First of all I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year. It ain’t gonna be an easy one. The job market is in dire straights and the public sector cuts in April are only gonna make things worse. Who knows when things will start to get better, but my guess is that things are gonna get worse first. I have no idea what I’ll be doing job wise in 6 months; at the moment I just hope I will be doing something!
Anyway. Enough of that. Despite all the doom and gloom New Years Eve was celebrated with a suitably messy party and although I can’t remember too much I do know that I had a great night. I hope you too had a good time and I truly hope 2011 is a good, or at least bearable, year for every one of you.
On to the food.
Curries are funny aren’t they? We all know them as Indian cuisine, but they’re probably just as British as they are Indian (or Bangladeshi/Pakistani). The Balti is thought to have been created in Birmingham and Chicken Tikka Masala is known as one of Britain’s national dishes. But you just can’t beat a proper curry can you?! And that is where the difficulty lies. Finding a decent curry house is like finding the love of your life. Once you have it in your grasp you will not stray to another and you will remain forever loyal.
I have tried many places in my own quest to find the perfect Indian restaurant. I have had dull tasting slop in restaurants with flocked wallpaper, I have had overpriced trash in ‘contemporary’ Indian restaurants and I have had the late night, beer fuelled curry where, on one occasion a waiter served me a bottle of frozen black tower (don’t hold it against me, I was young and naive, so much so, I didn’t even send it back!). I have also been lucky enough to go to India and try the fine cuisine first hand. There is nothing like eating at a dirty roadside cafe; your taste buds will rejoice, but your stomach will fall out of your arse the next day. Cleanliness in eateries is required!
East and West, without a doubt, is the best Indian restaurant I have eaten in, in Britain anyway. So imagine my glee when the husband came home and said he was taking me out and that I could choose where. We debated a few places; noodles, tapas, sushi, pub grub, pizza, kebabs. It was a tough decision, it always is, but eventually we decided on East and West. Apart from anything else, I figured it would make a good topic for a blog post.
It describes itself as a place offering the ‘finest authentic South Indian and Sri Lankan Cuisine‘ with dishes ‘prepared with the freshest ingredients and prepared with the proper procedure in an effort to pamper your taste buds and provide a healthy and tasty alternative, without leaving you with a hole in your pocket‘. Sounds good, yeah? Well, it is! They don’t do the ‘bog-standard’ curries here. Chicken Tikka certainly is not on the menu. Instead there is vadai, idly, dosas and kotthu amongst other magical sounding goodies.
The restaurant is on Abbeydale Road, a good 20 minute/half hour walk out of town and we do decide to walk, in preparation of the feast ahead. It’s bring your own too so we pick up a bottle from the wine rack as we leave the flat. You can’t book mid-week so I was anxious to know that we would actually get a seat; it can get pretty busy at the weekend and the place can only sit about 16 at a time. No worries though; there were just two other couples there when we arrived.
We perused the menu, eventually made our choices and ordered. We have made our way through a fair bit of the menu over time and the dosas are spectacular, but we decided to go for a few new things, partly for the sake of the blog!
We were brought stainless steel cups for our wine; everything is served on stainless steel which is strange to begin with, but the trays with their separate compartments are pretty useful for all the sauces and dips. The staff are friendly and humble. They love to talk about the food and appreciate any compliments you give them. The restaurant itself is a bit like a canteen; simple and with very little in the way of decor. There certainly isn’t any flocked wallpaper! The toilet situation is a tad annoying as there is only one to be used by one and all, and that involves a trip down a ginnel (and, yes Sheffield, I did say ginnel, not jennel).
Complimentary poppadoms soon appeared with mango chutney and a yoghurt dip to accompany them. Gav joked that they were our ‘amuse-bouche’ and he proceeded to stuff his face with them as I tried to restrain, knowing full well that we, as is often the case, had over ordered.
|Half eaten poppadoms!|
Starters arrived; I went for Samba Vadai. The Vadai were soft plump discs made out of a light flour mixture and they were swimming in the Samba, which is kind of a veggie stew. It’s ok Not bad, not fantastic. Gav liked it; I thought it tasted of tea!
The Masala Vadai were better. They too were plump discs, but made out of channa dal (basically chickpeas), onions and lots of chilli and spices, with a crisp outer layer. There’s just more flavour to these than the Samba Vadai and they left a nice chilli tingle in the mouth.
Mains were quick to follow, maybe a bit too quick, as I do like a break in between courses. The mutton biryani was fantastic; the spicing was just right. Damn tasty but not too hot. The mutton was nice and tender, and although I had been trying to have some meat free days after the indulgences of Christmas and New Year, I didn’t regret going for it.
I also had an egg rotti. Oh my lord! These are gorgeous. They’re made out of layers of flaky pastry type bread, with an egg, onion and spice mixture spread out between each fold. So moreish, but also so filling! It was a meal in itself and actually would make a fantastic breakfast with a good squirt of ketchup!
Gav went for the special – devilled prawns. There were about 5 fat prawns with red and yellow peppers coated in a sticky sweet and sour looking sauce. It wasn’t particularly sweet and it had a bit of a kick to it, but wasn’t my cup of tea Luckily Gav was happy and as the dish was of a more manageable size, he was able to assist with my biryani too.
He also ordered puttu which is perhaps the strangest dish I have come across! It’s a roll made of rice flour, stuffed with grated coconut. Peculiar to the point that it wasn’t particularly enjoyable; for me anyway! I didn’t quite understand its purpose as it was very crumbly and couldn’t be used to mop anything up. It wasn’t all that flavoursome either. Now, I gather puttu can be a breakfast dish, a side dish or a dessert (when made with sweetened coconut). Very versatile for such a dull, dry and ugly looking dish!
By this point we were stuffed and very grateful that Gav had taken advice from the waiter and refrained from ordering a chapathi too. We finished our wine, happily paid the bill (which was in the region of £22) and treated ourselves to a cab home.
If you haven’t been here yet, then you must. Things don’t have to be all that scary as there are the likes of samosas and onion bhajis on the menu as well as a few curries. If you do fancy something new, then you must go for a dosa. They are huge crisp pancakes stuffed with a choice of filing and served with chutney. Grand.
There’s only one other restaurant in town like this; Dhanistha’s which is just a bit further along Abbeydale Road. It’s good, but the atmosphere isn’t quite as good as East and West, which is a shame because the food is very good there.
How about you? Any delights that you’d like to share with us?