Saturday, 23 June 2012

Kerala Cafe - Shipley

Please note this establishment has now moved to Leeds. 

If your looking for a top notch fancy restaurant with palate cleansers and half dozen waiters waiting on you hand and foot.. this place is not for you. If your not too bothered about your surroundings, are looking for absolutely bloody amazing food with lovely service chucked in... this place IS for you. If you are fed up of visiting Indian restaurants which only serve chicken tikka masala, lamb balti, chicken bhunas etc and want something more authentic this place is DEFINITELY for you.

This place refuses to conform to the traditional idea of an Indian restaurant in Britain. First of all they make it clear that they are an authentic south Indian restaurant/cafe/takeaway, and they only sell south Indian cuisine. There is no wimping out and sticking a chicken tikka masala on this menu.

Kerala is an Indian state on the South-west coast of India, because it's on the coast there is a big fish trade. Due to this you find the supply of fish based meals is high and lavish; tending to use a lot of coconut in their recipes. Interestingly Kerala is known as the land of spices, famed for it's spicy ingredients. Each district of Kerala hosts it's own famous dishes and although you can find each dish in all districts you will not find the best until you are sampling it in it's own district. Kerala sounds amazing to me, to bring this cuisine to England is a blessing.... if they get it right and don't stray down the English-curry-house-of-doom path.

It's relatively new to the area but it's making waves. It's got all the locals talking. Our taxi driver was most interested in our meal as they make so many pick ups and drop offs to this tiny tiny restaurant/cafe.

When I say it's tiny I mean it literally seats only 26 people (we counted). The decoration is slap hazard with plug sockets in all the wrong places. Bless the person who has tried to paint the walls they have managed to paint half the ceilings blue as well.

We walked in and there was just one table of three seated (Sunday Night) and we couldn't see any staff. The table joked with us that there was actually someone here but we might have to wait a while for him to appear, but the wait was worth it. Recommendations from the current diners - first impressions were good.

It didn't actually take that long for a waiter to show up, we were stood for two minutes if that. He told us rather shyly that we could sit where ever we wanted and handed us some menus, then quickly rushed off back to the kitchen.

We both ordered a mango juice each (slight addiction to mango juice forming) and a bottle of water too, just in case the curries were as hot as the curries Kerala is famed for.

The menu isn't pages upon pages long as you will find in some curry houses, but has a rather select choice which I get the feeling is the dishes they love themselves the most, rather than popularity dictating the menu.

For starters we decided to go for Ullivada (onion baji) and something different with a sweet potato fry.

The onion baji was excellent, it wasn't like the massed produced ones you can often get. It was clearly hand made from scratch full of flavour and nicely held together. The sweet potato fries were a really nice change and I'm glad we decided to order them rather than go for a more traditional samosa. They were coated in cumin and came with a mango chutney dip which was also pretty amazing. Really crispy, really moreish the blend of sweet and spicy mixing together exceptionally well.

For mains my friend decided to chose something they would never have normally have chosen and went for a pineapple yoghurt curry. A meat free dish for a meat lover, now they were really testing them out, could they win them over without any meat?

Described on the menu as a sweet and sour curry made from yoghurt and pineapple chunks with tumeric.  I'm glad to say with out a doubt he loved it mopping up every last drop.

For my main I just had to order a Kerala chicken curry, I've seen a recipe for this curry in my Taste of India cookbook and I have booked marked it to make it. I was asked if I wanted the curry medium or hot, not knowing the general fieriness of the food served here I decided to play it safe and opted for a medium.

The spice doesn't hit you straight away but generally builds as you eat your way through. The chicken was cooked to perfection, good quality and not over marinated where it becomes dry and rough. The many many spices in this dish shone out and I was left craving more once I had finished and almost licked my dish dry.

We decided to share pilau rice and a Kerala Porotta (described on the menu as an alternative to nan bread). I've never had one of these before, it was like a savoury crispy pancake. It was lovely and perfect to mop up the remaining sauce of my curry. The pilau rice is actually worth a mention too, it was mixed with carrot and topped with crispy onion bits it wasn't over powered by cardamon pods as is often the case. One serving was definitely enough to serve the both of us.

An absolutely great meal, and what is even better is they do a takeaway delivery service too so we grabbed a menu vowing to order food to enjoy at home too. They don't have a licence yet so if you want a drink with your meal they advise you to bring your own.

We only saw the one member of staff whilst we were there, he was very shy and bashful. I loved the way his face lit up when I smiled at him and thanked him, and then exclaimed how much we loved the food.

If you're reading this on your mobile, or your not sat down already you may want to take a seat when I disclose the prices to you....

My friend's curry cost £2.99, no I haven't typed that wrong it cost 2 pounds and 99 pence. The whole meal came to £20.45. A tenner each and we were filled to the rafters!

The menu for this place (and the website too) makes me smile, it's so full of spelling mistakes you can tell that their first language isn't English. I kind of like that. The taxi driver on the way home told us that the customers he picks up from there really know and love their food. If you're looking for a traditional Indian curry and not an English mongrel this is the place to visit.

A quirky little place which is definitely worth a visit.

Kerala Cafe
139-141 Bradford Road
BD18 3TB

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