I told you, but you didn’t listen. And now one of my favourite Indian restaurants has had to bite the bullet.
I went to review the Arooj on Attercliffe Road in October, just after it opened, and was stunned - firstly by food singing with fresh spices and secondly by the lack of customers. The place deserved to be packed out. I implored you to go - and clearly you didn’t. Because when I rang to book a table the other week, I was told my favourite dish, the peshwari ghosht, slow-cooked lamb in a cardamom and green pepper sauce, was off. So was the entire a la carte.
It’s now an all you can eat £7.99 buffet. In a recession people want to fill their bellies for a set price. But personally, I hate buffets. Because I’m greedy and they make me eat too much. And usually, quantity takes over from quality.
“I didn’t want to go down the buffet route but I had no choice. It’s about survival,” said Arooj owner Saj Hussain. “Because of where we are, we never got enough customers. I lost a lot of money and couldn’t go on like that. I knew a buffet offering would pull people in.”
He assured me the food may be cheap, but flavour and quality of ingredients had not been skimped on. So, armed with a bottle of wine (there is no alcohol license) we went to find out.
Tucked away in old industrial premises away from the lively part of Attercliffe near the new Tesco superstore, the Arooj is too easy to drive straight past. It’s well-known to the Asian community, though; for two years its private banqueting room has been catering for weddings. Its glamorous red and black interior is the same, but the open kitchen is now empty and the private dining booths have been replaced by gleaming silver tureens.
There are over 50 dishes, including 18 starters and 13 mains. I admit, I DID get greedy. I tried a bit of every starter - from crisp vegetable bahjis to tender chicken tikka, Afghan chicken boti, spicy, battered Lahori fish to crisp balls of gol gappay with tamarind sauce, Asian salads bursting with chickpeas and coriander and a host of dips. Saj had not lied; everything was quality.
Then I piled haleem, a curry of pureed lamb and lentils (think spicy corned beef hash), an authentic Hydrabad biryani, a dollop of nehari lamb that had been slowly stewed with spices and a chicken tikka masala onto my plate with fresh nan bread and tucked in. Every curry had its own distinct flavour (Saj is on quality control and ensures everything is made from scratch; no ready-made sauces and pastes). For dessert we ignored the bought-in gateaux and ice creams and sampled sweet balls of gullab jamun and creamy rice kheer.
Staff are as attentive as ever and the food is great. And if I can’t persuade you to try the Arooj, the £7.99 cost should. Though go soon - Saj says he can’t keep it so low for long.
Address: 286 Attercliffe Road, Sheffield, Tel. 01142757786
Ratings out of six: