Thursday, November 23, 2006


Fri 17 Nov 2006

Last week was a long week, and despite exhortations for Australia stories we can't ignore the fact that we're back in sunny (not) England and still eating! And so we ended up in Darbar, on Kirkgate, as an experimental deviation from our standard devotion to Shabab. So experimental in fact that we wandered down with the caveat that if it was too expensive we would just go to Shabab instead!

Darbar is a very opulent Asian restaurant. The door is a big heavy glass number, and you wander upstairs, before sitting and inspecting the menu in the bar area. While you read the menu (and make a start on your 660 mL Cobra beers) your table is prepared - so that when you are seated you can start munching on the poppadoms and pickles straight away. That's while you're not gawping at the very elaborate interior decoration! Darbar means 'king's court' - something that was taken seriously when the decorating was done.

I have a tendency to judge an Asian restaurant by the quality of its mint chutney, followed very closely by that of its lime pickle. While Darbar didn't provide a typical lime pickle both the mint chutney and the mixed chilli pickle substitute were very good. The serving of poppadoms was generous and we munched away happily while continuing to read the menu.

As I almost always over-order in Asian restaurants I also try not to order starters, but on this occasion I allowed Andy to overrule (but, can we share? please?) and we opted for a mixed plate: onion bhaji (good), samosa (good), pakoras (good) and a sort of spring roll thing (not so good - I've subsequently identified it as, I think, a chicken roll - we both thought it a bit pointless). What was a bit odd (verging on off-putting) is that the frying for the starters appears to be done at the rear of the restaurant, and it did mean that every now and then you got a rather strong ... well, ... hot oil smell. The portion was a good size for two people - easily enough to share.

The wait for main courses was a little longer than in many restaurants, which I think is no bad thing. I LOATHE having my starter plates taken away and my main course presented within a whisker of each other, so I was happy to have the opportunity for some conversation.

For main courses, Andy opted for the murgh lahori - quite a mix of things, but principally a chicken curry with a tomato and yoghurt based sauce. I went for the mixed dal, and we ordered a pilau rice and a paratha.

Opinion was divided on the murgh lahori. Andy really liked it and I wasn't so sure. The menu does say that it has a very full taste, and, while quite sweet, it also has quite a sour finish. While tasty I'm not sure I could have eaten a whole serve myself. So it was fortunate that I really enjoyed the dal and cheerfully scoffed that, while helping myself to the rice and paratha.

The paratha was probably the only disappointment of the meal. The wholemeal flour seemed to have absorbed a bit too much oil, so it felt and tasted a bit heavy and stodgy. I think it could perhaps also have done with a little (more, perhaps) salt.

After all of this, we were too full to consider dessert (aren't you always after a curry?), but we were presented with a plate of fruit, so I finished off with an orange (rather inelegantly, I have to say) and Andy ate a plum.

And the damage? It worked out at a whole £32. I think this is something of a bargain for a lot of curry, 3 large beers and complimentary fruit. Apart from the chicken roll and the paratha the food was very good and the service was a lot better than you'll find at a lot of restaurants which charge considerably more. At all times the service was attentive but unobtrusive and the staff were helpful and efficient. I don't think you can really ask for much more!

I know everyone in Leeds will have their favourite curry restaurant, but if you do fancy a change - then don't be afraid to visit the King's Court.

Darbar, 16-17 Kirkgate, Leeds, LS1 6BY, phone: 0113 246 0381
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only ever been disappointed in both Shabab and Darbar (and yes both have been attempted sober and so sober!). One curry in Leeds aces every time, though I feel sure I'm preaching to the converted, Hansa on North Street. Best Indian in the city (and the neighbouring one too) and I am not vegetarian, everything a good Indian should be and no curryhouse stereotpyes in site. The special thali is perfect! All this and it's next door to the Reli - marvellous!

Great blog btw...even daring to not rave too much about the apparently uncriticisable Anthony's.

2:55 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Yes, I have to agree with you about Hansas - I haven't been there for ages but it was fantastic! I'll have to put it on the list. And the Reliance is great too - awesome food!

I have to confess that with Shabab I tend to always order the dal makhani for takeaway! Hardly counts as a thorough survey of the menu!

And I'm glad you enjoy the blog!

9:06 pm  

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