HOW times change! Back in 2001 Labour enjoyed a landslide election victory, Manchester City were relegated from the Premier League, and the Balooshai restaurant left Honley to set up home under the railway arches in Huddersfield town centre.
Eleven years on, while Labour are in opposition and City are celebrating, the Balooshai is back in Honley, having opened a second branch to run alongside its existing Viaduct Street ‘Central’ version.
Back in the nineties, my wife Lucy and I enjoyed many a Balooshai meal for two, both sit-in at the Old Silk Mill, site of the original Honley restaurant, and takeaway.
These days, there’s another Thomson, our eight-year-old daughter Bea. She is as big a curry fan as her parents and having tried the many other outlets the Holme Valley has to offer, was keen to sample new surroundings.
Based at the one-time Coach and Horses on Eastgate – it’s origins remain obvious from the decor and lay-out – the Balooshai at Honley is run by Hamid Ali, son of head chef Moklif Ali, who bought the town-centre restaurant from original owner Shehzad Hussain in 2004.
Hamid has a big challenge, not just due to the many other Indian restaurants competing for custom in the area but because the original Honley Balooshai was so highly rated by so many people.
The good news for all those with happy memories of the Silk Mill is that he’s meeting it head on.
While the service could be a touch slicker – and that’s not for the want of enthusiasm on the part of the staff and is a situation which should improve with time and practice – the food is good, right from the fresh and crisp poppadoms and decent pickle tray proffered when, after a slight delay, we were seated at our table.
Out-of-the-ordinary starter options include tuna chunky kebab (marinated in herbs and Bangladeshi spices and cooked over charcoal) liver in garlic butter and the Portuguese-Indian fusion of piri piri chicken wings.
But Bea loves the curry-house theatre of the sizzling starter (if I’m being honest, so do I) so the Balooshai mix was the obvious option.
It arrived, suitably hot, furiously fizzing and, as ever, bringing glances from fellow diners (and there were plenty of them on the Friday evening we visited) with nice timing and provided a tasty selection of various types of chicken, lamb chops, fish, cheese fritters and both onion and cauliflower pakoras.
The menu promises mains from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and while all the regular bases from baltis to bhunas are covered, there are plenty of options with a twist, including paprika tuna and nawabi seabass (fish and prawns cooked with spinach).
Lucy revisited an old favourite, chicken chamak dumak, which we’ve only ever seen at the Balooshai and she hadn’t eaten since a couple of days before Bea’s arrival all those years ago.
The key to the dish is the use of roasted birdseye chillies which provide a lovely level of heat throughout but in Lucy’s view, are best not actually consumed. It adds an element of work, and is easier done before too many drinks, but it’s worthwhile!
I was tempted by the bhindi gosht (lamb and okra) and khata mitta (chicken or lamb stir fried with red peppers, green chillies and mustard seeds) but went for the Kashmiri lamb, good-quality meat in a medium-hot onion-rich sauce which also features cucumber.
For Bea, it’s always a choice between chicken korma and lamb rogan josh, and her helping of the former was quickly polished off along with a chapati, some pilau rice and half my garlic nan!
She went for the full-size portion, but while not actually offering a half-size option, the waiter was quick to confirm it was available.
9 Eastgate, Honley, HD9 6PA
Tel: 01484 664455
Opening hours: Mondays: Closed (except on Bank Holidays 4.30pm to 10pm); Tuesday: 5.30pm to 10.30pm; Wednesday: 5.30pm to 10.30pm; Thursday: 5.30pm to 10.30pm; Friday: 5pm to 11pm; Saturday: 5pm to 11pm; Sunday: 2.30pm to 9pm.
The bill: £61.70, including drinks.
Would you go back? Yes.