Going up to the Shimla restaurant perched above Holmfirth is something like mounting the stairway to heaven.
It’s up a couple of flights of stairs off Huddersfield Road in the centre of the town – by the way, I once called Holmfirth a village and was berated by a parish councillor several years ago, so much so the scars have yet to heal.
You can’t miss the staircase – both of them.
Inset lights are your landing lights up to a restaurant. Better not leave them on at night they’re so bright a plane could land there.
The food is Bangladeshi and it’s run by a Leeds family who also have a sister restaurant in Pickering, North Yorkshire.
Don’t forget your reading glasses – as we inevitably do – because if you’re going through the entire menu it’s going to take some time.
The owners are clearly proud of the restaurant they’ve a great deal of time and money in along with the food they’re producing. And they’ve every right to be.
From the off they are eager to please, chatty and revel in a bit of humour. My kind of people.
The designers have gone for a clever layout to make the most of the space.
The main part has long tables so big groups can get in there no problem.
But they’ve also created alcoves which means couples and tables of four can tuck themselves away.
Here’s a glass screen with water cascading down the middle – probably best not to sit next to that if you’re one who needs frequent toilet trips.
We thought we’d give Shimla’s menu a good going over so drafted in long-time friends Dave and Jane to help.
Poppadums started things off with an amazing mix of sauces. The red chili based one had an incredible smoothness to it. The lime and pickle looked dangerous – not for the faint-hearted. Give it a go, but not by the spoonful
Starters were vegetable pakora (£2.95), mix kebab special (£3.50), king prawn puree £4.25) and sylheti kebab (£3.95).
If you’re after a light starter you’ll never get anything more featherweight than the pakora – it was brilliantly, almost gravity-defying yet a cracking vegetarian dish.
The mixed kebab is not designed to over-face – more to titillate with its tender chicken tikka that was on the bone, shami kebab and onion bhaji.
The prawn puree was medium-sized prawns – saucy chaps laced with onions – while the sylheti was something new for us – minced lamb stuffed in mashed potato and deep fried in breadcrumbs. It looked like a posh fishcake but again had been given a light touch.
As for the mains – well, it’d be downright rude not to try four and a side dish. All cost £7.95 and were morich mach, white fish cooked in a spicy sauce with garlic, ginger and green chillies; butter chicken which is chicken cooked with Indian and traditional English butter, almonds, fresh cream and yoghurt; passanda which is marinated chicken cooked with pistachio and almonds, fresh herbs, spices, cream and a touch of yoghurt; the house speciality dhesi special that’s described as a spicy curry using the chef’s secret recipe and we can’t reveal any more under the Official Curry Secrets Act apparently.
It warned that the fish was hot. I’d say it was more fiery as it was riddled with green chillies that were taking no prisoners. The butter chicken came out resembling jam custard with something lumpy lurking beneath such as jam roly poly.
But no, it was a cracking medium spiced creamy curry and there was masses of it.
The passanda took a walk on the mild side while the dhesi was a robust, fully-rounded offering with plenty of sauce.
57-59 Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, HD9 3JH
Phone: 01484 680742
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday – 5.30pm-11pm;
Friday and Saturday – 5.30pm-11.30pm.
Disabled access: No – straight up steep steps off the street.
The bill: £88.50 for four with bottle of wine
Would you go back? Yes.