A Family Meal At The Shalimar Indian Restaurant In Darley Dale
As a flock we have enjoyed some fab meals out together during the government’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme in August, and as luck would have it the Bank Holiday Monday was on the 31st of the month so we eaked out every last second! It’s been a long, long time since we all went to Shalimar Indian restaurant in Darley Dale, so it was lovely to go back.
Inside, not a lot has changed with the decor and fittings; I still love the twinkly chandeliers in the centre of the venue and the rich, dark Ruby coloured drapes still frame the large windows. The tables have been jigged around a bit to comply with the Covid distancing requirements and the staff have figured out a sort of one-way system for serving food from the kitchen and taking plates back into it. The team all wear face masks (some have jazzy designs on, others simple blue surgical style ones) and there’s hand gel dispensed to you as you enter the restaurant and whenever you have answered ‘nature’s call’.
To get our meal started we ordered Poppadoms (85p each) and Pickle Tray (£2.95), as well as bottle of Shiraz and pints of Cobra lager. You can’t beat that initial crunch sound as you snap Poppadoms into pieces, and the ones at Shalimar are beautifully crisp and not at all greasy. The yoghurt dip is served in a separate jug, and then the Sweet Onion and Tomato, Spiced Onion, Lime Pickle and Mango Chutney are all in bowls on a rectangular platter that everyone just dibbed into as required.
Our starters ‘proper’ were: Prawn Puri, Fish Pakora, Shashlik Tikka, and Marinate Lamb Chops and ranged from £5.50 - £6.95 in price. Shalimar was really busy early evening so we did have a bit of a wait, although no more than you would expect at any venue that was busy; whilst we waited we were all chatting about life in general and what plans we’d got for the week ahead. Soon enough, our starters were all being placed before us and we all tucked in.
Mummy Bird and His Nibs had both chosen the Shashlik Chicken; skewered Chicken chunks cooked with Onion and Peppers and served with salad. They loved how moist the Chicken was and the fact that the marinade, whilst being very tasty and flavoursome, wasn’t spicy. Plenty of fresh, chopped herbs kept this gorgeously clean on the palate too. Cool, crisp salad and the crunchy vegetables gave a nice balance of texture in the mouth, in contrast to the smooth poultry pieces, making this a really nice starter choice.
Chickadee had chosen her default Indian starter (Prawn Puri) and was also pleased with her choice. The Prawns were nice and juicy and there were certainly plenty of them piled onto the soft, light Puri bread circle. Fledge was happy to report that the Puri bread wasn’t at all greasy, just beautifully light and fluffy in the mouth. Again, this wasn’t a particularly spicy starter, but it certainly got the digestive juices flowing.
Daddy Bird had spotted the Fish Pakora, and this is normally the starter he has at our local Indian restaurant, so he decided he was going to try Shalimar’s version. The deep fried, batter fish parcels were all a nice size; not dinky enough to pop them in whole, but generously sized to make 2 or 3 mouthfuls each. This is a hearty starter but, given that it’s fried, isn’t one that lays heavy on the tum. Daddy Bird dolloped plenty of the minted yoghurt (that we’d asked to keep from our Poppadoms) all over the Pakora and accompanying salad, giving a gentle creaminess to the dish.
For my own starter I had gone for the Lamb Chops and was pleased to see a trio of nice sized, Tandoori-red meat morsels all nestled on a colourful bed of salad. There was a wedge of fresh Lemon too, so the first thing I did was squeeze the zingy citrus juice all over - I do like the tartness on my tongue, and the contrast it provides against most other elements. I’m pleased to say that the Lamb wasn’t at all fatty and the bones had been trimmed, so the chops were easy to handle with fingers or cutlery alike. The Lamb itself had a super sweetness to it and a well rounded richness to its taste; yep, I was more than happy with my choice.
The staff had come round to check that we were enjoying our starters and brought over some water for us; they’d filled the glasses and also brought out a jug, so we didn’t have to pour out our first glass, which I thought was rather clever and a nice service touch. Ajmil took our clean plates away and asked if we would like our main courses preparing at that point or if we wanted a little breather; again, a nice touch.
Keeping up their marine theme, Daddy Bird had Desi Fish Curry for his main and my Chick had King Prawn Delight; Mummy Bird chose Chicken Mackhen, The Man had Chicken Sharabi and I fancied the Lamb Wine Masala. The mains ranged from £11.95 - £14.95 in price. To go with the curries we ordered some Lemon and Cashew Pilau rice and Vegetable Pilau rice (both £3.95), a Peshwari Naan Bread (£3.75) and a Paratha Bread (£3.95).
Regular readers of the blog will know that The Tribal Elders don’t like their food particularly spicy (which is why Mummy Bird chooses the mild, creamy Mackhen dish 9 times out of 10/0, so I was praying that Daddy Bird hadn’t bitten off more than he could chew by going for the ‘medium’ rated Desi Fish Curry. Turns out I needn’t have worried! The sauce was delicious in terms of its symphony of herbs and spices, all of which were mild but tasty – I had a sneaky dib into it, purely to check, you understand.
Anyhow, the Cod Fillet was hitting the mark in its own right as well: it didn’t disintegrate as soon as it was cut into; instead it kept its shape and was pleasantly firm in the mouth so the teeth had some purchase on its sweet flesh. Not much shocks me, but when I asked Daddy how he was getting on he replied “this is absolutely bloody stunning!” Normally he isn’t much of a talker, and certainly isn’t given to gushing praise, so I think we can safely say that this is a dish to try if you visit Shalimar!
Mummy Bird was more than happy with her choice; it lived up to its reputation as a mild, creamy curry and there was an abundance of succulent Chicken breast pieces to enjoy. The sauce was a smooth one which made it dead easy to scoop up with the breads – something Mummy Bird and I both like to do.
Chickadee was being unusually loquacious too (clearly there was something in the air!), heaping praise about her King Prawn dish: delight by name and by nature. This was a medium curry, like Daddy Bird’s, and this one had a little more ‘substance’ to it, although no tingle factor still. King Prawns have a gentle fragrance and sweetness to them that allows a bit of spice and heat to bounce against them, which was the case here.
Both the Man Bird and my curries were cooked with Red Wine in them, although his had Tomatoes in whereas mine had Mushrooms. The differing combination of spices in them meant that I ended up with the ‘sharper’ curry of the two, which suits us both as he does have a sweeter tooth than me. His Nibs’ Chicken Sharabi was another dish bursting with plenty of meat and he commented on the moistness of the poultry and the fact that there was plenty of onion in there too (he loves onion!).
Shalimar’s Chefs were riding a wave of glory: I declared my Lamb Wine Masala to be my new favourite dish! This curry is available in a Chicken version too, but I always think that you can tell the merit of an Indian restaurant on the quality of the Lamb it uses: if they use cheap, fatty Lamb then you know to not visit a second time. I have been known before to send a curry back due to awful Lamb in it, so it’s not unheard of.
There was no chance of a single scrap of this particular curry going back to the kitchen though, let me assure you! The pieces of Lamb were so tender that they were coming apart with just a whisper of pressure from my cutlery and they melted instantly in my mouth.The slices of mushroom had soaked up the cooking sauce and had a hint of Red Wine tang to them, as well as their inherent earthiness and the Green Peppers were chunky enough so that they’d softened during the cooking process, but were still crunchy.
Both our rice dishes were excellent: the Lemon and Cashew variety had whole toasted nuts in that added some fab texture to our meals as well as having a hint of citrus, and they honestly couldn’t have packed more vegetables into the vegetable Pilau rice if they’d tried! There were bits of Carrot, Pepper, Peas and Green Beans in there – all just al dente - and it made for a superbly colourful side dish.
The Peshwari Naan was gobbled up speedily, its sweetness heartily approved of! Again, Shalimar’s Chefs had fed us royally, the shredded Coconut and plump Sultanas spilling out as the bread was torn into and picked up. I was gorging myself on the flaky, buttery pieces of Paratha bread: this is one of my favourite treats at an Indian restaurant and Shalimar make a really rich, indulgent one. Next time I’m going to see if they will include some Mint in it for me.
Much as we wanted to, none of us had got room for dessert so we instead had some coffees to finish our meal. I had a floater coffee; I haven’t had one for ages and really liked the one served here: it isn’t tooth-tinglingly sweet. Chickadee had a Latte and everyone else had black coffees with milk served separately in case anyone wanted it.
This had been a truly memorable evening, not just because we were all in great moods but because the food and service had been top notch too. Hot Wings more than deserved here: Darley Dalers, you’ve got yourselves a fantastic local venue here – although by the speed the takeaways were going out, you already know that!!