FOOD REVIEW: A restaurant that relishes its proud culinary heritage - an eating place claiming to be the first in the city to say that it serves Bangladeshi food was tried out by Julia Armstrong...

The staff at Chutney Bangladeshi Restaurant at White Lane
The staff at Chutney Bangladeshi Restaurant at White Lane

THE people who live near White Lane in Gleadless Townend are a bit spoilt for choice when it comes to a Bangladeshi-style curry.

Chutney, which claims to have been the first restaurant in Sheffield to declare that it serves Bangladeshi, rather than Indian food, sits next to a doctor’s practice on a parade of shops near the dual carriageway.

It is only about quarter of a mile from the last restaurant I reviewed, the Bay of Bengal in what used to be the Old Harrow pub (incidentally, a colleague tells me that the Old Harrow hosted Sheffield’s first jazz club). Chutney has been open for about 15 months.

Inside, it has a very elegant feel with silk wallpaper and decor in warm and restful autumnal tones.

One of the owners, Mothrur ‘Shah’ Rahman, is very well known to locals from when he used to manage the Little India restaurant at Gleadless Townend.

He is very proud of his home country’s food heritage and says the chefs make their own ‘deshi’ spice mixes to ensure that the flavours are authentic.

The staff are very friendly and attentive but were slightly slow off the mark in offering poppadoms and pickles. The menu is a long one to look through, so we did go for them – the place is called Chutney, after all.

And they were pretty good, too.

The restaurant is licensed so my friend Kate had a Cobra beer but I was driving and went for sparkling water.

The extensive list of starters includes all your usual favourites plus a couple of Bangladeshi options and prices range from about £3 to £5. The choices cover all the bases of meat, vegetarian, fish and prawn options.

I always enjoy the Bangladeshi expertise with fish, so I had the fish bhaja and Kate went for chicken kliji.

The fish didn’t disappoint: the bhaja were squares of white fish in a spicy coating, covered in a fairly dry onion-based sauce.

The fish was meltingly tender and the coating added a little crunch as well as spice.

The accompaniment, a deep red colour, was more of a warm pickle than a sauce (I suspect some chefs in more pretentious surroundings would have called it an onion marmalade). It was delicious.

The dish also came with a similarly deep red spicy yoghurt-based dressing.

Kate’s dish was spicy chicken livers with caramelised onions and chilli, served in a creamy sauce on a small chappati-like wrap called a puri. It’s very similar to a prawn, chicken or chickpea chatt starter.

It was very interesting in flavour and texture and the korma-like sauce was so rich that Kate couldn’t finish it.

We’d cut down our options on the main courses by ignoring all the usual tandoori, curry and balti favourites, of which there are many.

Main course prices range from around £5 to £10.

One dish is called scary chicken and Shah told me later it used to be even spicier than it is now but they toned it down a bit so that diners could enjoy the spices as well as the heat.

If you want something even hotter, go for the tikka naga with the world’s hottest chilli, the naga.

This is on a section of the menu where you choose your sauce and the basis for the dish separately. The choice is chicken or lamb tikka, king prawns, vegetables or Chutney special, which is chicken, meat and prawns.

My main course was chicken kalia, described on the menu as chicken tikka cooked with onions, lots of garlic and chef’s special spices.

Kate had machli jalfrezi, which is fish with onions, peppers and chillies.

We also ordered pilau rice and a plain nan bread.

The chicken was delicious, tender tikka pieces in a medium hot garlicky, spicy sauce that tasted like it had some lime pickle in it, as well as fresh herbs. It was also beautifully presented in a white china dish with coriander garnish.

The fish was a whole fillet, again coated in spices and fried like the starter, and the sauce was full of flavour and interest from those Bangladeshi spices that complemented the fish, rather than overpowering it.

The red yoghurt dressing stayed on the table to go with it and it matched perfectly.

The rice and bread were also very good.

The dessert menu was on the table but it was the bought-in sort of ice cream in novelty containers that didn’t appeal.

I did go for coffee and was pleasantly surprised to be offered a refill, which was a nice touch.

Our bill came to £40.35 including drinks and coffee.

The restaurant is planning special evenings on Christmas and New Year’s Eve with set menus featuring dishes that are more the style that Bangladeshi families typically eat at home.

Prices are still being finalised.

Verdict: A solid performance with good food in a place with a friendly atmosphere that’s already very popular with the locals.

Opening times: daily, 5:30pm to midnight.

Chutney Bangladeshi Restaurant, 199 White Lane, Sheffield, S12 3GG. Tel 011 4264 7400. www.chutneysheffield.co.uk