Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Izzy and Me Do ‘Bratford’

The cat's called Jawa

Izzy and I had a few things to do last Thursday.  Essentially a trip into Bradford was necessary to buy some traditional Indian sweets for Crimbo present’s.  So, with this in mind we trotted off with a sense of urgency that only a Father and Daughter pair, with something useful and worthwhile to do, can do.  At the back of our minds though I’m sure, was the thought that “whilst in Bradford it would be rude not to eat some Bradford Curry for lunch.”  Would you expect anything less of us dear readers?

La Jawaab, Oak Lane, Bradford
We initially headed to Oak Lane where, last time I was up that neck of the woods, I’d spotted Mughal’s Sweet’s.  It seemed like a good place to buy sweet’s, considering the Bradford Curry Club enjoyed their café style eater on Leeds Road…  However, Mughal’s Sweet’s was shut down!  Never mind, we had spotted La Jawaab – another sweet shop - just down the road – so popped in there.  Now, I’m no expert on such matters, but La Jawaab seemed to have a decent selection, and at £3.25/500g, they seemed value for money.  They didn’t last long at work either, so must’ve been pretty good.

An aside...  The Sheesh Mahall refurb is coming on
Fish Pakora

Kashmir Established 1958...
Izzy Established as the No. 1
Bradford Curry Eating Toddler
However, all this is merely preamble to the highlight of our visit to Bradford – a trip to the legendary Kashmir.  Now, most will know that, although the Kashmir is by far and away THE Bradford Curry restaurant this blogger has eaten most Bradford Curry in over the years, and that, although the Kashmir has numerous excellent aspects to its dining experience, the curries have, sometimes, left me a little disappointed.  This appears to have changed recently, and a recent dinner time trip last the summer, after the Sky Ride, proved that the Kashmir to be on the up.  So, how would it fair this time?  Brilliantly is the answer.  There is no need to worry about the Fish Pakora, as these have always been excellent.  Likewise with the Kashmiri Naan - which was found to be stuffed to the gills with flaked, and crushed almonds, and with a healthy helping of sultanas to boot, and served piping hot and smothered in butter.  Mmmm!! For main course, Izzy and me shared the Meat and Spinach Masala, and it certainly had a good bash and tipping my favourite Karachi Lamb and Spinach from its lofty pedestal as my favourite Bradford Curry – and that’s saying something.  It had all the ingredients of the classic Bradford Curry in that it was dark and rich, and generally dry.  There was a good meat quota, and the spinach added that slightly irony flavour.  Ours was not too hot and spicy, so was enjoyed greatly by Izzy too – a winner.

Say 'Cheese'

Roll on next time…

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Din Dins at the Karachi

The terraced house exterior

Another Friday and another dinner time in transit through the middle of Bradford….  Strange that isn’t it? But totally coincidental I promise.

I’m a traditionalist as you know, and would normally treat myself to fish ‘n’ chips on a Friday dinner time.  However, when in Bradford, the draw of a dinner time curry is too much to resist these days, and tradition is all too soon out the window.

I wonder how long it will be
before my picture graces a wall
Well, it was International last time, so where this?  Many ideas whizzed through my little brain as I hot footed it down towards the centre of town, with Karachi winning the head battle this time.  I think Karachi’s Lamb and Spinach (as favoured by Rick Stein) is my favourite Bradford curry… but I have to keep eating it just to make sure.  Will it live up to the hype again on this occasion?

It was really quite early – just after 12noon – and wasn’t expecting many people to be in to be honest.  To my surprise, there was a table of about eight workmen, and also about three lone dinners.  In addition, a Christmas Party table was set up for about twenty, and this slowly filled up during my brief stay.

Karachi is no frills to the max dinning.  The waiter simply asked what I wanted whilst presenting me with a jug of water and small salad of onion, tomato and riata.  No menu’s it seems unless requested.  No matter as I knew exactly what I was after and ordered Rick Stein’s Lamb and Spinach forthwith.  Chapattis are included at the Karachi, so no need to worry in that department.

As with the International the other week, my meal turned up in super quick time, and was presented in a sizzling balti dish.  The luxury of a clean bowl and spoon to aid ‘spooning’ my curry from its spitting cauldron was also proffered.  I selected to go posh and transfer the virtually boiling curry into its fresh receptacle, and scoff it utilising the chapattis from there – saved burning my fingers on the balti dish too.  Goodness knows how/where they are heated to reach such a temperature?
Piping hot

What can I say – it is still my favourite Bradford Curry full stop.  That Rick Stein chap certainly knows his onions.  Dark, dry and not oily - the sauce was perhaps not quite a reduced as on previous occasions, and the addition of fresh coriander stalks added a certain zing the proceedings.  All this resulted in a fresher, cleaner taste.  This simply added another chapter/verse/dimension to the ongoing saga of me and this curry.

£7.00!!!  Wonderful.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Hit the North Again - Ashoka, Glasgow

19 Ashton Lane,
G12 8SJ.
Tel: 0141 337 1115
Saturday 26th November 2011 (Late evening)
Juanita, Ben, Big Tone and John
Watering Hole(s)
Again Brel was the first port of call for a few of Belgian’s finest and a bit of early evening jazz – and all very nice it was too.  No ‘nice’ glass for my Chimay Blue’s though, so had to drink from a glass beaker - of the like you might be served a coke in – still tasted the same though.  Then we ventured on to Jinty McGuinty's - slightly further down Ashton Lane - and was your pretty standard Irish theme bar.  Busy though and good Guinness apparently.  Oran Mor was visit again on this occasion also.
To be honest I had no (or maybe low) expectations.  From visiting Glasgow numerous times over the years, I have seen the Ashoka name all over the place.  I understand them not to be a chain or franchise but, still, there are loads of ‘em – so, like a TGI Fridays/Frankie n Bennies/etc. (which are chains admittedly), could they be that good?  Also, I understand they come under the Harlequin umbrella of restaurants??  Quite what that means I don’t know??  I don’t claim to understand at all the politics of the Glasgow Curry Scene, and don’t want to speak out of turn here, but I think the Harlequin name owns/runs loads of Glasgow Curry Restaurants so again, I would normally tend to shy away from such antics. 
The Reality
My initial impressions of Ashoka – on a Saturday night at least – were ones of ‘popular’ and ‘bustling’, and there were definite suggestions in the air that a top class dining experience were about to be had. 
The restaurant has booth type seating to the edges of the room, with more traditional seating arrangements through the center.  Not a massive room, but tastefully decorated in generally dark shades, and resplendent with a large Indian themed mural on the back wall.  This being a wet and blustery night in Glasgow, the small cloakroom area was overflowing with outdoor wear.
With Juanita having the forethought to suggest booking a table in advance – and it was a good job we did as the restaurant was full on our arrival - we were swiftly seated in a decently positioned booth next to the window.  Not huge the booths – especially when the amassed girths of Bradford’s finest curry eating glitterati are shoe horned into one!!
I can’t remember having poppadoms…..  (Oopppss!!  Serves me right for leaving too long before blogging – lesson learned), so I’ll move swiftly to the starters.  The novelty of Haggis Pakora was was too much to resist so these were ordered on Big Tone’s behalf before he had time to think about it.  Fish pakora for me and have now complaints – in fact the fish pakora merits high praise from me for the soft, perfectly cooked fish, coated in the light batter.  The Haggis Pakora, on the other hand, did seem to offer little else other than its novelty value.  It did taste haggisy though to its credit.  The onion bhaji was noted as being rather dry and was not popular.
Exquisite Kerala Chilli
Now, I’m not one for creamy curries normally, but one caught my eye on the Ashoka menu.  The Kerala Chilli – with your own choice of meat/fish/veg - was billed as comprising a piquant sauce with black pepper and a dash of coconut milk, oh and some chilli.  Sounded interesting, and not like curries we get down here in Bradford, so I ordered one… with lamb.  I was not disappointed at all, and found it full of flavour and the kind of dish that attacked every taste bud with every mouthful.  There was the initial taste of coconut that morphed into a slight sweet n sourness, and then a fair and pleasant wallop of heat from the chilli.  This sneaked up at the end… just to let you know that, although a creamy curry, this was actually a proper ‘mans’ curry.  Black pepper didn’t exactly jump out at me, but no matter.  The meat count was high and I found it all round excellent.  Well worth sampling.  Garlic naan again (I’m really going to have try and branch out) was perfectly good enough.
Novel Haggis Pakora
Excellent Fish Pakora

Drinks Policy and range
No worries here – endless pints of lager on tap – Lal Toofan.
Ben's Curry was also tasty
The Kerala Chilli with Lamb was, without question, the highlight for me.  Not the kind of dish this local to Bradford curry lover experiences regularly.  The dish attacked every taste bud with its creamy coconuty flavour, some pleasant heat, and elements of both sweet and sour – it was excellent in my opinion. 
I don’t like to discuss lowlights regularly, and rarely encounter anything that causes me to put finger to keypad and type it down.  Although on this occasion Ashoka delivered a very enjoyable curry eating night out for us lot – and bear in mind this is the view of a tight fisted Yorkshireman with short arms and deep pockets – it was a bit on the dear side!!  £5-£6 for a basic starter and upwards of £10 for the main course’s, was very dear I thought.  The fodder was yummy but, for me, it was just on the wrong side of VFM.  However, the restaurant was very busy, and we had to book a table, so it is defo popular and people are happy to pay the prices – so who am I to question?
The Damage
Me and Fish Pakora
The bill came to about £20/person.  A good night out etc, but with the, what I would consider slightly under par starters in general (although my fish pakora was excellent), I thought that was a bit pricey.
Similar situation to the recent Café Salma aftermath is as much as bike racing the next day resulted in waking with a slight feeling of butterflies.  Can’t be sure if my guts were taking a turn for the worst due to the curry or it was a case of my body entering panic mode!!  Judging by the quality of the food at Ashoka, I think it was the later.

Decent environment and excellent main curry but slightly under par starters and cost will limit Ashoka’s appeal for me in the future.