Butlers Balti House

May 29, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Takeaway | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

If I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, it would have to be curry. From kormas, through to rogan josh and madras, and even the occasional vindaloo, I can’t get enough of that spicy stuff.

Sheffield has some fantastic curry houses, but I do have a soft spot for Butlers Balti on Broad Lane. Luckily for me and my curry addition, Butlers is one of those places where the restaurant menu and the takeaway menu are exactly the same, so it’s easy for me to get my hands on the curry I crave. On this particularly grim and rainy Bank holiday weekend, the thought of stepping out of the house didn’t seem too appealing. Thankfully, my friends agreed – a takeaway night in it was!

We placed our order online, and by the time wine had been handed out, and we’d decided which movie to watch, the food was already here. I’ve ordered from Butlers more times than I care to remember, and I’ve yet to wait longer than 30 minutes for my delivery – one time the food actually arrived within 15 minutes! It usually takes me longer than 15 minutes just to drive into the city center, so I have no idea how Butlers managed to pull that one off. It’s gotten to the point where I just assume my curry will arrive way before the estimated delivery time, and plan accordingly.

Butlers Balti House takeaway

Before the main event, we tucked into a selection of Indian starters. First up was a Prawn Puri, which is Indian flatbread served with a small portion of prawn curry. When you order your prawn puri, Butlers gives you the choice of a “creamy” or a “Bhuna” prawn puri (both are £3.50). Bhuna is a dry dish that’s prepared a bit like a stir fry, so we opted for the creamy version – because, surely, the best thing about Indian food, is the thick sauces?

The creamy prawn puri lived up to its name, as those big, juicy prawns were covered in a thick sauce that tasted like super-strength coconut milk – I’ve had Thai curries and kormas that had less of a coconut flavour!

Butlers prawn puriPrawn puri with chilli pakora.

The puri was so rich that, although I savoured every silky, calorie-packed mouthful, I was also relieved that I’d ordered a spicy main meal, rather than a creamy one. Following up this indulgent puri with something rich like a korma, would have been too much of a good thing. The fried Indian bread was tasty and grease-free; perfect for mopping up every last bit of that rich sauce. The prawn puri is a truly indulgent starter that’s perfect for those who love heavy, rich flavours.

We’d also gone pakora-mad and ordered a duo of Chilli Pakora (£2.95) and Chicken Tikka Pakora (£3.50). The chilli pakora had a light, crunchy batter and packed a chilli punch, but the chicken tikka pakora was a completely different matter. The chicken was dry, and it was buried beneath a thick, hard batter. In future, we’ll stick to the chilli pakora!

Chicken tikka pakoraPrawn puri with chicken tikka pakora.

Starters dispatched, it was time for the main event. I’d opted for a Balti Mixed Veg Rogan Josh (£6.25) with a portion of boiled rice (£2.10). For me, rice is one of those infuriating foodstuffs that I love, but can never get quite right; it’s either undercooked, or I leave it boiling too long and it turns to mush. Butlers has clearly mastered the art of cooking rice – even their plain old boiled rice is tasty!

For me, the best thing about a mixed vegetable curry, is the variety. Every mouthful of Butlers’ vegetable balti is a different combination of potatoes, onions, green beans, peas, and carrots. All these veggies soak up that balti sauce, so they have a deep, satisfying heat. The big chunks of potatoes are particularly good, and taste not unlike Bombay potatoes.

Butlers mixed veg balti

Our Indian feast included another Balti Mixed Vegetable curry, but this time with added paneer (£6.95). The first time someone served me paneer in a curry, I wasn’t sure what to expect – a cheese curry? Really? Trust me, it’s delicious, even if it does sound a bit strange!

Butlers mixed veg balti with paneer

If you’ve never tried paneer, it’s a bit like a softer version of halloumi, and it soaks up the spices and herbs in curry sauce wonderfully. To say the mixed vegetable balti with paneer only cost 20p more than the regular vegetable balti, Butlers were generous with the paneer. My friend confirmed that these big chunks of paneer were delicious, and melted in the mouth. Next time, I’m definitely going to pay the extra 20p and get the paneer balti!

But it wasn’t all about the vegetables, as the final member of our trio wanted to join in on the Butlers fun, but wasn’t in the mood for curry. Instead, they created their own meat feast, by ordering a Chef’s Platter of tandoori lamb chops and tandoori chicken wings (£4.25), and a Mixed Starter of seekh kebab, chicken tikka, onion bhaji, and another portion of tandoori chicken wings (£4.50).

Butler's chefs platter & mixed starter

The tandoori chicken wings and lamb chops came in a vibrant sauce that packed a good amount of heat, without being too spicy. The only problem was that the sauce was so bright, it stained everything it touched, which meant my friend’s meal concluded with them running their fingers under the tap, over and over again. Even then, that stubborn staining refused to shift completely. They may have enjoyed the tandoori sauce, but the sheer amount of staining would put them off ordering this meal in public – for them, this is messy food that’s better eaten in the privacy of your own home. There wasn’t a massive amount of meat on the chops and wings, but considering the price and the lashings of strong sauce, the Chef’s Platter is reasonable value for money.

Onto the Mixed Starter, and the long, thin, dark seekh kebab may be the least visually appealing starter in history, but the meat tasted good quality (something you always worry about where kebabs are concerned!) and had a peppery heat to it. The mixed starter also included a very large onion bhaji, which looked more like a burger patty than your typical bhaji. This bhaji was packed with herbs and spices, and had a strong, onion tang.

All in all, the Chef’s Platter and Mixed Starter meat feast went down well, and both would make a tasty snack or a starter.

Whether I’m ordering in, or visiting Butlers in person, I’ve yet to have a bad meal. While we won’t be ordering the chicken pakora again, it’s impossible to pick fault with their curries. Butlers serve up sensible-sized curries that won’t have you groaning and clutching at your stomach, but won’t leave you feeling peckish, either. All the ingredients are fresh and tasty, and the curry sauces are delicious, rather than just spicy.

Butlers clearly put the same care into their takeaway, as they do the food that’s served in their restaurant. Whether you’re ordering in, or visiting their restaurant in person, you can look forward to a top notch curry.

four-stars

Advertisements

Cosmo

March 23, 2014 at 11:46 am | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A few people had mentioned Cosmo to me since it opened in St. Paul’s Place a couple of weeks ago. If you’re not familiar with Cosmo, it’s a new “all you can eat” place where you get to cram your face with cuisine from around the world: Japan, China, India, Italy, Mexico, Korea, and more.

My experience of “all you can eat” buffets has previously been restricted to Chinese fodder, so I was intrigued by the variety that Cosmo offers. “All you can eat” may not be fine dining, but everyone enjoys being greedy once in a while, so I decided to give Cosmo’s “World Banquet Dining” a whirl.

How much you’ll pay for the pleasure of filling your face at Cosmo, depends on whether you visit on a weekend or a weekday, and whether you partake of their lunch, or their evening buffet. Lunchtimes and weekdays are cheaper, while evenings and weekends are more expensive. You can expect to pay anything from £7.99, to the top price of £14.99 (the Cosmo website has more information on pricing). I visited on a weekday evening, so paid £13.99.

The first thing you notice about Cosmo, is the sheer size of the place. Cosmo is easily one of the biggest restaurants I’ve ever visited. Somewhere that promotes itself as “World Banquet Dining” obviously needs a large buffet area, but Cosmo takes this a step further with separate buffet areas for each type of cuisine they serve – the buffet alone is the size of a regular restaurant! The dining area itself is equally super-sized, to the point where it’s more like a Meadowhall-style food court than a restaurant.

Before I could take a seat and commence feasting, our party was told that we needed to give a name to the front of house staff, and then wait to be shown to our table. Despite there being rows upon rows of empty tables just a few feet away, we had to wait almost 10 minutes before it was our turn to be shown to a table, and during that time more people kept arriving behind us. I can imagine Cosmo’s waiting area becoming unpleasantly crowded, and the wait become longer and longer during peak times. My advice? Get there as soon as the lunchtime or evening service starts.

Finally seated, it was time to set off on our culinary trip around the world. First stop; the Japanese and seafood section. I wasn’t expecting much from Cosmo’s fishy selection (good seafood tends to be pricey, after all), but I was pleasantly surprised. Cosmo had a decent selection of sushi, platters of mussels and king prawns on ice, a cucumber and smoked salmon salad that didn’t skimp on the salmon, and some other fishy bits and bobs.

Cosmo seafood

When you can eat as much as you want, there’s going to be compromises when it comes to the quality of the food. All you can eat sushi can’t compare to a sushi restaurant, where you may end up paying more for a single plate of sashimi, than you do for the entire Cosmo experience. Cosmo’s take on everyone’s favourite seafood-and-rice delicacy, involves going heavy on the rice, light on the fish and seafood, and opting for cheaper fillings such as cucumber sticks and processed meats.

The king prawns and mussels were plentiful, but on the chewy side, and the edamame beans weren’t seasoned, so they tasted like boring, boiled green beans. So far, Cosmo was exactly what I’d been expecting; decent enough grub to heap onto your plate, but nothing I’d be happy to be served in a restaurant.

Cosmo seafood

However, Cosmo does have a trick up its sleeve for seafood lovers, in the form of a live cooking station, where you can get delicious morsels of seafood cooked to order. If you’re willing to wait a few minutes, you can choose from squid, king prawns, scallops, or salmon, freshly sizzled on a “Teppanyaki” hotplate. You can only order two items at a time, and the portion sizes are small, but that doesn’t matter when you’re being served slivers of perfectly-cooked, perfectly-seasoned seafood. It’s touches like the Teppanyaki bar, that sets Cosmo apart from the “all you can eat” crowd.

Cosmo seafood

A mix of buffet seafood, with some freshly-cooked squid from the Teppanyaki bar.

Even if the idea of buffet sushi fills you with horror, one thing that’s worth grabbing from the Japanese section is the salad of shredded green beans in sesame oil. It’s a strong, slimy salad, but once you get over the initial strangeness, it’s deliciously different.

After the seafood, it was time to sample some Chinese and Indian grub. If you’ve ever been to a Chinese buffet before, you know the drill: fried rice, prawn toast, spring rolls, stir fried vegetables, noodles, and meat in sticky sauce. When it comes to Indian, Cosmo have a selection of curries, as well as everyone’s favourite Indian side dishes: poppadoms, dips, and bombay potatoes. It’s all standard buffet grub, although Cosmo go easy on the seasonings and spices for both cuisines, so if you regularly eat at Chinese and Indian restaurants, you’re going to find Cosmo’s offerings a bit on the bland side.

Cosmo chinese

Another plate, another country, and this time it was a trip to the Mexican taco stand. The taco shells were surprisingly crisp and crunchy, to say they’d been sat under a heat lamp, and there was a good variety of sauces and toppings on offer, so I piled my plate high with cheese, zingy salsa, and sharp, pickled jalapenos.

However, when it came to choosing a chilli filling for my taco, I hit a snag. The Mexican stand had a pair of bubbling pots of what I’d assumed to be meat and veggie chilli, but when I took a closer look, I couldn’t be sure. Both were a hearty-looking mix of beans and veggies in a fragrant tomato sauce, but it was difficult to tell what else they contained. In the end, I settled for an extra helping of salsa instead (and then nipped back to the Chinese section and grabbed some more stir fried veggies too, which is why my plate looks so random!)

Cosmo Mexican

The way Cosmo label their dishes, is my other major gripe. On the evening I visited, the Chinese meals were meticulously labelled, right down to the garlic and other herbs used in each dish, but elsewhere the labelling was hit-and-miss. If you have a long list of foods you don’t like, or any food allergies or intolerances, buffets are always going to be a minefield – but Cosmo should at least give you the gist of what each dish is!

When it comes to meat, if you’re a committed carnivore, then Cosmo will leave you spoilt for choice. The meat lovers in our group gave the quality of the meat a big thumbs up, piling their plates high with meaty pizzas, barbecue ribs, sausages, and Chinese-style beef.

Cosmo meat

I still had a list of foodstuffs I wanted to try, but I was starting to struggle, so it seemed time to wrap things up with a spot of dessert. With all the savoury fodder on offer, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Cosmo treated pudding as an after thought. They don’t.

The Cosmo buffet has an entire section dedicated to sweet treats, including hot desserts, cold desserts, cakes, bowls of sweets, and fruit – not to mention a chocolate fountain, with all sorts of goodies for dipping. It’s enough to give you one roller coaster of a sugar-rush!

Cosmo dessert

The best part of pudding, is the bite-sized cubes of cake. Whether it’s a mouthful of tiramisu, a square of double-chocolate brownie, cheesecake, carrot cake, or sponge, it’s the perfect portion of something sweet to finish off the meal. And the best bit is they’re so small, you can try a bit of everything!

My advice is to ignore the larger “pudding cup” style desserts, as they’re mostly cream, with just a tiny bit of cake buried in the bottom. And who wants to fill up on spoonfuls of cream when Cosmo has so much more on offer?

Cosmo dessert

It’s easy to pick fault with individual items on the Cosmo buffet, but you can’t really compare “all you can eat” grub to dishes that are cooked to order in a restaurant. I went to Cosmo expecting a simple case of quantity over quality – but this wasn’t completely the case. In terms of quality, Cosmo is a cut above what you’d expect from an “all you can eat” establishment, and the variety and quantity of food is second to none. I even discovered a few dishes that I’d have been happy to be served in a restaurant, which was unexpected!

Cosmo serves up massive amounts of grub, the occasional star dish, and generally delivers great value for money. Most of the time, eating out is about the quality of the ingredients, and how much care has been put into preparing your meal – but sometimes, you just want to stuff your face until you can’t move.

When you’re in the mood for the latter, Cosmo is perfect.

Three and a half stars

Kashmiri Kitchen

June 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I love spicy food, particularly that old favourite: the Friday night curry. However, getting into a food-rut is never a good thing so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that beyond the poppadoms, samosas and pakoras, Kashmiri Kitchen’s menu is slightly more unusual than many of the spicy-food establishments in the steel city.

The Ecclesall Road venue has a surprisingly limited menu of seven intriguing main courses: Choosa Handi (chicken), Gosht Handi (lamb), Keema Mutter (mince), Chicken Pilau, Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potato), Tarka Daal (lentils) and Kashmiri Bhindi (okra.) Surely a restaurant that has the confidence to offer just seven mains, must really excel at those few dishes?

Upon entering the restaurant, first impressions were good as the reception was very polite and efficient. Kashmiri Kitchen do pack in the tables, but we’d nabbed a window seat so at least we weren’t disturbed by people squeezing past. Our drinks orders were taken immediately, and the drinks themselves appeared just a few minutes later. So far, so good.

Despite the speedy service, the no-frills menu meant that we’d settled on starters, mains and accompaniments by the time the drinks arrived. The main meals are all seasoned with medium spices, but chilli heads can upgrade to hot if desired. As this was our first visit to Kashmiri Kitchen, we played it safe and stuck with medium.

The starters arrived promptly, and after a glance around the restaurant it became clear why: at 7pm on a Friday evening, there were more members of staff than customers. The waiters and waitresses were actually lined up against the far wall, waiting for something to happen. Good for us hungry and impatient diners, but I hope it got busier later on!

We kicked off our Indian feast with two poppadom and pickle trays, which at £1.25 each were an absolute bargain. Each tray consisted of three large poppadoms, which arrived warm and weren’t in the least bit greasy or soggy, and a gravy-boat of mint and yoghurt dip. Our £2.50 also nabbed us a sharing platter of delicious mango chutney, an eye-wateringly tart lemon pickle, and a mix of seasoned onions and chopped tomatoes. A fantastic budget starter.

pickle tray

I was scrabbling after the last drops of moreish mango chutney when we were informed that our main meals were ready – or would we prefer to finish our starters first? As the poppadom and pickle paraphernalia already took up most of the table, we opted to finish off the starters first, which turned out to be a mistake. Although it only delayed our main course by 5 minutes or so, the mains arrived lukewarm, as though they’d been left cooling on the side the entire time.

Thankfully, this was the only major issue with the mains. I love okra, so the Kashmiri Bhindi (£4.25) was my ideal meal: a bowl of perfectly-cooked okra. This veggie can sometimes go a bit slimy, but Kashmiri Kitchen got it spot on and served up okra that still had a nice crunch. The spices were deceptively tame at first, but the heat built up with every mouthful, and the spices had the depth of flavour you just can’t get from packets of chilli powder or jarred curry paste. Delicious.

bhindi

My only criticism is that, apart from two wedges of tomato and a sprinkling of herbs, the Kashmiri Bhindi really is just a bowl of okra, and some variation (a bit of onion or pepper, maybe) would have been welcome.

At the opposite end of the table, the Gosht Handi (£5.95) may not have looked particularly appetising, but it was packed with juicy lamb in a rich sauce. Like the Bhindi, the spices were deceptive and built up to a nice warmth.

handi

The final dish was a side order of fluffy pilau rice (£1.50) which was the perfect size to share.

rice

The portions weren’t enormous, but they left me pleasantly full rather than stuffed and guilt-ridden. In fact, I was eyeing up the dessert menu (the authentic-sounding Kashmiri style rice pudding was particularly tempting) but in the end I decided to save that for the next visit.

You have to give Kashmiri Kitchen points for bucking the trend with their limited, unusual menu but it’s the prices where they really have the edge. If we’d been able to resist the call of the wine menu, the price for two starters, two mains and a rice side dish would have been a little over £14.

The only major downside is that you’ll work your way through the menu in just a few visits, which will affect the number of times you’ll return to Kashmiri Kitchen. All in all though, this is good food at bargain prices. Definitely worth a visit if, like me, you’re in danger of getting into a bit of a rut when it comes to your spicy food.

four-stars

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.