It has to be said, Armthorpe despite being the birth place of Kevin Keegan, is a rather less salubrious part of Doncaster when compared to say, Bessacarr or Bawtry. That’s not being mean, just realistic, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see Elachi with its smoked-glass windows and ultra-modern interior nestling alongside a dreary-looking shopping mall.
Proudly announcing its Bangladeshi heritage (in fact, most Indian restaurants in the UK are of Bangladeshi origin), Elachi has slowly been gaining prominence in the local Curry scene. Some achievement considering Doncaster is now one of the top ten Curry ‘hot-spots’ in England. Hot-spot? See what I did there?
For a Thursday night, it was much more busy than we expected but we were seated straight away. Drinks were dispatched and menus perused. Starters were priced up to about a fiver, mains upwards of seven pounds and most of it was typical curry house fayre. Biryani, Dhansak, Madras, Tikka Massala, are all present and correct. It’s no bad thing of course as it’s all down to the implementation and everyone has their favourites don’t they?
The obligatory popadoms and pickle tray were priced at 50 pence and two quid respectively so we were on the back foot straight away. A lot of the Indian restaurants we frequent usually provide some kind of condiment for free. Oh well, never mind, as the popadoms and pickles were delicious and obviously home-made. A bonus point straight away. The yoghurt and mint raita was singled out for it’s combination of soothing yoghurt coolness spiked with a pleasant warming spice. A very nice dip indeed and we were disappointed when the ceramic dishes were taken away.
Don’t judge us as we were absolutely ravenous, but we ordered starters as well as mains. I fancied the Mirchi Paneer at a tad under a fiver which was bread-crumbed chillies filled with cheese and then deep-fried. My wife went for the Chicken Chat, again at just under a fiver. The Chat was a lovely dish, served on a warm flat-bread and a dreary-looking salad on the side (the same one as served with my starter, incidentally). Ignoring the salad, small pieces of chicken were wrapped in a rich, full-flavoured sauce and the bread was outstanding. Not too spicy and well within my wife’s ‘hotness’ tolerance but still packing a neat heat kick. A great starter and the best dish of the night.
My Mirchi Paneer was not so great. It only took one glance at the plate to realise they had been plucked from the freezer. Bread crumbs do not freeze well, becoming very dense and unbreadcrumb-like when fried. The resulting dish was unspectacular to say the least. It tasted reasonable enough and had a very spicy sweet chilli sauce drizzled over the top but I couldn’t help thinking it was just a Jalapeno popper that I can get in any chain-restaurant Tex-Mex joint. I’ve had fried Paneer before that verged on the sublime but this one smacked of laziness.
We had barely finished putting the cutlery down on the starter plates when they were whisked away and our mains were presented before us. I went for one of the house specialities Nawab Bangla which is a dish of tikka chicken in a sauce of minced beef with peppers and chillies and a nice dish it was too. Quite unusual and reminded me of a spicy ragu sauce with bits of chicken in. That’s a bit unfair and I am underselling it as it was a solid dish. The chicken was lost in translation slightly being surrounded by such a meaty, beefy sauce but it all came together well and not quite as disjointed as it sounds.
My wifes Lamb Passanda was also good with the lamb benefitting from a long-slow braise. The highly-coloured sauce was just a little too sweet though and became tiresome before the end was reached.
The Nan bread was lovely, as good as we’ve tasted in an Indian restaurant and the rice adequately cooked. Chips were, well, frozen but cooked decent enough, seasoned and we didn’t eat a whole lot of them. Come on, do Indian restaurants really need to serve chips any more? I wouldn’t have thought so. Didn’t stop us ordering them though so we’re to blame as well.
Service was exceptional, a little too exceptional in fact. We couldn’t help feeling more than a little rushed and our dining experience came in under an hour. For a fifty quid, three-course (almost) meal, that *is* quick. We would have preferred a little more time to digest each course and as a result, we took home more in a takeaway bag than we ate at the table.
To conclude, Elachi is doing some things well, and others, not so well. The Chicken Chat was outstanding and the home-made pickles were a delight. The mains, in particular my chicken dish, were good solid examples. It’s a shame these high-points were let down by a poor starter, unimaginative accompaniments and over-hurried service. A little more attention to detail and Elachi will stand out from the crowd.