THERE can’t be many more endearing curry houses than this one.
If anything, the exterior and decor at the Bengal Tandoori in Dinnington prove you should never judge a book by its cover.
While the surroundings may be rustic, the food, service and value for money won’t be beaten by many of the shiny chain restaurants.
I think the phrase that sums up the staff would be ‘the extra mile’ because they made our visit incredibly enjoyable.
Some restaurants provide crayons for youngsters to entertain them before meals arrive, the Bengal Tandoori has a stack of toys for them to play with.
Not only that, our toddler was handed a helium filled balloon to keep him transfixed and busy while we waited for food, not that we had long to wait.
The poppadoms came soon after our drinks order, accompanied by seven or eight condiments – all the usual favourites like mango chutney and some I’d never previously been given at a curry house, including a sweet coconut powder.
A group of four adults and one child, we ordered a selection of starters and the staff threw in a complimentary plate of vegetable samosas – another unnecessary but welcome and appreciated gesture.
The starters were all piping hot and came with fresh side salads, not just the token bit of wilted lettuce you get in many establishments.
Flat onion bhajis were the pick of the starters, truly delicious, but the chicken pakoras came a close second.
Being a fan of the milder curries, I was spoiled for choice with a vast menu, and plumped for the lamb makhani with a peshawari naan and pilau rice.
The sauce was sweet but with a smoky after taste.
My only gripe was that the lamb could have been a little more on the tender side.
No complaints on the huge naan bread or portion of rice however, both perfect.
My wife went for her favourite curry, a chicken dhansak, and the mother-in-law tried a chicken mughlai for the first time.
Both were delighted with their meals – the mughlai in particular impressed. Like the makhani it was sweet but with a kick.
Unfortunately my father-in-law’s chicken tikka massala was a let down, tasting more like a weak korma.
But when the staff are so warm and chatty, and indulgent of our hyper three-year-old, and when the most expensive main meal came to a very reasonable £7.50, we had little to complain about.
The post meal complimentary mint chocolates came with a free shot of peach schnapps, and they even threw in a free bottle of wine to take away as they wished us happy Christmas.
Big mainstream curry houses take note – go the extra mile and leave the customer with a smile.
By Graham Smyth