Clouds of dry ice spill from the glass, engulfing us in cinnamon-scented mist as a sherwani-clad waiter completes his trick with a flourish…
It’s a simple piece of restaurant theatre, a Blumenthalesque touch calculated to impress appreciative onlookers. And it does.
Not just because it’s showy and effective, but because it’s symbolic of the attention to detail in this restaurant, especially when it comes to service.
We’re at Maazi, an Indian eaterie that opened in Hathersage a few weeks ago on the site of the late lamented Walnut Club.
Like its Matlock namesake, it is operated by Sheffield brothers Irfan and Rizwan Shabir, and early indications suggest they’re on to another winner.
There’s a distinctly Moorish ambience: rustic metal lanterns, fretwork screens and textured wallpaper studded with crystals that shimmer like frosted bark.
“We’ve gone for a Moroccan feel because it’s more easy on the eye,” says Rizwan, who’s always on the lookout for ideas. “If you want to grow you have to embrace new concepts.”
Fresh rose petals, scattered on white tablecloths, were another Moroccan inspiration; the dry ice trick came from Cardiff.
Maazi (it means ‘history’) deserves to do well. From the time we are greeted by a traditionally-dressed doorman, it’s evident this is not your average Indian restaurant.
The menu is diverse but not mind-bendingly long, including most of the usual favourites plus some more unusual combinations. There’s a choice of set meals, including one vegetarian, and Monday is tapas night, with four starters, four curries, rice and nan for £13.99.
Drinks are good too, with a decent wine list (from £13.95) and bottled craft beers on offer alongside Indian ales.
Pickles and poppadoms arrive, in a plastic basket: an incongruous note amidst so much stylish urbanity.
We share starters of stuffed chicken tandoori rolls – breast meat wrapped around a fragrant filling of onion, ginger and garlic – and manpassandah murgh: pieces of chicken tikka, marinated overnight in spices.
Both dishes are cooked in a clay oven to tender, moist perfection and served on sizzling sliced onions, with raita and a salad garnish.
Our main course is heralded by the aforementioned theatrical interlude. A tough act to follow, but it lives up to the billing.
Lamb nihari is a Lahore dish, spicy and slightly sweet, comprising strips of lamb with garlic, ginger, onions and yoghurt.
Maazi kushbuh is an invention of head chef Abdul Razzak, incorporating chicken, lamb and prawns in an aromatic sauce with tomatoes, peppers and fresh coriander. It’s all a bit indistinct, but tasty and not too spicy.
We share pilau rice and a buttery nan, puffy and light.
My companion manages a dish of soft, creamy mango kulfi, served on pineapple rings, and we finish our meal with glasses of fragrant Bombay chai and complimentary Thorntons chocolates.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £43.50
Maazi, Main Road, Hathersage (01433) 650725 Maazi