GOING Solo for a meal for two. That was the Examiner headline for a food review on a recently-opened, pioneering Indian restaurant.
Solo’s opened in Skelmanthorpe in 1990 – one of the first out-of-town Indians in the Huddersfield area – and the paper’s then resident gastronome was soon on the case.
Galloping gourmet, friend, former colleague, Examiner features editor and music critic Malcolm Cruise had travelled over to Skelmanthorpe, presumably with his wife Denise, to try it out.
He was suitably impressed – and said so.
A framed cutting of Malcolm’s review hangs on the wall of the takeaway area at Solo’s to this day.
So, all those years later, Carol and I followed in the footsteps of the great little man.
Why it had taken us all this time to sus out Solo’s I’m not sure as we don’t live that far away, but we were well pleased when we visited on Thursday last week.
We hadn’t booked, but we arrived early and were found a table for two in a shady nook in the spacious, traditionally Indian decorated restaurant area. The ornate light green, gold and beige dining area has a comfortable warmth, accentuated as it was with Christmas decorations. The ceiling features a large pleated swirl drape and the room is lit by an intricately cut, elaborate central Indian glass chandelier and glass shaded wall lights..
We had walked into the street-level takeaway area expecting to find the restaurant inside and Carol had to ask as to its whereabouts. We were directed around the corner, up a slight slope and round into a spacious car park. This came as another surprise as we had parked the car under the Christmas tree in the ‘Triangle’ communal village car park a way up the road and walked down.
From there it was up the steps and into the restaurant through an attractive conservatory-style reception area with easy chairs and tables.
Solo’s is not licensed for alcoholic drinks so we took our own – a bottle of red wine and a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic lager for the driver.
A personable waiter brought us the menus and then supplied appropriate glasses for our drinks and even a bottle opener for the lagers (the wine bottle was screw topped).
We ordered popadoms and the pickle tray, which quickly appeared, and perused the menu.
It’s a simple rule of thumb, but I think you can tell a lot about an Indian restaurant from its popadoms (which are spelt in a variety of different ways in varying curry houses).
The Solo’s offerings were right up there with the best – and as an added bonus it was full marks too for the pickle tray – chopped onion, spiced tomato and onion, delightfully chunky mango chutney and a yoghurt dip. There was also a delicately spiced raitha.
As we savoured the ‘pops and picks’ we compared notes over our orders: should we share a starter so as not to overface ourselves for the main dishes?
We decided to go it alone, but both of us opted for the featured fish dish – the spiced haddock.
It was served up on a large dish, with a side salad, two, sizeable pieces of moist, succulent, prime cut fillet of fish, coated with a piquant marinade – each.
The fish was most tasty, but there was such a lot of it that in order to leave room for the main course, we didn’t eat it all.
Now I hate leaving good food, but with more to come we faced a dilemma.
We should have doubled up and shared.
Now it would be churlish to criticise a restaurant for being over generous, so I can only apologise to Solo’s for our miscalculation.
For mains we had ordered Kharai dishes – king prawn for Carol, chicken tikka for me. We shared a portion of pilau rice and I asked for a chapati.
The name Kharai is derived from the pan it is cooked in. This is similar to a wok and has been used for several centuries to prepare this traditional Punjabi-style cooking. This dish is cooked in a thick blend of spicy, succulent sauce and then flared in the Kharai. It is described in the Solo’s menu as “a dish recommended to all curry connoisseurs”
I liked the idea of being able to choose the ‘hotness” of the dish – medium for Carol, medium hot for me.
Served up piping hot in chunky metal ‘kettle-style’ pots on wooden blocks the dishes proved to be fine choices. My mouth-watering chicken in its rich tomato sauce was a welcome taste sensation on a bitterly cold night and Carol savoured her more delicately spiced king prawns.
The portions were again most generous, but this time we had balanced our orders and finished our meals, but we reluctantly declined the invitation to choose from the sweets menu.
Along with the Kharai dishes Solo’s also serves balti tandoori and English dishes, mild and vegetarian specialities and a ‘regular menu’ including biryani, dopiaza, bhuna, kurma and dansak dishes. Tea coffee and cold soft drinks are available.
There is a separate tandoori takeaway menu. Orders can be collected from the takeaway area downstairs.
Solo’s offers quality authentic Punjab-style cuisine served up by friendly, attentive waiters, at exceptionally good value for money prices, made all the more attractive in that you can take your own chosen drinks to further cut down on costs.
Solo’s Tandoori Restaurant & Takeaway
14 Commercial Road, Skelmanthorpe
Tel: 01484 866166
Opening hours:Seven days a week. Takeaway 5.30pm to 11pm (last orders). Restaurant 6pm to 11pm
Would you go back?Most definitely