Review: Bucking the trend with chic Indian
While Fulwood has been hailed as one of the best places to live - it's hardly spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants.
Thankfully there is much nearby, plus the Rising Sun pub (although there is a protracted argument to be had in whether this is in Nether Green - answers on a postcard please) and now there is a newcomer in the shape of Lavang.
The corner restaurant, formerly the bright purple Panaher takeaway, bills itself as a ‘fine dining’ Indian, with the name apparently meaning clove in Hindi.
It’s the newborn baby of three business partners - AJ Ali, and brothers Nash Parbez and Jay Kauser, who is also the head chef.
The siblings spotted the opportunity and pounced.
“Fulwood was the perfect location for us”, said Nash, who diners might recognise from the Saffron Club, Nonna’s and Almas in Dore, where Jay also worked for their uncle.
“You can’t go wrong, you’ve got nice people, a nice area and the Rising Sun nearby too.”
Walking in to the lobby immediately reveals a few differences from the majority of curry houses.
There’s no bhangra music or garish decor, instead, there is elegant glassware, a cool, neutral interior and very smartly dressed, attentive staff in a relaxed, surprisingly sophisticated atmosphere. The other half was glad he’d worn a shirt, put it that way.
Service on the night we visited - a full Friday - was outstanding, and Nash unknowingly outdid our expectations with recommendations and general grace: something you can imagine he might have picked up at Nonna’s.
Nash added: “Myself and AJ try and give our customers a personal service to make sure they enjoy the whole experience.
“When they come back we want them to remember us and we will remember them.”
One thing you are more likely to remember here is what you had.
The menu is compact - incredibly so for an Indian restaurant.
And it isn’t all curry - there are a number of stand-out, mainly seafood, dishes to choose from.
Nash said: “We’ve got the seabass in citrus broth, dishes with butternut squash and squid - and we will be changing the menu every five months.
“When you go to an Indian restaurant they often have the same menu for years but we didn’t want that. It is compact - we are aiming to focus on quality, not quantity.”
AJ, who is making his first foray into the restaurant business from retail, added: “When we first starting looking at this we thought maybe the Indian trade is dying - but far from it.
“We are trying to move with the times and keep it trendy.”
We perused our menus in the waiting area with a G&T, before heading to the table for the obligatory poppodums.
They were hot and crunchy, but came with just four dips.
The salmon coloured chilli yoghurt looked just like taramasalata, but was an enjoyable mix of spice and cooling cream.
The mango chutney was a good specimen too, with plenty of chunks in it. The yoghurt and onions were standard.
For starters I’d chosen the Norshaba squid - and had expected rings contained in a beige batter.
But it was a vivid red pile of soft, diamond crossed flesh instead, atop a pile of rocket salad.
Squid is tricky to cook at the best of times, and I approached it with trepidation.
But the chef had got it right - not a hint of chewiness, and some subtle spicing to boot.
His Murgh pakora was light, encased in a paper thin and crispy golden batter, with fragrant herb flavours to the oh-so-soft chicken.
He proclaimed it one of the best he’d had.
On to mains, and I took Nash’s recommendation, stepping away from the curry and towards the Maachli.
Slices of pan-fried Asian fish were as light as clouds - they melted as though they had done serious time in a slow cooker.
The sauce was intriguing too, with piquant strips of orange zest and butter melting on top.
I do enjoy a real fiery curry when I go for an Indian so some element of heat would have been welcome - but it was a very interesting alternative.
His lamb nawab had been cooked with the same care, and was incredibly tender, with bursts of fenugreek, coriander and chilli.
It was neither dripping in sauce or too dry, but came with just enough.
For sides we had the Lavang special rice, which included delicate circles of radish, crispy onions and egg sprinkled throughout, and a very decent ‘wild garlic’ naan, although we couldn’t detect the difference between standard garlic.
Together with a truly excellent cabernet sauvignon - so jammy and fruity - we paid £79.85 for a fantastic Friday night out in Fulwood.
There is also a dessert and a cocktail menu, which we didn’t get to, but would like to next time.
Lavang, 478-480 Fulwood Road
Tel: 01142 360106