PLAGIARISM is a dirty word among journalists. So before I get accused of poaching ideas and words from my Examiner colleagues, I have a confession to make.
Although my name appears at the top of this article, it is actually a collaborative effort between myself and a number of fellow reporters, all keen to grab a share of the enormous Examiner restaurant review budget.
They were Robert Sutcliffe, Chris ‘Robbo’ Roberts and Louise Cooper, who arrived a little late from covering a murder trial at Leeds Crown Court. All in a day’s work.
The occasion was the retirement of David Lockwood and Steve Catchpool last Friday night.
David is well-known in Huddersfield sporting circles, having covered golf and cricket for the newspaper. After 40-odd years he is swapping his pen and notebook for a driver and sauntering off to the first tee with a light heart.
Although we were celebrating his new-found freedom, David wasn’t actually with us, neither was Steve, fellow restaurant reviewer and production journalist – although we did raise many glasses in their honour before meeting them later at the Head of Steam.
There are a couple of good reasons to head down to Fartown on an evening night.
One is that well-known pub the Slubbers, and the other is the Shama curry restaurant in the former Regent Cinema on Bradford Road. Over the years I’ve eaten here several times and, although the staff are always very friendly, in the past I’ve not been over-impressed by either the cavernous interior or what I regarded at the average curries.
All that changed when a dozen of us went there a couple of months ago.
Not only has the interior been transformed, but every one of us thoroughly enjoyed our wide range of curries to suit all palates.
When our smaller group arrived we were in for a shock.
A note pinned to the entrance door proclaimed that, as of May 1, Shama would no longer be serving alcohol.
Our minds were in turmoil, where was the nearest off-licence or alternative curry house?
But our fears were allayed when the waiter informed us that there was still beer in the barrels – although not much. Apologies to anyone who went on subsequent nights, as I believe we polished most of it off.
By the time you read this, the Shama will be out of alcohol. In these austere times, the owners have found that the BYO (bring-your-own) policy has increased footfall at their other two West Yorkshire restaurants and so have introduced it here. They are still serving soft drinks.
The interior was completely re-vamped last September, the owners plumping for ultra-modern decor.
High tech coloured fibre optics and inset halogens illuminate the white walls and the overall effect, according to Mr Sutcliffe, is “quite pleasing on the eye.”
A big improvement are the mihrab-style alcoves along the sides, providing booths for two or four diners seeking a more intimate atmosphere.
As we stepped down the short staircase into the large dining room, our olfactory senses were alerted to the wonderful aroma of curries being freshly prepared. This really whetted the appetite and we were not disappointed.
The poppadoms were warm and crispy and nicely presented on white angular crockery. The sizzling starters truly sizzled and really got the juices going. At less than £3 a head, we tucked into chicken tikka, lamb chops, lamb tikka, marinated fish, seekh kebab and onion bhaji, and a chicken chaat “with a tasty citrus twang” at £3.95.
The tender, succulent cuts of meat were sealed with a fine balance of south Asian spices and the dishes represented real value for money.
Mr Sutcliffe, a connoisseur of the legendary Scotch Bonnet blow-your-socks-off chilli pepper, ordered the king prawn special, Madras strength, while a couple of us chose the altogether milder chicken balti makhani (£6.95). The sauce was packed full of rich, creamy flavour and really hit the spot.
VERDICT: A very pleasant surprise. Good curries to suit all tastes at excellent prices, but from now on don’t forget to bring your own alcohol.
Shama Balti Restaurant
274 Bradford Road, Fartown, Huddersfield HD1 6LJ
Tel: 01484 535037
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 5pm to 11pm & Sunday 2pm to 9pm
Disabled Access: Sorry, no
The bill: £12 a head excluding drinks
Would you go back? Most definitely