Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Akbar's, Leeds

It's taken me a while to get round to writing this review. I was umming and ahhing about whether to bother at all. I was a little merry at the time of eating and the details are proving elusive. No matter I thought, I'll ask my dining companions what they thought, make it a bit of a combined effort. That didn't really help either, everyone was fairly up to speed on the starters but things got a little sketchy from thereon.

I'm reviewing it anyway because I like Akbar's, always have, ever since a visit to the original Leeds Road branch in Bradford around a decade ago. I've always found their meat curries reliably good, their tandoor cooked food (grilled meat and breads primarily) excellent and the service efficient. They also seem to have managed to maintain that consistency as they've expanded in recent years.

Three of us ate at the Greek Street outpost the other weekend. It's a good place for Friday night beer and curry, and by the time we arrived after nine it was heaving with well lubricated diners. The atmosphere was festive to say the least. Don't come here on a first date, really don't. Think raucous bearpit, not romantic hideaway.

Anyhow, after a bad start of three pints of completely flat lager, which instead of sending back we drank before moving onto bottles, a feast was duly ordered sticking to the Akbar's strengths. Grilled stuff, meat curries and bread.

Liver tikka was slightly overcooked, but still delicious. This is a great dish. Think rich, smooth slightly metallic liver enhanced by a tangy, hot marinade. Beautifully soft inside, charred edges with lots of little nibbly crusty bits.

The paneer tikka was also very good. Not bland or rubbery, with a mild but pronounced lactic taste. Again with the same contrast of a soft centre and crusty grilled edges.

We also had a piece of masala fish which was probably nice but who knows? It certainly looks well.

The three curries involved lamb, chicken with keema (bonus lamb!) and something else which escapes me. None of them were exceptional in any way (I'd have remembered exceptional, I hadn't had that much to drink) but they were all a pleasure to eat scooped up with the excellent naan bread.

Which brings me to the naan tree. Some people consider these to be a rather daft gimmick, but to my mind they actually serve a purpose. For me, a good naan bread is all about the texture. That winning combination of a light, fluffy interior and a gently cracking crust, browned where the dough is in contact with the clay of the tandoor whilst it cooks.

Breads served flat, often piled upon one another, keep warm longer but have a tendency to go a little soggy, losing that crucial contrast between crust and insides. Breads served on the tree cool quicker but retain that vital crispness for longer. I'd rather eat cold, crisp naan bread than warm, soggy naan bread.

Whatever your thoughts on this matter I can confirm this: we had a massive naan bread on a naan tree and it was ace. We also had a couple of tandoori rotis but these were a bit pants, being too thick and doughy. Stick to the naans.

Service, as ever, was efficient. They really do a good job here, front of house and in the kitchen. It can't be easy speedily serving a full restaurant, with a bar full of people waiting, most of whom are probably well on the way to being sozzled, but they rarely miss a beat. It's still great value as well, we paid just over £20 each for all of the food, a couple of beers each and a well earned tip.

It's a bit difficult rating this when I can barely remember what the curry tasted like, but it's not like I've got a systematic quantitative approach to ratings anyway, so who cares. I'm giving them 8 out of 10. Call it a gut feeling. I like Akbar's.


Minerva House
16 Greek Street


Akbar's the Grand on Urbanspoon


John the Bradford Curry Blogger said...

Great write up.

I totally agree - great place - always has been - and always probably will. It set the bench mark really I'd say? But can be just too busy and noisy sometimes.

You do sound as though were on the very merry side of merry it has to be said!! Don't worry - they're always the best reviews.


Morsel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

Cheers John. I would agree with you in the main, pretty sure they were one of the first to do a lot of things, and have been much copied. Proper tandoor work, more modern restaurant styles, naan trees etc!

Err yes I may have been slightly more inebriated than was originally intended...

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