A heady kitchen mix

Hama Russool and his staff
Hama Russool and his staff

A RESTAURANT whose name represents an epic love story has brought about the marriage of two cuisines.

The Shah Jahan on London Road is named after the 17th-century ruler of the Mughal empire in India who built the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his beloved empress.

The restaurant menu is a bit of a marriage of convenience as it reflects the backgrounds of the two owners, Hampa Russool, from Turkey, and Aziz Rahman, from Bangladesh. So you can eat curry or Turkish food or mix and match.

Hampa is a young businessman who was working with his uncle at a Turkish restaurant in Manchester when a cousin spotted that the premises had come up and tipped him off. He then went into partnership with Aziz, an experienced chef of many years’ standing who cooks the Indian dishes on offer, including a couple from Bangladesh.

Hampa said they are trying to do something different with two kinds of food, so that groups that fancy something different to each other can sit down and enjoy a meal together.

Half of the business is a takeaway with tables where you can sit down and that presumably has inspired the inclusion on the menu of pizza.

That’s a big step too far for me, especially as some have Indian or Turkish-inspired toppings, although you could try a pide instead, which is a delicious and authentic Turkish dish that’s pretty reminiscent of pizza.

Inside, the modern restaurant is big with warm colours on the walls – plus nice comfy modern leather chairs – and a large space in the middle of the tables.

Hampa said that, if groups book ahead, the space could be used for entertainment by belly dancers, although he does intend to move in more tables in the future.

There is no wine list, although you can bring your own, and students can take advantage of a Tuesday offer of a starter and main course with rice or naan bread for £5.99. For everyone, there is an early offer every night from 5 to 7pm with the student deal for £6.99.

Prices are reasonable anyway with starters from about £2.50 to £3.99 and main courses all under £12.95. The Turkish dishes are more expensive but you get a whole meal, whereas the curries are cheaper but you have to add your rice or bread.

My friend Sarah is a vegetarian and she had a fair choice, plus there are fish options on both parts of the menu.

As the Indian starters are all familiar favourites, we went Turkish and tried a hot mixed meze for two (£10.95). A cold version is the same price and there is a vegetarian version, although it’s on a different page of the menu and we didn’t notice it at the time.

There are lots of interesting-looking choices among the individual starters as well and you could easily make a meal to share by ordering a few.

Our sharing plate looked a picture when it arrived, with the food arranged on top of a flatbread.

We had zigara boregi cheese rolls, which are cigar-shaped filo pastries with a filling of feta cheese and parsley, rissoles with cream cheese and chillis inside, doughnut-shaped falafel, slices of grilled halloumi cheese, sucuk, which is a dense grilled garlic sausage, plus olives, salad and a cacik garlic and cucumber yoghurt dip.

The portions are generous and we tucked in a little too eagerly and filled up a bit before the main course.

My favourites were the chilli rissoles and sucuk, while Sarah was off down memory lane to her days in Palestine after trying the falafel.

Our lovely waitress (also called Sarah) had to get the kitchen to wait until we were ready for the main courses as we lingered so long on the starters. She also packed up our main course leftovers later on.

I gave friend Sarah dibs on countries for the main course and she stayed in Turkey, while I went off to India.

I chose from the chef’s special dishes (they also do all the familiar curries plus tandoori specialities) and went for the Bangladeshi lamb dish shatkora manso (£7.90) with pilau rice (£2.10) and a tandoori roti bread (£1.90).

Sarah had the kizartma (£10.95), which is roasted vegetables topped with a garlic yoghurt sauce and salad, bulgur wheat and the cacik dip.

Other Turkish options include kavurma, described as Turkish-style fajitas, a range of kebabs and chargrilled chicken wings, sea bass, salmon and a lamb and aubergine dish. Vegetarians get two other choices, kavurma or vegetable stew.

My lamb, cooked in yoghurt with spices and shatkora, a lemon-like Bengali citrus fruit, was good, tangy and aromatic as promised but just a little too salty for my taste. The yoghurt makes a thick sauce and the meat was tender.

The pilau rice was fine and the fluffy bread was better.

Sarah loved her kizartma (so did I when I got a taste) and it was predominantly well flavoured baked aubergine with the garlicky yoghurt topping a great contrast. The bulgur wheat was lovely and light and made us both think we should use it more in our own kitchens.

We weren’t rushed to vacate the table and eventually ordered some excellent sweet and strong black Turkish coffee, which came with some little pieces of delicious Turkish delight to try.

With soft drinks, the bill came to £40.80.

lVerdict: it’s a marriage that looks like being a success for both parties.

lShah Jahan, 23-5 London Road, Sheffield. 0114 275 7576.

lOpen daily 5pm to late.