There are a couple of things that often strike when you drive into Elland - it has some magnificent buildings and you’ll not have trouble parking.
Yes, it has something of a backwater feeling to it - especially at night - but when you get to the mini roundabout in the town centre you’re struck by Southgate Methodist Church and now Hanif’s restaurant opposite which is in the old town hall building.
It was Indigo’s but it’s now under new management.
Indigo’s was smart inside with great lighting and the new owners have kept all that ... and ‘plushed’ it up. Yes, even the seats have ‘jewels’ set in them.
It’s a big restaurant and there are even more seats upstairs and with a clever use of mirrors it looks even larger. It makes you wonder where all the people are going to come from to fill it.
Now there are two things you need to know about Hanif’s before we start. You can take your own booze. That’s good.
And it’s cash only. That’s not so good.
But help is at hand with a cash machine in the wall at the post office opposite.
On the way back I noticed what I first thought were Christmas posters on the window but then realised it was artwork of Christmas scenes painted on by artist Jenny Tribillon. Now that’s an amazing skill.
There were four of us on this culinary outing - me, wife Ruth and curry loving friends Mark and Shirley.
Hang on, there’s a third thing. The menu has an extensive choice for vegetarians. Another good thing with paneer soft indian cheese often putting in a special guest appearance.
You can tell when Mark and Shirley are hungry - they’ll go for a mixed kebab (£4.95) featuring shami kebab, seekh kebab, chicken tikka and onion bhaji. They must have been ravenous as both ordered them to get things up and running. Mine was prawn puri (£4.20) cooked in a rich masala sauce while Ruth had masala fish (£4.95), haddock marinated in light spices, whole coriander, cumin and shallow fried.
It’s a good mixed kebab. No, it’s better than good., nestling on its bed of fried onions, with everything really well spiced and the seekh kebab one of the best we’ve had in years ... and we’ve had some great ones at other restaurants. The prawns were in just the right amount of sauce and plenty of them and the puri is just how a puri should be, melts the moment you put it in your mouth. It’s almost like magic. How do they do that?
The fish was a good sized, light starter to really set the palate up for the main course.
These were a couple of Raam Laals (£8.95), pot roasted chicken tikka with potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, chillies, herbs and spices; Rawal E Special (£8.95), diced chicken breast, keema and prawns cooked with cream, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and garnished with coriander while Ruth went a tad off piste with vegetarian dish karahi paneer chilli palak (£7.95) featuring diced Indian cheese cooked with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, spinach, fresh chopped chillies and fresh coriander.
When they arrived they looked good but, as we all know, looks can be deceptive. It’s taste that counts in this game and they quickly racked up high scoring numbers. The Raam Laal had small chunky pieces of potato and wonderfully cooked chicken in plenty of sauce. The chef highly recommends this dish and well he might as he knows he’s on to a winner.
The karahi is spot on for spinach lovers and packed with flavour but not as punchy as you’d expect even though chilli had got itself involved along the way.
Shirley’s Rawal dish is one of those with so much in it every mouthful’s different yet works so well together.
Something a bit different on the rice front - chick peas rice (£2.95) that gives pillau rice an added interest boost - while the garlic and cheese nan and peshwari nan (£2.95) were both huge but not, as my mum would say, over-facing.
Great meal, plush surroundings and it was warm in there even though temperatures had plummeted to -1˚C outside.
Go on, be adventurous and give Elland a try. Perhaps have an afternoon at the good old fashioned Rex cinema - you can get cups of tea in mugs at the interval - and then pop down to Hanif’s for tea.
3-7 Southgate, Elland, HX5 OEU
Phone: 01422 377325
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 5pm to 11pm; Friday and Saturday 5pm to 12pm.
Children: Yes and they do a child’s menu such as chicken korma and chips
Disabled: Access and a disabled toilet.
The Bill: £77 for four
Would you go back: Absolutely