There’s nothing more annoying than a curry bore – the bloke who insists on the hottest dish in the house after a gallon of lager.
Unless, of course, it’s the curry wimp.
Any man who almost has a panic attack over a spicy spud or two is an embarrassment.
I have to confess that on Sunday night I was that man.
It was a balmy evening after a long, hot day, and the potted palms and cool white exterior of Woodseats’ Kashmiri Aroma beckoned like a middle-market Newquay hotel.
We were greeted by a friendly face and shown to our table, the basement dining room with its low ceiling and subtle lighting has a feel of the 1970s enhanced by an abundance of smart and smiling staff.
The place has a good reputation and an Indian buffet at £13.95 sounded ideal and in many ways it was...
We could have ordered from the main menu but the call of the buffet’s abundance was irresistible.
As soon as we sat down we were presented with three poppadoms – an odd number between two of us – and a three-bowl pickle tray complete with mango chutney, onion relish and a yogurt and mint raita.
We soon demolished those and were invited to help ourselves to a very handsome buffet.
Salads and starters were stacked high in glass bowls with everything from cucumber and coleslaw, to lime pickle and gherkins and a few neither of us recognised.
I had a tandoori haddock dish, chicken tikka, vegetable pakora, more raita and a handful of salad.
The haddock was probably the best thing in the meal – beautifully cooked with a gently spiced crust, it melted in the mouth.
The vegetable pakora – a vegetable-filled fritter – were crisp with crunchy vegetables and the chicken tikka was mildly spiced, aromatic and tender.
Opposite me curry boy had some excellent spiced lamb chops, the haddock and tikka chicken.
He was all elbows.
Never underestimate the capacity of a hungry student at an all-you-can-eat buffet – even in the summer holiday the desire and technique remain undiminished.
He did make a very good point that the dynamics of a buffet are very different to normal service.
The suspense of waiting and wondering is replaced by the tactical self-selection of dishes that go together without looking as though you’re just piling as much on your plate as possible – and usually failing to do both.
For our second helpings – we were getting into the swing of it now, all guilt gone – Joe had more of his favourite lamb chops, a good helping of lamb bhuna with what he described as a ‘rich and lamby sauce’.
For me, unfortunately, it was time to show my true colours.
I got dall piaz – a mild and fruity lentil curry, dam aloo – spiced new potatoes, chicken tikka masala and a fish dish called lahori machli – deep-fried haddock in a sauce slightly more spicy than the first.
The chicken tikka masala I thought a bit bland but my son liked it.
Looking back the spice and heat had been building.
Then I tried the dam aloo. Baby spuds with that earthy, waxy loveliness in a deep and fruity curried sauce, absolutely excellent, but hot.
Then came my curry wimp wobble.
Suddenly the ceiling seemed too low, my shirt two sizes smaller and the lights way too dim.
Perspiration beads sprouted from my glowing forehead as if someone had flicked the curry sweats switch.
For a moment I wasn’t entirely sure where the floor was.
But I gulped down a mouthful of Kingfisher lager, ordered some water, took a large bite of naan bread and a deep breath.
A reminder that one man’s ‘medium’ curry is another man’s mouthful of hot coals.
One common criticism of Indian restaurants is that they lack a dessert offer. Not here.
The man who helps run the Sheffield version of Kashmiri Aroma – there are three others in Wakefield, Ilkley and Halifax – is Nomi Hussain – talked me through them.
“We noticed when we opened in Sheffield five years ago that people, compared to our customers in our other areas, liked more mild dishes than spicy,” said 25-year-old Nomi who has worked in the business owned by his uncle Tariq Mahmood and Tariq’s four brothers since he was 15.
“They like them to be authentic rather than westernised and are trying out more spicy things as time goes on.”
What about those desserts?
“They are authentic Indian desserts, said Nomi.
“Gulab jamun is coconut, wheat flour and double cream, barfi from sugar, cream, coconut pistachio and ghee and jalebi is made from rice flour, cream, sugar, yogurt and milk and deep- fried in a variety of pretzel- like shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup in different colours.
“We also have a mango mousse and Indian rice pudding.”
They aren’t the most sophisticated of desserts but they are fun and a welcome change from otherwise ubiquitous ‘sticky toffee this’ and ‘chocolate brownie that’ found everywhere else.
More like a bag of sweets than a pudding.
Just the thing to send a curry wimp home happy.
Our four-course buffet with a pint of Kingfisher and a coke came to £33.50.
Star ratings out of five:
Kashmiri Aroma, 798 Chesterfield Road, Woodseats, S8 0SF
tel: 01142 587780
Mon to Thurs 5.30pm – 11pm
Fri & Sat 5.30pm –11.30pm
Sun 5.30pm –10.30pm