It’s long been a bugbear of mine that the East Riding just doesn’t have enough decent curry houses. There are a few, obviously, but good ones are nowhere near as numerous as in other parts of the county. Off the top of my head, I can think of four places that would draw me out for a sit-down and the usual pile of poppadoms, a pickle tray, a bhaji and a blow-your-head-off ruby washed down with a couple of cold lagers. Four proper curry houses offering this most splendid of evenings within an hour’s drive is not acceptable on any level.
Thank heavens, then, for the newly opened Rumi’s in Beverley. Situated in the old Farmers’ Union building opposite the bus station, Rumi’s takes up the first floor above a kitchen showroom and has been fitted out to make a large, comfortable, modern restaurant with fine views over St Mary’s Church and (for all you pub fans) Nellies. Sometimes “posh” curry houses can suffer with pretensions above their station and once you get past cooing over the tablecloths and decor you’re left with unsatisfying grub. I found this at a couple of very expensive places I ate at in Chelsea and Kensington a few years back; the starters were good but everything else was very underwhelming. I’m happy to report that Rumi’s suffers from no such issues.
Owners are front-of-house Sarah Day and her partner and chef Shan Alom. Shan was born in Pakistan and raised in York, where he learned his trade at the family curry house. Together Shan and Sarah, a long-term Beverley resident, are determined to use as much local produce as possible and make a mark on a local eating scene that is reaching saturation point.
While there are regular, tikka masala/ rogan josh options available, Shan’s Pakistani-style dishes provide the most intriguing. In general, they are drier (or, at least, less sloppy) than many curry dishes because they contain more meat, veggies and pulses. We took this as a good excuse to ensure we stayed well supplied with lager as we tucked into starters of Bhaja lamb chops – which were beautifully tender as they had been marinated in yogurt and spices overnight before being grilled in a tandoor – and Morola Maach Bhala, which is whitebait in a light, spicy batter, served with cumin. While the lamb was excellent, I was less keen on the whitebait as it was frozen and so lacked the firmness I’m used to when ordering in places round the Med.
We also tried Maka Ka Ata (baby corn fritters) and Saag Ka Ata (battered spinach leaves) but, to be honest, neither impressed. We had to cover them with the pickles leftover in the tray from the already demolished poppadoms in order to give them some taste.
The service at Rumi’s, though, is great and, for maybe the first time in my life, we were down-sold on our mains. Ordering my usual two chapattis, the waiter told me that, with the rice, I wouldn’t finish it all and one would suffice. Through mock-indignation I took his advice and he proved to be absolutely right. When my Daal Hiran (highland venison with lentils, tomato, onions, garlic, ginger and garam masala), onion & spinach rice and single chapatti arrived it was clearly more than ample. And delicious with it. The venison was cooked to perfection and had a gamey depth of flavour that suited the peppercorns in the garam masala.
Across the way was Saktora Gai Ka Gosht, which is described as an old family favourite cooked by Shan’s parents on special occasions. It was chunks of tender beef with wild orange and a spice mix that suited wonderfully the citrus tones. Both our plates were just about cleaned by the end of the night, so the waiter had been quite correct to rein us in at the ordering stage. Makes a refreshing change.
We enjoyed pickles, poppadoms, a few appetisers, mains, rice and chapattis and the £70 bill felt about right to me. There are undoubtedly cheaper curry houses out there but not one in the area using local ingredients.
There are plans for Rumi’s to offer intriguing-sounding desserts and for daytime opening serving smaller street-food style dishes. I think this is a good idea, Beverley doesn’t have anything like that at the moment and I think Rumi’s is just the right place to do it. Next time you’re in town, seek it out.
• Rumi’s, New Walkergate, Beverley, HU17 9EP. Open daily, 5.30 to 11.30pm. 01482 428642, rumisrestaurant.co.uk
DRINKS SELECTION 3/5