The Monsoon is something people look forward to in Slaithwaite. I’m referring not to the torrential rain which has battered the place for much of this year, but to the Indian restaurant which lies at the heart of the village.
Since the Monsoon Tandoori Restaurant opened almost 13 years ago, it has established itself at a focal point for the community – and not just for diners.
The Bengali-owned eatery is decorated with framed sports shirts from the teams they have sponsored over the years and letters from grateful pupils who have eaten there on organised trips from local schools.
Other recipients of the owners’ generosity include the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra and the Moonraker Festival.
A while ago some of the staff trekked up the road to Scapegoat Hill Junior and Infant School to show the youngsters how to make a chicken bhuna.
You’re assured of a warm welcome and friendly service, and on a cold wet night in Slawit, the Monsoon is like a bright beacon. I and many fellow Colne Valley residents are drawn to it like moths to a light bulb.
The interior is painted with lightly coloured walls with deep red carpet and seats.
At weekends the place is usually busy and when the downstairs gets packed, diners spill over into the upstairs section of the restaurant.
There’s often quite a few families in early on as the natives of the Colne Valley introduce their offspring to the exotic delicacies of the Indian sub continent in a friendly environment.
So what about the food? Well, to be honest, it is nothing fancy or clever, it’s just honest dishes at reasonable prices.
I’m a regular here and personally I think that the monsoon’s forté is its vegetarian dishes.
But with the Examiner footing the bill, we decided to splash out and take a risk on some previously untried dishes – and were pleasantly surprised by a couple of them.
After poppadoms the three of us ordered the fish tikka (£3.95), tandoori chicken on the bone and chicken chat (both £3.50).
The fish tikka was truly delicious. It was succulent, lightly cooked and delicately spiced.
The portion wasn’t large, it was just enough to hit the tastebuds and make them crave more.
Sally (mother of Nugget the horse) said she would definitely order that again next time and we agreed we would too.
The other revelation was the chicken chat, a sort of minced chicken on a pancake. This had a surprising depth of flavour for such a simple starter. Another one to remember for the future.
For mains we ordered the prawn rogan josh flavoured with onions and tomatoes, sizzling chicken and spinach korahi and two vegetable side dishes.
The tomatoes were the strongest flavour in the rogan josh. In general I have found some of the main courses to be a bit heavy on tomatoes in the past.
The korahi (£7.95) was a well balanced blend of lean chicken pieces and aromatic spinach. It was nicely cooked with not too much ghee – which can be a fault in some Indian restaurants.
The tarka dhal (lentils) was up to its usual excellent standard, the smoky taste coming through. We never fail to order – or enjoy – this dish.
And the vegetable curry was tasty with plenty of onions.
All this was washed down with plenty draft Kingfisher and Cobra at prices which meant that we ended up just about within the measly budget.
Needless to say, we had ordered far too much. Just before we waddled off into the dark night, I glanced at the wall near our table. On it was a framed letter from a child in Class 2 at Helme School.
It said: “We had a great time in your beautiful restaurant and the food was the best food ever.”
I wouldn’t quite go that far, but I like the place and the people who run it, and I’ll definitely be back soon.
VERDICT: A decent local Indian with friendly staff. Every village should have one.