Restaurant Review: Tabaq Restaurant, Leeds
An enjoyable version of Desert Island Discs is the one where you list your top five eating experiences. They don’t have to be Michelin star restaurants, just places you’ve been that you’ll never forget, for one reason or another. It might be the company, the location or just the thrilling sensation of a taste you’ve had for the first time.
One of mine is a paper cone of fresh gambas bought from a hawker and washed down with a bottle of ice-cold Cruzcampo on a beach on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Me and The Boyfriend, the sea, the sun, the sheer joy of the environment. Result, total pleasure. Another is Anthony’s tasting menu in the company of my very best girlfriends; the food, though extraordinary, was almost incidental to the evening, during which the laughter got louder as the wine went down, much to the irritation of the rather po-faced waiter.
I think we can agree that environment is key. Which brings us to the newly-opened Tabaq Indian Restaurant in Halton. The first thing to say is that the food is really very good, give or take the odd quibble.
Five of us had different dishes, a couple of which were a bit ordinary (“how’s your Bhaji Irene?” “Oh, you know, it’s a Bhaji’) and one of which according to one of us was over-salted. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, another lack-of-vegetarian-options rant; only one curry for our veggie mate.
This trend in Indian restaurants is worrying. But, on the whole, the food here I would happily eat again. There’s another “but” coming, but let’s concentrate on the dinner. Lahori Masala Machli is fried fish “in special Lahori style” which turns out to be a punchy marinade; the fish flaked beautifully on contact with a fork and for my money was one of the most successful dishes of the night; it was too salty for Diana – all down to personal taste.
Chicken Kahari did exactly what it says on the tin but my Lamb Korma (Degi) was a taste sensation – deep, spiky and accompanied with a light, grease-free paratha. Dhuwan kebab was another triumph (“authentic Tabaq recipe: kebabs cooked in a pan with magical smoked flavours”) which could mean anything at all, of course, but it worked.
Sheena didn’t finish her meatballs cooked in spices, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and yoghurt but it was polished off by me – I loved it. Elsewhere, pretty standard curries and naans which were summarily dispatched. But we’ve established that the vibe is important: the room is cavernous and it was cold enough for some of us to put our coats round our shoulders half way through the meal. We’re hardy souls but even the owner was wearing a fleece and a scarf. The red plastic tablecloths are an 80s curry house cliché and the service was patchy. All these things can be addressed. We came out and said as one “good food, shame about the room”. Sometimes we don’t appreciate how crucial our surroundings are until they’re wrong.
Tabaq do take-aways, and two lads were enjoying a pint of Kingfisher waiting for theirs. Here’s the thing – order out until they’ve sorted the room. It would be a shame not to enjoy the food here. But be warned; if you choose to go in the next month or two, put winter drawers on.
Tabaq Restaurant, 225-227 Selby Road, Leeds LS15 7HW. Tel 0113 264 5356, web www.tabaqrestaurant.co.uk
Meal for two (two courses each including naan, paratha, glass of wine and bottle of Kingfisher): £43.
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Weather for Yorkshire
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 18 C
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