Attention to detail brings a taste of Bengal to life: Spicy fish dishes are a speciality at the latest addition to the Chesterfield Road scene. Julia Armstrong gave one a try...

PaLKee Balti House and take-away owner Bhasker Tarafdar.     Alan/PhotoPro Images
PaLKee Balti House and take-away owner Bhasker Tarafdar. Alan/PhotoPro Images

There is a smattering of places to eat in the shopping area and it boasts a third curry house again as the Palkee Balti House has opened up in the building previously occupied by the Momtaz. Before that it was an Italian and further back the Rose of Kashmir, among other incarnations.

It’s a quiet spot but the Tarafdar family have 13 years of experience with the Raaj in Doncaster. Owner Bhasker had to give up the restaurant through ill health five years ago but decided it’s now time to try again closer to home.

His daughter Ruby, who is helping out for a while front of house, said that trade has gradually been picking up since the Palkee opened in May. She said: “The more we get customers aware of what we are and what we do, they’ll come back for more.”

The family are keen to bring their Bangladeshi heritage to the menu, so there are a lot of Bengali specialities among what they call the classic dishes – the more familiar bhunas, kormas dhansaks, dopiazas etc.

This is of particular delight to the fish lover as the country sits on the Bay of Bengal and there are four local fish dishes on the menu. Ruby said that the fish of the area has to be brought in frozen but her mother Shila grinds up whole spices by hand using a type of pestle and mortar to keep the flavour as authentic as possible. The recipes use a lot of cumin and methi (fenugreek).

There’s also a range of interesting lamb, chicken and prawn choices, as well as baltis, tandoori dishes and the classics. If you’re a fan of massive heat, you can go for the naga balti, made with what are reputed to be the world’s hottest chillis. Prices range from £5.50 to £9.95.

They are fully licensed.

My friend Janet and I settled down to make our choices with some poppadoms and a pickle tray, consisting of mango chutney, a sweet yoghurt dip and onion salad. So far, so familiar.

Most of the starters are what you would expect, including pakoras and bhajis, tikkas, kebabs and samosas, and prices range from £1.75 to £4.25 for the famous Cox Bazaar sizzler of stir-fried tiger prawns.

I fancied a little bit of meat and so went for the mixed platter of an onion bhaji, samosa and sheek kebab (£2.95) and Janet ordered the begun bora (£1.75).

Ruby checked we were ready for each course before she brought it, which was a nice touch.

My trio of starters was pleasant but the kebab could have been a bit spicier for me. The samosa had incredibly crisp pastry and the bhaji tasted beautifully fresh. It came with a side salad and fried onions, which were very tasty.

Janet’s choice was two pieces of deep-fried aubergine in crispy batter, which she really enjoyed but she didn’t finish it as it was quite rich. Another option was fulkopi bora, which is deep-fried cauliflower.

My main course was rui maacher jhol (£6.95), described as Bengali fish on the bone, cooked with mustard and authentic spices. I was advised to have it with rice, as is traditional, so we had a portion of very good pilau (£1.95).

Janet is a vegetarian, so she was intrigued by the shahi veg sizzler (£5.95). Apparently in Bangladesh they don’t regard onions or garlic as vegetables, so these don’t appear in their vegetarian dishes.

Ruby recommended the garlic and coriander naan bread (£2.20) to go with this.

The rui maacher was two beautifully cooked steaks of the meaty white fish in a thick brown curry sauce and the spicing was lovely, with subtle layerings of flavour.

The dish was described as fairly hot, although they’ll cook it as you like it, and this more than applied to the garnish of thinly sliced raw chillis.

Janet’s veg sizzler arrived noisily spluttering away on the usual type of oval cast iron dish on a wooden platter. It was a mixed vegetable stir fry with potatoes and onions and interestingly it’s an intentionally very dry dish, which intensifies the flavours, with plenty of interest coming from the spices. It certainly worked very well.

The naan bread was also delicious, studded with pieces of garlic and fresh coriander.

We were off to the White Lion up the road to lose the pub quiz (despite having 19 out of 20 answers right), so didn’t order coffee or desserts.

However, we did get free glasses of sparkling schnapps and the usual chocolate mint with the bill, plus a free loyalty card. Our bill came to £31.75 including a beer and a mango juice. No card payments at the moment, by the way.

lVerdict: a very pleasant and friendly addition to the area with a lot of attention to detail on the food.

lOpening times: Sunday to Thursday 5pm to 11pm, closed Tuesday, Friday and Saturday 5pm until late.

lPalkee Balti House Restaurant, 115-117 Chesterfield Road, S8 0RN. 0114 258 8822, 07527 667168. The menu is available online on