REVIEW: Delivering on Punjabi flavours

Mohammed Nazir, chef at Abdul's, 156 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.
Mohammed Nazir, chef at Abdul's, 156 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.

When I first moved to Sheffield almost a decade ago there was only one disappointment - the lack of a good Indian meal.

Perhaps it was a case of looking in the wrong places, but as a diehard curry fan from West Yorkshire, the standards just didn’t match.

Now, of course, it’s a different story. There’s a naan for every night of the week.

Recent openings include Aagrah, at Crystal Peaks and Mumbai on Ecclesall Road.

Abdul’s, at the bottom of Ecclesall Road, is another export from across the border as its busy mother branch in Wakefield has been open for 16 years.

There it is so popular that some customers have been known to order 60 dishes at a time for freezing or party purposes.

This new site seems to be an odd choice of location, as there’s not much nearby, bar a Wetherspoon’s pub across the road and a petrol station.

And it’s described as a takeaway and diner, more associated with US cuisine, despite serving ‘authentic Indian.’

At the grand opening six weeks ago, there were Bollywood dancers in full costumes.

So what is Abdul’s?

“We are somewhere in between a restaurant and a takeaway,” said manager Ghul Azram.

“I don’t think there is anything in the marketplace that offers food that is beautiful but served at a very affordable price.

“We wanted to be at this side of town because Ecclesall Road is somewhere that attracts customers concerned about high quality food and good customer service.”

He is right, it’s not a traditional restaurant.

The forks and plates are plastic and the drinks come with a straw rather than a glass.

It’s not a place you wouldchoose to propose, or go for an important business dinner.

There’s no head chef as such. A team, many who have been with the Abdul’s brand for years, work together in their open kitchen.

But the diner itself is bright, pleasant and airy, with booths, sharing benches and tables for two. Phone charging points and WiFi are available for those who want to log on while they have a lassi.

There is limited parking right outside too, so no need to risk it on double yellow lines as first thought.

Ghul - dapper in a lime green hat and apron - is as enthusiastic and welcoming as any posh eatery host.

He greets many customers by name, gave us a mini lesson in making our own yoghurt and proudly showed off the tandoori ovens.

It’s quite some time before we even get on to discussing what to eat.

I’d heard a rumour that Abdul’s does healthy dishes that are good for the heart.

It is true, said Ghul.

“We can do anything healthy if the customer wants.

“It’s cooking it with less cream, less oil and fat.

“But I’d say eat as much as you want and just exercise a little bit more!

“We are all about giving happiness here.”

It doesn’t take much arm twisting to follow his advice.

The menu, printed on paper for takeaway purposes, has a heavy Punjabi influence.

Abdul Khafoor, founder of the independent restaurant, was taught to cook by his mother and hails from that region of Pakistan.

The theme appears to be taking off as the most popular dish at the moment is chicken jalfrezi and a peshwari naan bread – sadly sold out on our trip – rather than the common tikka masala dish.

We break with tradition, swerving onion bhajis, and seek kebabs for the starters.

The Punjabi paratha – shallow fried bread filled with chicken and mushrooms, for the uninitiated like me – is far too creamy to be good for the heart.

It was also authentically spicy and flecked with coriander.

The ghee in the bread really came through, making the mouth water while eating, and it slipped down in seconds.

A mixed grill is apparently perfect for sharing, only we don’t.

Massala fish is piquant and the lamb chops go suprisingly well with strawberry pieces from the salad, but it’s the chicken tikka that is the highlight.

He usually finds it quite dry but these are juicy little taste bombs exploding in the mouth.

Splashing out on the starters makes us glad of a respite between courses.

When it arrives, the curries are the stars.

They are packed with meat that screams ‘expensive’. It’s not fatty in the slightest and this is a proper Yorkshire portion.

There’s so much of it I have to leave some of the nutty, rich sauce, which packs a good punch.

He also struggles to finish the lamb jalfrezi, though its equally as tender in the meat and served with a rich sauce.

The lemon rice is actually bright orange and a bit lacklustre, much like the poppadoms which came with two dips, one yoghurt and another spicy.

It’s a shame for the staple dishes, although we have no shame in asking to take the rest home in a doggy bag.

Yes, Abdul’s is not a restaurant.

But it is definitely not an ordinary takeaway.

Dinner for two, with soft drinks and lassi, cost £24.05.

lAbdul’s, 156 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield (0114) 272 6111,