I was introduced to this fantastic eatery a while ago by some vegetarian friends of mine (it is a vegetarian restaurant after all). This was before it came to fame courtesy of Gordon Ramsay and the hunt for Britain’s Best Restaurant.
The Prashad has recently moved to its new premises in Drighlington, on the outskirts of Leeds, and this is my first visit to the new set up. Its original site, hidden away on an unsuspecting corner of a suburban Bradford street, was inconspicuous and insignificant to look at. On the inside, it was basic in décor and trimmings however, the food was nothing but! While exceptionally pleased for their success and new found celebrity-esk status, my friends and I were somewhat sad, selfishly so, that this hidden secret of Bradford (and now Leeds) meant having to book weeks in advance to ensure a table.
I remember the first time of looking at the menu. This was not your average neighbourhood ‘Indian’; not a ‘tandoori’, ‘madras’ or ‘vindaloo’ in sight. The cuisine is definitely traditional Indian. Fortunately my friends were seasoned visitors and were able to guide and recommend accordingly.
On each of my several visits so far, I have tried to be adventurous ordering different dishes each time, which has been a challenge as it is sometimes easier to stick with what you know (or is that just me?). However, my venturing has reaped rewards and I have had some simply delicious food.
For tonight’s dinner however, I don’t fancy being brave and convinced myself I needed to be reminded of what I should refer to as ‘my usual’. That being: sharing the starter tasting platter with my fellow diner, followed by the masala dosa.
The service is so pleasant and polite and nothing is too much trouble. Having placed our order for food, we are able to take in the new restaurant environment and compare and contrast with the old premises. It is all tastefully done up, from what used to be an old pub I believe, with a modern contemporary feel.
Our starter arrives and each of the tastings on the plate is explained to us in a thick Indian accent that I have difficulty following. I am so inquisitive to know what each item is that I ask for a copy of the menu to be returned to the table. My fellow foodie diner and I then proceed to identify what is what by process of elimination of the starters listed on the menu.
It’s difficult to divide up some of the items, especially those that are ball shaped, but we manage in the end and there’s lots of mmming and yummying on both sides of the table. It’s all a delight to the taste buds. Some of the items are deep fried, but they are not oily or rich. Altogether, the textures and colours on the platter make for an excellent tasting experience.
As mentioned already, I had chosen the masala dosa. For the uninitiated, a masala dosa is a crispy crèpe rolled and filled with a dry potato & onion curry. It is served with a spicy soup (a fragrant and actually quite spicy sauce) and a refreshing coconut and yoghurt chutney.
The dosa (strictly speaking, the word refers to the crèpe itself) makes a grand entry to the table with the pancake extending beyond the extremities of the plate. One might be forgiven for thinking how you will get through this amount of food but it’s actually not as much as it looks. While the potato curry is filling, it only takes up a 1/3 of the whole pancake inside. The outer two thirds of the crèpe are empty and consist mostly of air with the crèpe being very light and wafer thin.
There is an art to eating the dosa. My instructions, provided by the ever helpful waiting staff, were to pour the soup over the middle of the pancake and then tuck in. The soup is absorbed into the pancake and curry centre so none goes to waste. The coconut & yoghurt chutney provides a little bit of sweetness and offsets the heat of the soup superbly.
Dessert or no dessert; that was the question. I had had dessert once before here on a previous visit and wasn’t particularly taken with what I had. I associate typical Indian desserts and sweets as being extremely sweet with not much else to offer. It took a bit of decisioning and in the end, the interests of research won over. The choice: gajar halva.
The menu described this as ‘hot carrot halva’. I wasn’t sure this was particularly enticing but having never had anything like this, I erred away from my caution earlier in the menu choosing and headed out into the unknown of this Indian dessert. There was also lots of encouragement from the other side of the table who had experienced a version of the said dessert at an Indian function quite recently and said it really was worth a try.
As I mention above, my sojourns into the unknown on the menu have reaped rewards, and this was yet another instance of that. The dessert was beautifully flavoured with the cardamom and wasn’t too sweet. The melting blob of vanilla ice cream on top provided an excellent creamy finish. I guess I wouldn’t have known it was carrot as it was all very soft with no crunchiness and all the flavours were mixed in. I’d certainly recommend this to anyone; it wasn’t heavy but a perfect way to finish our meal and take away any remaining heat in the mouth from the earlier curry.
My fellow diner and I were very impressed with the food we had. It was good to see that the upgrade of the premises and increase in the number of covers had not diminished the quality of food or service. Nothing’s been lost here if only the quirkiness and character of the old venue. It still remains highly recommended in my book.