Saturday 19th November 2016.
If you have the chance/inclination, check out The Sheffield Star’s Curry House of The Year 2016 Awards. Especially the dismal photos of the ten shortlisted: Bayleaves’ shuttered shop front; Tikka Masala’s teacloths drying in an upstairs window. Spot the abandoned shopping trolley stuffed down Bollywood’s black maw… Images somehow reminiscent of charitable appeals for donkey sanctuaries on afternoon television. Curiously, last year’s winner, Zara’s, doesn’t even make the shortlist. Presumably, happily rehabilitated. If a donkey’s mood can ever meet such a heady epithet. We visited a few rescued donkeys once. Mortally depressed, if you ask me.
“Jumairah” is pictured too among the shortlisted: the ostentatious sign outside – a misconceived interpretation of The Angel of the North – perplexingly dropping its ‘h’. Actually, it seems like the letters are getting smaller. You sense the signwriter’s anxiety. “At least it still Sounds the same,” he offers as the onion bhajis and naan dough musket balls come raining down. Hardly a problem for this ‘ere Estuary English speaker. Latest news is, the rogue ‘h’ is slowly being erased from incriminating records. Menus are now consistent with the signage; there’s just the buffet advert pinned outside, and the Just Eat page.
Orthographical niggles aside, there’s nothing much else to criticise here. (Sufferers of Personal Space Invasion Syndrome (PSIS) may consider some tables positioned too close for comfort – details of a son’s military aspirations mercifully drowned under the robust volume of asian ambient.) It’s a modern, tall-ceilinged, attractive space, with an intimate niche for smaller parties. The bar, like a cathedral altar, boasts an impressive reredos water feature; the smart, solicitous waiting staff pause in reverence.
No less than eight pickle dips – reminiscent of Zara’s in that respect – including a unique and toothsome garlic pickle, easily demolished. The onion bhajis delighted with their melting, chilli-spiked centres, yet failed to upstage the salmon fish tikka: a delicately spiced triumph. (Salmon, certainly worthy of a starter menu renaissance, in my opinion.)
Main-wise, Skippy was tempted by a lamb tikka kashmiri, partnering its signature pineapple with an exotic rarity, the luxurious lychee. I ventured the lamb nihari, slow cooked lamb shank (served on the bone). A scant, greasy sauce did not detract from the magnificent succulence and flavour of the meat. Fine ginger strips, like parmesan shavings, cutting through the richness in splendid harmony. The garlic naan, perfect inspiration for mopping up every oleaginous last drop.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles