THE Huddersfield area is blessed with a robust range of curry houses ranging from the cheap to the chic.
Ashiana definitely lands firmly in the latter category.
It’s a striking-looking restaurant in the imposing Grade II-listed Town Hall building near the centre of the town.
One plus is that parking isn’t a problem. Another is that care and effort has clearly been lavished on the place.
You sit in comfort in surroundings that would not be out of place in a trendy nightclub’s VIP suite.
The mood lighting – the colours change slowly from blues and greens to soft purples and reds – along with the white walls and leather seats give it an ambience that few other restaurants can match.
All the waiters are smartly dressed in black, nothing is too much trouble and they are clearly well-drilled at making sure the customer remains happy at all times. Now that’s what I call service.
Wine is reasonably priced at under a tenner for a bottle.
Away from the ‘old school’ curries – your bhunas, massalas, rogan josh, vindaloo and korma – Ashiana is out to take you on a journey around Indian’s regions to give you the chance to try something you may never have had before.
And we certainly did.
But first the starters – big crunchy popodoms with the usual suspects as accompaniments.
Good beginning. Could they keep it up.
With our eyes firmly on three mains from the chef’s array of specials we shared a masala fish which we presumed would come in a sauce.
Don’t be so presumptuous came the reply in dish form as we were served three fillets of lightly-coated fish. The coat of spices may have appeared thin, but the crispy crunchy spice seemed in tune with the light fish.
And now for something completely different.
Banaresi Special – a combination of king prawn, chicken tikka, chicken, prawn. Cooked with fresh onions, peppers, tomatoes, coriander, double cream and honey. Yes, your eye to mind co-ordination is not playing tricks. Honey.
For those who love a banana or even a pineapple subtly – or perhaps not that subtly popped into your curry this is one that could just put you into curry heaven.
It was sweet yet somehow sharp without being bitter. A taste we’d never had before and we felt the sweetness overpowering. Still, everyone’s taste is different and they must be a sweet-toothed lot in Elland.
Second up was Punjab Taste – a unique Ragistani dish made with green chillies, cloves, cumin seeds, black peppers and chicken, garnished with fresh coriander.
At first you don’t suspect it is that strong, but it’s merely toying with your tastebuds. It sure does know to kick.
Third, last but by no means least was the lamb hyderabadi, a distinct rich dish cooked with spices, coriander, fresh cream yoghurt, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, bay leaf and cloves. An ultra-tender lamb dish that proves to the doubters that lamb and cream can mix it up together successfully.
For the really adventurous how about Laziza Handi Special – tender lamb and chicken sauce, garnished with sweetcorn and fresh lemon segments in a spicy tomato sauce, garnished with coriander.
Some of the vegetarian dishes are also off-beat. How about Paneer and Mushroom Balti – mushrooms cooked in herbs and spices and added Indian cheese or Balti, Palak Aloo Dall Potatoes – spinach and lentils cooked to a traditional balti recipe.
After that it had to be a light dessert which was pistachio kufti yet this turned out to be lacking on the nutty flavour and tasted more like green vanilla.
Still, you can’t get everything you want in life. There was a punky parrot on the menu – a vibrantly-coloured plastic bird filled with ice-cream. Years ago in Menorca one of our children was obsessed with this and tantrums ensued. Once we relented and allowed her one before her main course to try to keep her quiet.
She responded by snapping its head off.