Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A tale of two Indians

Let’s open with a fun fact: did you know that in 2012 the city of Bradford was crowned the curry capital of Great Britain for the second year running, narrowly beating Glasgow? Despite this, and despite the facts that a) I am awfully fond of a good curry, and b) Bradford is a mere hop, skip and a jump away from my current home of Leeds, I had never experienced a Bradford curry until quite recently. But now my cherry has been well and truly popped and, let me tell you, I don’t believe that I will ever know butter chicken like that again.

The Punjab Sweet Shop and Grill is an unprepossessing looking place, a good walk outside the city centre. It does not have a website. It does not sell alcohol nor allow you to bring your own. But, an insider (by which I mean someone who lived in Bradford for a number of years) rated this as one of the best curry houses in a city known for good curry houses. Plus, around the corner is a rather fabulous CAMRA pub called The Fighting Cock which is ideally situated for a pre or post (or both) dinner beverage.

I would normally avoid a starter in an Indian restaurant – not because I am not a fan but because I prefer to save room for the main event (and would rather not have to roll rather than walk out at the end of the meal). But D, who had been before, was insistent that I try the fish tikka. We split a portion and it was, indeed, fabulous – moist fish with a flavoursome and not overwhelmingly hot crust, perfect drizzled with a little raita. Apparently they offer this as a main course sandwiched between two naan breads to which I say, genius!

With regards to mains, we allowed ourselves to be guided by our insider, who selected four different chicken dishes with a bread each to scoop up the curry. All four were good but the butter chicken – oh, the butter chicken, it was absolutely amazing. It’s a dish I’ve eaten before – there’s a recipe for a version on this very blog – but this was different: less saucy and infinitely richer with a gentle kiss of chilli heat. I would defy anyone to eat an entire portion though – even D, a self confessed butter addict, admitted that it was impossibly rich and I shudder to think how much ghee actually went into the making of it. Still, I would walk back to Bradford to eat that butter chicken. And I don’t really do walking.

We’ve had a good run with regards curry lately, as Saturday saw us going for dinner at what is apparently a Leeds institution, Hansa’s. This is a much slicker operation than the Punjab – it has its own website for a start. Specialising in Gujarati cuisine, it is wholly vegetarian and you don’t miss the meat for a second.

We ordered a variety of dishes to share between us, including a starter called the Spice Bomb, which was, predictably, very, very spicy. I expected to struggle with the heat of this – I have a delicate mouth in general (I’ve never got beyond medium at Nandos and was a lemon and herb kinda gal for years) but even D (an extra hot man) was moved to request a jug of water after it. I think, from the rest of the meal, that this particular dish was just thrown in there to keep the spiceheads happy since everything else was impeccably spiced and utterly delicious. I particularly loved a dish of paneer and spinach – to the extent that I acquired Hansa’s cookbook on the way out to recreate it at home. The masala dosa (a filled pancake) with coconut chutney was also lovely. D was left a little disappointed with the chickpea dahl – he felt that the sauce was too thin rendering the dish reminiscent of baked beans. While I took his point, there was no disputing that the taste of said sauce was fabulous. Unusually, I think, for an Indian restaurant, the desserts looked rather tempting as well – but a lack of cubic capacity meant that this end of the menu remained untested. I guess it’s a good excuse to go back.

So – two very different institutions but two wholehearted endorsements to get your curry on here in the West of Yorkshire. And, because in a spirit of fairness I wanted to finish with a fun fact about Leeds, did you know that in 1884 a young man named Michael Marks opened up a penny bazaar in the Kirkgate market which was to lead, ultimately, to the retail behemoth that is Marks and Spencer! Yep, the WW Foodie – it’s not just an entertainment, it’s an education.

Punjab Sweet House and Grill
122-126 Listerhills Rd,

72-74 North St,

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