Yep, another curry review. It can’t be avoided living in Leicester I’m afraid.
Today’s review is of my number one favorite Indian restaurant in Leicester (for that matter, anywhere). We have been coming here for years, and so bad is our addiction to this place that we crave it if we’ve been away too long, and only a hot curry from Durbar will do the trick to restore us to normality. They know us so well now that we don’t even need to order – they’ve got it all memorized. My husband is a favorite there too – he knows everyone’s name, story, wife, pet, etc and they treat him like a celebrity when he comes in. He’s a great people-person, if you couldn’t tell.
The inside of The Grand Durbar is really quaint – and just what you’d want/expect from a traditional balti house. It feels like someone’s home when you walk in, with colorful carpets, dimly lit lights, various paintings on the walls and music playing in the background. If you sit in the back of the restaurant in a booth, it even feels like you are in an old restaurant carriage of a train.
For this meal, we had the usual, which is a mix of side vegetable dishes that have been perfected to our specific tastes. These dishes include: tarka daal (a yellow lentil soup), saag masala (spinach), special mix veg, mushroom and peppers in a special shashlik sauce (thick, spicy, tomato sauce), boiled rice, salad and one chapati to split. Yes, it’s a lot of food – but they are all side dishes and anyway, they make great leftovers. (Yes, we even sometimes have it for breakfast). Each dish is so flavorful and unique, that they really complement each other.
The mushrooms and peppers come cooked in a rich, thick tomato sauce on a sizzling cast iron pan topped with crispy onions. This dish is not on the menu – so you’ll need to ask for it. The veggies in the special veg vary each week, but generally consists of chick peas, thinly sliced potato, okra, aubergine and peppers and comes cooked in a flavorsome masala sauce. The tarka daal is one of my favorites – rich, creamy, with the right amount of spice. Just recently I discovered that tarka actually means garlic… and boy do they take this literally at Durbar. If you’re not a fan of garlic, I’d probably avoid this dish; but if you like it, this is a garlic-lovers dream. The final dish we get is the saag masala – very simple spinach cooked dry with onions and peppers.
The great thing about this place is they’re willing to recommend dishes, and create them based on your tastes. For example, the mushroom and pepper shashlik is a dish entirely of our making. You can also choose the level of spiciness which (I believe) goes from 1 – 10, with 1 being your sweet curries like a korma and a 6/7 being madras. I used to get vindaloo plus (8/9), but I’m a bit more sensible these days. We usually stick with one or two dishes around 5/6 which has just the right amount of heat for us. Be warned of the whole green chillies though – if you eat one by accident you will know about it!
One final thing to mention – we have been told that all the vegetable dishes are cooked with oil and not butter, but if you’re vegan it’s always best to ask before ordering.