THINK of Denby Dale and the word ‘pie’ will almost certainly spring to mind.
The village, current population 2,134, rose to national fame in 1788 when the villagers baked a giant pie to celebrate the recovery of King George III from a bout of madness.
Over two centuries later and the residents’ pie-making tradition is still going strong – they have made a total of 10 monster pastries to mark various notable occasions, including the Millennium when they excelled themselves with a 12-tonner.
It was indeed in search of food that we headed over to Denby Dale last Friday. But it wasn’t pies we were after. Instead we fancied sampling something altogether spicier than meat and potatoes and booked a table at the Aagrah Indian restaurant, located in a converted traditional stone house along Wakefield Road.
The Denby Dale eatery is one of 12 Aagrah restaurants in a Kashmiri kingdom within Yorkshire which stretches from Tadcaster to Doncaster. MD and Executive Chef Mohammed Aslam was awarded an MBE in the 2010 Queen’s New Year Honours list.
We arrived to find the restaurant moderately busy and were warmly welcomed by a friendly waiter. We walked through the bar, which also does a brisk take-away trade for locals, and into a single dining room with cream and gold coloured walls.
The interior was brightly lit and slightly Spartan for an Asian restaurant and we were shown to a table with a picture of a happy elephant on the wall.
After a quick glance at the extensive menu, the realisation dawned that deciding what to order was going to be no mean feat, so we ordered the customary two pints of lager and settled down to study the vast array of offerings.
The standard popadoms and pickles tray arrived. What was different about this one was that the mango chutney was unlike any we’d ever tasted before. Unusually, it was flavoured with cloves and the balanced blend of sweet and savoury flavours kick-started our taste buds ready for the main event.
We decided against the whole stuffed lamb at £250, as we were 13 people short. Another unusual item was the chicken stir fry, which made an appearance in the ‘English dishes’ section.
The starters were all reasonably priced, several were only £2.50, although portions were on the small side. On reflection, this was probably a good idea, as the main courses were all very generous. We could have shared one between the two of us.
We began with ravi (sea bass) fillet at £4.25 and chicken tikka at £3.50. The tikka was good, although I would have preferred mine a little juicier. The sea bass, however, was gorgeous. Delicately cooked with tender mouthfuls of succulent fish coated in a delicious spicy coating, it was one of the best starters we’d ever eaten in an Indian restaurant. Both dishes were on the spicy side.
We poured over the list of dozens of main courses, including specially-starred dishes which had been eaten by Bollywood stars on a visit to Yorkshire during the Indian Film Festival. There’s also over a page of vegetarian dishes.
We chose two of the Chef’s Specials which were both new to us. The first was lamb hyderabadi (£8.50), with coriander, cream, yoghurt, tomatoes, ginger cardamom and cloves, the second was chicken achar (£8.20) with tomatoes, chillies, aniseed, yoghurt and lime.
The restaurant grades dishes from one to five chillies depending on their spiciness and ours were middle-of-the-range two and three chillies.
The overwhelming flavour of the achar was lime, which, to my mind, drowned out any of the subtler flavours, such as the aniseed. I said this to the waiter, who was devastated.
He said I should have said I didn’t want so much lime – difficult when you haven’t had the dish before – and offered to prepare another dish free of charge with less citrus.
The lamb hyderabadi, was excellent. It was full of flavour, a well-balanced blend of herbs and spices with tender, lean chunks of juicy lamb. The sauce was spicy and rich, this was the curry equivalent of a full-bodied Bordeaux wine; classy.
The vegetarian side dishes of saag (spinach) and tarka dahl (lentils) were like the mains – punchy, spicy and full of flavour. We ordered far too much and took half of it home in a large doggie bag – it tasted just as good second time round.
Aagrah Indian Restaurant
250 Wakefield Road, Denby Dale, HD8 8SU.
Tel 01484 8666266
Opening hoursMonday to Saturday: 5.30pm to 11.30pm, Sunday: 4.30pm to 10.30pm
Children Yes, they’re welcome.
Disabled access Not full access, phone for details
The bill£35.50 including drinks, but we ordered far too much
Would you go back?Yes, if you like a flavourful curry with a bit of a kick, then Aagrah is definitely worth a visit.