salisbury is exactly like what south Indian customers would have back home.

Upon hearing how the ingredients used for the dishes had been passed down through generations and that many items on the menu are handmade in-house, I was excited to review the establishment.

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Guests are able to book a table for lunch or dinner through Elai's website or by calling the restaurant directly.

My table was booked for 6pm on Thursday, August 24, when the restaurant was very quiet but tables soon started to fill up as time went on.

Salisbury Journal: Inside Elai.Inside Elai. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

Salisbury Journal: Outdoor seating area next to the River Avon.Outdoor seating area next to the River Avon. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

As soon as you step into Elai you're greeted with beautiful Indian decoration, a seating area and a clean, stylish interior. 

Murals painted onto the walls are river-themed - very fitting for the location of the restaurant - and there are plenty of seats inside and out.

I was immediately surprised and slightly overwhelmed at how much this restaurant offers on its menu.

There are 25 starters, 13 mains, five tandoori specials, nine vegetarian or vegan meals, an extensive selection of rice, naans and much more.

Salisbury Journal: Elai's food menu.Elai's food menu. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

Mr Bala kindly offered his recommendations and we started with poppadoms (£3.95) served with three different homemade sauces including pickle with beetroot, yoghurt and mint as well as a mango chutney which was my favourite.

Then, we shared chicken pattas (£10.95) which had a strong but non-overpowering kick to them.

To drink, bottles of Coke and Diet Coke (£3.00 each) with a fresh lime soda (£3.50).

Salisbury Journal: Poppadoms with a selection of sauces.Poppadoms with a selection of sauces. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

Salisbury Journal: Chicken Pattas for starter.Chicken Pattas for starter. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

Elai does not make its food excessively spicy because it wants customers to experience a balanced flavour and taste all the spices.

However, if you do want to ignite your tastebuds, the chef is able to make any dish as spicy as you wish upon request.

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Next up was the main dish which included Elai Dum chicken biryani (£13.95) and Milagu Varutharacha curry (£13.50) served with Kerala paratha (£3.75).

Everything was flavourful, the rice was sweet and fragrant and the chicken was cooked perfectly.

Salisbury Journal: Our main dishes.Our main dishes. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

The spices in the curry made the flavour complex and it felt unique to Elai.

Each 'main' is designed to be ordered by one person and while there isn't a children's menu, staff can make smaller portions upon a family's request.

We thought sharing the biryani and the curry was a perfect amount of food for both of us and the Kerala paratha, which takes five hours to be made in-house, tasted amazing.

Salisbury Journal: Scooping the chicken biryani.Scooping the chicken biryani. (Image: Salisbury Journal)

Once we finished our meal the waiter handed us fresh, warm hand wipes which I thought was a nice touch.

It was clear to me that staff make an effort to engage with customers, offer recommendations and answer any questions.

I observed this happening not just at our table but with other groups of guests in the restaurant.

Overall, for a sit-down authentic south Indian dining experience, I can't fault Elai when it comes to value for money.

While the owners have big plans for interior decoration, they have got the essentials right so far and are serving a great variety of food.

For more information about Elai visit