Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cafe Guru

Fri 24 Nov 2006

Right back at the beginning of the month, we noted that John Longden had dropped into Cafe Guru in Brewery Wharf. And now we've finally got around to making it our turn!

Cafe Guru is opposite Oracle and is the latest incarnation of the original Cafe Guru in Chapel Allerton (now gone). It's a very different feel to that restaurant: it's a lot larger and has floor to ceiling windows - so in summer you can keep your eye on what else is going on around the area.

The first thing I noticed on Friday night was how unbelievably noisy the restaurant is. It's all hard surfaces (floor, windows, furnishings), and there is nothing to soak up the clatter and chatter. I was also struck by how comparatively empty the restaurant was. At about 8:30 on a Friday night I'd expect a restaurant like this to be packed.

We started off with a couple of Cobra beers (only small ones) and the compulsory poppadoms and pickles. The selection was small (only three, including mint chutney) but as the mint chutney was very good, I was prepared to overlook the lack of lime pickle (the others were mango and onion). As we were there quite late we overlooked starters and headed straight for the main courses.

I opted for a lamb turka. This is a curry of onions, ginger, citrus ... it's described on the menu as being very light, which isn't how I would describe it. The sauce was quite thick and very, very tasty, and really rather rich. I really enjoyed the dish, and it was quite different from your standard curry house curry. The portion was a good size, and it wasn't overly oily. At £7.90 it isn't going to win a prize for the cheapest curry in Leeds, but comes in at the OK value pricepoint.

I ordered a paratha to go with it - and I'm pleased to say that the parathas at Shabab remain king! Both Andy and I agreed that the Cafe Guru paratha was better than that at Darbar.

Disappointment of the evening, unfortunately, belonged to Andy, who ordered one of the 'specialities'. He chose 'badshah jhinga', described on the menu as king prawns in a chickpea batter with a tangy sweet chilli sauce. The serving looked tiny when it arrived at the table and he was quite disappointed as the sauce was more sweet and sour than 'tangy sweet chilli'. At £12.90 this is an expensive dish which neither of us felt lived up to its price tag or its description.

We also had a side order of dahl and one of rice. The dahl was very good, although I am tempted to put it a very close third to the Darbar's dahl (with Shabab's dahl makhni still miles out in front).

After drinks, the total bill came to almost £50. This was for 2 poppadoms, pickles, 5 (small) beers, 2 main courses, dahl, rice and bread. I really think that this is a bit expensive for a curry - especially when you compare it with the £30-odd spent at Darbar the week before, which left us feeling truly stuffed.

I also found the service a little bit distracted and impersonal. At one stage we were served by a waiter who was actually looking in a completely different direction while speaking to us! A couple of times we had trouble attracting attention - which is not a great sign as the restaurant clearly was not operating at full capacity.

One very cool aspect of the restaurant is the toilets! The sinks have very funky taps, which have a glass plate in the flow, to ensure that you don't get splashed and that you get an even distribution of water.

On reflection, I think that Cafe Guru is a good venue for groups. It's stylish and, depending on your choice of dish, the food can be interesting and not bad value - but it can also be expensive. It is quite noisy, so a large group adding to the noise will not be intrusive. I very definitely don't think that it's good date material, as you could end up feeling that it's too difficult to talk above the noise. And obviously, it's no good for ear-wigging on your neighbours' conversations!

1. Cafe Guru, 6 Brewery Pl, Leeds LS10 1NE, phone: 0113 2442255
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