0114 267 0821
I ONCE met an Indian who had never had a poppadom until he came to Britain.
The other week I met a lot of Indians who had never started a meal with pops and pickle tray in their lives.
On a trip to Kerala, in India's south west, my press party settled down in a local restaurant. They took an awful lot of persuading to serve up pops and pickles at the start of the meal.
The waiters all came and watched us. We may have started a trend.
Back in Blighty, Indian restaurants have been doing that for so long we think it's genuine. Well, it isn't, at least in Kerala.
Just before I left for the sub-continent I visited the Rajput on Commonside, Walkley,
The Rajput is pretty old and also pretty new. Ali Islam opened it as a takeaway selling Indian and Bangladeshi food in 1985 and just three months ago opened a 46-cover restaurant next door when a cafe became available.
On our night, a humdrum Thursday, the place was almost full – not bad for a city in the grip of the credit crunch.
"We have built up a good customer base over the last 25 years. People who have had a takeaway from us have come back to try out the restaurant," says Ali's son Faz.
You can tell that Faz and his brother Naz have had a big hand in the restaurant design. Its walls are plain except for a series of embroidered panels, banquettes looking a little like coach seats hug the walls, the knives are those fashionable ones which stand up and the plates and dishes have a lopsided tilt.
We'd been influenced to come here as much as anything by reading a copy of the chatty, informative takeaway menu which lists its curries with a star rating which ranges from one (mild) to five (phew).
It's a little bit disappointing to find that the restaurant menu which lists more or less the same things is not as chirpy.
We also like the fact that at least one of the waiting staff was female and Asian, still a rarity in Twenty-First Century Sheffield Indian restaurants. "We've had a lot of positive feedback about that," says Faz. Other restaurateurs take note.
We like what we eat. Four good pops come with some fine pickles in a stylish white dish.
Then I have what is probably the prettiest set of mixed kebabs (3.75) I've ever seen.
The vegetable samosa looked home made and was, crisp pastry enclosing nicely spiced cubed vegetables and peas – not your usual sludge. The sheek kebab hummed with cumin and the onion bhaji was crisp and dry.
My wife ordered the tandoori massala fish (3.95) and went "Mmmm" as she savoured the spiced fillet on her plate.
Service here is pleasant without being overbearing. They don't whisk your plates away the moment you have finished.
Chicken massala, at 6.95, with gentle but emphatic spicing, proved a hit in its onion and tomato sauce with plenty of sliced egg.
We absolutely loved the chana daal (3.50), a change for us from tarka daal – firm, nutty chickpeas in a lovely sauce.
And the pilau rice (2.55) was dry and delicate.
Only the lamb jalfrezi (7.75) stopped the Rajput getting full marks for food. We enjoyed the sauce, rich and dark and studded with fierce chillies, but the meat was chewy.
That apart, this was one of the best Indian meals we have had for some time. And judging by a full restaurant other people felt the same way, too.
I wondered whether having a restaurant had dented the takeaway trade. "We thought it might but it hasn't," said Faz.
The bill, with drinks, was 44.05.
4 Commonside, Sheffield S10 1GB.
Tel: 0114 267 0821.
Open Sun-Thur 5.30pm-midnight, Fri-Sat until 1am. Credit cards. BYO (no corkage). Disabled access and toilets. Street parking.
My star ratings (out of five):
Indian restaurant. Do not compare ratings between places of different style or price.