Friday, 28 October 2011

Breakfast at the Sweet Centre

Something I’ve always enjoyed, but rarely seem to get around to doing, is the Traditional Chickpea Curry Breakfast.

Unlike the Curry Mile in Manchester, where the Chickpea Curry Breakfast is all the rage, Bradfordians seem less than enthusiastic from what I can tell.  If anyone knows where to get Chickpea Curry Breakfast then please let me know.

Bottles of  sauce are supplied on the tables 
The little Sweet Centre Café on the corner of Lumb Lane and Bowland Street is separated from the Sweet Centre Restaurant proper by an importer/exporter herbalist’s shop, and is a pretty cool place to visit.  Although recently refurbished with posh new chairs, the general layout is essentially how I remember it, in that there is a counter partly to display sweets, and partly for eating at, with a number of associated stools, and standard tables and chairs.  We took a table on this occasion due to having a baby in tow, and also because all the stools were full!!  NB – no high chairs are available. 

What no menus?  A quick peer around the, what I thought was a, surprisingly busy café for 11:30 in the morning, revealed everyone was eating one of three things – Chickpea with puri’s, Sheekh Kebab’s or Samosa’s.  This led me to the conclusion that there must be such a limited menu available at this time that it isn’t even worth offering one for perusal??  However, I now have a little dilemma - what I call ‘Chick Pea Curry Breakfast’ might not be its official title?  If I ask for this will I be laughed out of the place?  It wouldn’t be the first time a waiter has had to correct me for ordering the wrong type of food at the wrong time of day!! 

Izzy enjoys her days out eating curry with her Daddy

Anyway, above the bustling bar are two signs, one reads ‘takeaway orders’ and the other reads ‘eat in orders’ – simple really.  So with all my nerve I approach the bar preparing myself to be either laughed at, lectured at or simply told to clear off.  I lean between two blokes and ask for a ‘breakfast’.  Thankfully my request is greeted with a nod, and also with the kind of expression that say “yes I know, we only sell three things here….  What else could you possibly want?”  Full of confidence now I ask for two kebabs too.

I retreat back from the bar, but within a couple of minutes I’m beckoned back over, and the food is ready!!  A vast pan supplies the chickpeas, and the kebabs are given a quick blast in the microwave (Booo! but quick).  The puri’s come from a small kitchen out the back.  I’m also supplied with a glass of water and some napkins.

Traditional breakfast fare 
Once ferried back to our table, it’s clear to see this is uber fast and simple food.  If I didn’t have Izzy with me, who prefers a more leisurely dining experience, I could be in and out in a matter of minutes – as were many people who we witnessed.  The bowl of chickpea curry also had potato in and is kind of quite plain – in a good way mind – but just not like a curry you might eat on a night out.  I don’t think you really need a blow your head off taste explosion in your head for breakfast.  The puri’s are very greasy, but I think they are supposed to be, and I reckon could be a little ‘demanding’ to say the least if not prepared for them.  Oil runs down your fingers as you are tearing into them!!  The kebabs were good and tasty too – even though the microwaving made them a little rubbery – and had a real home made aspect to them.

A couple of sweets were selected afterwards also, and the whole bill came to £5.30!!  Brilliant.

I should do this more often….  And will.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hit the North - Cafe Salma, Glasgow

523 Sauchiehall Street,


G3 7PQ,
United Kingdom
Tel: 0141 221 7636

Saturday 22nd October 2011 (Evening)
Juanita, Ben and John
Watering Hole(s)
A little pub crawl was achieved prior to visiting Café Salma. 
First off we visited Brel on Ashton Lane.  This is Glasgow’s (only?) Belgium themed bar, is located on a super trendy pedestrian only cobbled street that is Ashton Lane, and sells a good selection of Belgium's finest.  This establishment was chosen not only for our love of Belgian Beer but also due to our bicycle team we race for – Team Here Come the Belgians.  The new Duvel Green was splendid – a paler and a lot more refreshing tipple than other Duvel colour’s I’ve had in the past.  This was followed by my favourite - Kwak, which was disappointingly not served in the usual glass, even though it was stood at the back of the bar?  The smell of Moules Mariniere, and frites with mayo wafting through the bar was almost enough for me to loose my curry focus, but I did manage to resist temptation, and concentrate on the matter in hand.
Ben and Juanita enjoy the window seat at Cafe Salma
Next was Oran Moor, at the top Byers Road, followed by the Griffin on Bath Street.  Only Normal Lager and Guinness were consumed at these locations.  However, we were racing the following day, so wanted to try and remain fairly restrained.
New BCC T-Shirt
I had become increasingly aware of Café Salma through reading Curry-Heute, and recent consultation with Hector had flagged the café as a defo must do, especially if staying north of the river.  However, concerns had been raised by the Glasgow branch of the Bradford Curry Club that they thought Café Salma was more Moroccan than Indian?  However, Perusal of the website did show both Moroccan and Indian menus.  In addition, the likes of pizza and burgers were also offered, and made us think more ‘fast food takeaway’ rather than ‘curry house’.  However, as seen recently in Bradford, the move towards more varied menus is becoming more popular, and is no more the sole domain of the takeaway.

The Reality
Open kitchen at Cafe Salma
Café Salma is definitely more Curry House, with, I understand, a Moroccan café downstairs, and is smallish and informal.  Like a lot of places I’ve visited in Glasgow, there is an open kitchen to one side.
The restaurant was about half full when we arrived, and with a very friendly welcome, we were sat at a window table.  We were presented with poppadoms and pickles, and water, along with both Indian and Moroccan menus.  Suffice to say this was a curry eating mission, and, alas, the poor old Moroccan menu didn’t really get a look in.  On another night may be?
Sheekh Kebab
Sheekh Kebab was my starter.  Even amongst some interesting sounding pakora options, I couldn't resist the Sheekh Kebab.  I’m glad I did, as it was delicious, and enough of the pickle tray remained to allow dippage.
My main was the recommended Lamb Lahori Karahi, and it was also very very good.  The pale(ish) coloured curry smacked of fresh ingredients, and had a rich, full taste.  I found it also nice and garlicy with large chunks of lamb residing.   Although, to be brutally honest, my first impressions were that perhaps the dish looked a little ‘retro’ - however, there were no qualms once the first mouthful went in.
Nothing to say about the Garlic and Coriander Naan other than you need to go a sample it, end of.  It was simply wonderful.
Drinks Policy and range
No alcohol served and didn’t ask about any BYO policy.  We drank water and soft drinks with our meal, and they seemed perfectly fitting.
I enjoyed every aspect of my meal thoroughly, but if I have to choose one thing, I felt the Garlic and Coriander naan sneaked in to the Top Draw honors list.  General ambiance and service were also good.
Garlic and Coriander Naan
Eeerrr??  Nope, there were non to speak of.
The Damage
The bill came to about £17/person.  Without drinks, this is not what I would call cheap, but, considering the quality of the food, and service, it definitely falls into the more important VFM category.
'An Hour in Hell' - Perfect for a Sunday Morning???
We headed home for an early night after the meal.  A bit ‘peeky’ the following morning, but this may have more to do with one or two too many beers and my body entering panic mode as the ‘Hour in Hell’ fast approached!!
I will definitely revisit this little gem.  Thanks to Hector for the heads up.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Din Dins at the International

Since reading my new friend Hector’s (The international curry guru from Glasgow and of Curry-Heute fame – check out his website) account of his recent trip down south to Bradford – and especially his near curry nirvana experience at the International, I simply had to re-visit.  But when?  Sneaking in a ‘Billy no mates’ lunchtime curry whilst in transit through the centre of Bradford, offered the perfect opportunity to take in the International. 

The 'Currymobile' outside the International

We at the Bradford Curry Club are big fans of the International, and rightly so – what with excellent curries, nice environment, efficient service and VFM, it has all the ingredients to make it a winner.

Hector’s weapon of choice was a Lamb Karahi Methi and he considered it one of the finest he’d ever tasted.  I thought it’d be rude of me not to indulge – so that was to be choice also. 

Billy no mates
I was sat straight away and provided with a solitary poppadon and sauces, and a jug of water.  The laminated menu was also presented for my perusal.  However, as already discussed, I’d already made my decision, and the waiter arrived to take my order with prompt efficiency.

Not spotting Lamb Karahi Methi on the menu did not deter me from ordering it, and the waiter was un-phased by my suggestion of a dish not officially offered (NB. I only glanced at the menu, and I could’ve easily missed it – I spotted Chicken Karahi Methi).  Included with all mains is either a naan, 3x chapattis, 2x Rotis, or rice.  It was naan for me.

Lamb Karahi Methi - Bradford curry at its best
I’d barely started the crossword before my meal arrived – piping hot in a little balti style dish.  I say little, but it was a fair old portion, and, being a lone dinner, I was pleased at my decision not to attempt a starter also.  The Karahi is a traditional Punjabi curry – thick and dry – and the Methi part is fenugreek to the layperson.  My Kahahi was indeed thick and dry, with plenty of melt in the mouth lamb.  It was really good, but I couldn’t help but think mine had a slight ‘dusty’ taste to it, like a powdered spice had been added and not cooked out properly?  Still gorgeous though, and with a naan to boot, I was more than satisfied.  There was little evidence of excessive oil left in the bowl or plate either which is nice.

All this for £7.50!!!  Makes you wonder why you would ever bother going to McDonalds really?  Bare in mind that my Karahi was off the special menu too, and a simple curry could be ordered for £6 – and I guess would still include the same popadoms, water etc – that’s a bargain.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Al Fresco Curry

So, it’s a lovely sunny day – perhaps one of the last we’re likely to see for the year – I’ve just finished footy training with my beautiful daughter, and it’s nearing dinner time…..  What shall we do?  Go for an al fresco curry of course.

Isabella and Grand Pa tuck in
Now, as far as I’m aware, only Café Regal in Bradford, offer such a dinning experience, so it was there we ventured.

We arrived pretty early and not many people were in.  But we didn’t worry, and dived straight in with full mashings of Lamb and cheese kebabs – Izzy’s fave, Lamb Handi for me, and Channa Masala for Big Tone.  Accompanied by an Aloo Paratha and a garlic naan – oh and also a Mango Lasi for Izz Whizz.
Isabella enjoyed the chicken and cheese kebabs the most

The lamb and cheese kebabs are something a little different and perfectly acceptable – although this blogger still prefers the traditional shish kebab if I’m completely honest.  The kebab comprises minced chicken with the cheese kind of incorporated into it??  The channa masala was very good, with the chick peas very well cooked, and the dish almost taking on a mushy pea texture – in a good way.  The Lamb Handi was good, but perhaps a little run of the mill, and very oily.

The meal was followed by a few complimentary sweets which was a nice touch.

Cafe Regal is an excellent place to visit
Overall an excellent experience and one I hope to re visit on future sunny days.  However, the outdoor seating is not the only positive aspect to Café Regal, and its large sweet shop and trendy café are worth a visit any time of the day or night.

Cafe Regal on Urbanspoon