Thursday, 7 February 2013

Curry Leaf, Leeds

When I first spotted Curry Leaf a few weeks ago my interest was piqued immediately. South Indian and Sri Lankan food isn't something that's had much representation in Leeds so this opening is long overdue.

My own experience of this cuisine is largely from basic canteen style places like the Chennai Dosa chain. There are loads of them in London (but very few in the north), all of which stick to a familiar template. Think aggressively spiced, intensely flavoured dishes big on lentils, vegetables, fish, and where meat is concerned, mutton, all served up at rock bottom prices on tin trays.

I wasn't sure whether Curry Leaf would fit the canteen mould or would be aiming a little more upmarket. It's certainly the latter, place mats, proper crockery and a booze license are all the evidence you need. Correspondingly prices aren't rock bottom but are keen enough.

Before we get onto the food I ought to point out that the service was a bit haphazard, some of the waiting staff giving the impression of never having worked in a restaurant before (the guy who sort of lobbed cutlery at us from a distance, as if he didn't fancy getting too close being the best example). I spotted other tables complaining about the length of their waits, and while we weren't exactly served quickly it wasn't that bad.

Both starters were a cut above the cheaper canteen alternatives. Vadai, a sort of lentil doughnut, were freshly fried which they really need to be, as the reheated ones tend to take on the texture of golf balls.

Mutton cutlets were ace, big fat greaseless crumbed balls of tender mutton and soft potato spiced with curry leaves and cloves. I could put away a dozen of these. The only downside to both starters were the little pots of sauce, both of which were nice but not very saucy. There was a fiery sweet onion chutney and a fresher version with chickpeas and coriander, nice as I said but the deep fried goodies were crying out for something more dunkable (standard yoghurt and chilli sauces or a little bowl of sambar would do the job admirably).

Sticking with the mutton, because we don't eat enough mutton and it's lovely, we ordered a mutton kottu which arrived next. A kottu, or kottu roti, is essentially a big stir-fry of meat, bread, spice and veggies. This one arrived with a little bonus dish of mutton curry, as well as the kottu itself being packed with the stuff. The flavour profile was similar to the cutlets, earthy curry leaves and mustard seeds, a hit of chilli heat and the strong taste of the meat (extra lamby lamb!) coming to the fore. It's not subtle but it's very good.

Taking a break from the meat, I did say that vegetables feature strongly in this cuisine didn't I, we also had an aubergine and paneer curry and a bowl of coriander rice. I'm aware that paneer is cheese and therefore not a vegetable by the way, but we'd had a few pints by this point so it seemed like a wise choice. We weren't disappointed, the curry itself had a sweet-sour tomato base that was a good foil to the mild cheese and soft, almost bland aubergine.

We only learned at the end of the meal that they'd been open less than a week, the signage have been up ages in advance, so it's probably fair to put the service issues down to teething problems. They were certainly eager to please, one of the chefs coming over to ask how we found the kottu and hoping it wasn't too spicy. We assured her we'd enjoyed it and would be back. If anything the spice levels were a little too cautious, I'd like to see them ramp it up a bit as I think a good whack of chilli is a fair reflection of the type of food, but I guess others may disagree. The bill came to about £36 including a couple of pints of lager.

All in all a very welcome addition to the Leeds dining scene. I think they've got a few things to iron out but this one could turn out to be a real winner.


Curry Leaf
2 Eastgate


Unknown said...

Sounds good - A must try by the sounds of it.

Cheers for the review


Dave said...

Hi John,

definitely worth the trip over to Leeds. I've since discovered it's the second restaurant run by the same people, the original being in Scarborough!

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