North East tops for Indian food
Posted: 31 Jan 2010
Spoilt for choice at top North East Indian restaurants
By Anne Graham
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to ignore Gordon Ramsay.
He’s recently embraced Indian cooking with a passion following a month-long trip to the sub-continent with Channel 4. And, although a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore, he even took to the veggie dishes he tried out there.
He wouldn’t half like Vujon in Newcastle. On a freezing Sunday evening before a concert at the Sage this upmarket restaurant was one of the few places open and I dived in for a quick bite.
What a pity I didn’t have more time to savour the food. The ‘begun’ – a dish of hot and sour aubergine and a house speciality – was a treat. Luscious but without the greasiness or wateriness you often get with cooked aubergine, it was highly flavoured and a real treat – one I’d highly recommend as a main course for vegetarians. Along with achar chicken (tangy thanks to ingredients including vinegar and tamarind) and a plain boiled rice it was a feast of flavours way above the customary curry-house options.
The restaurant has been around for many years and has kept up the high standards for which it earned a reputation. Its upmarket, sumptuous décor helps cement the feeling that it’s a valued establishment that is here to stay.
A relative newcomer which is fast earning a reputation for great Indian cuisine too is Raval in Gateshead Quays: pick a table by the window and you get a cracking view of the Tyne Bridge.
With fans including Cliff Richard and leading North East chef Douglas Jordan (who says it deserves a Michelin star) it’s as classy as Vujon but with a complete different décor which is contemporary and pared-down.
The food standards are just as high though. Again, on a flying visit, I had little time to dwell on my dishes but they were excellent: tiny popadums with a lovely array of home-made pickles and sauces followed by salmon tandoori – succulent and subtle. Another visit beckons.
My third pre-theatre Indian meal was in Durham at the Spice Lounge just off the Market Place.
It’s tucked away down a side alley but that clearly hasn’t stopped plenty of people finding it as it was fairly full very early in the evening and appeared to have an eclectic clientele of tourists, locals and escapees from a local conference.
No time for starters, so I went straight into a special main course of gost kata masala which included a vegetable side and rice. It was a delicious lamb dish, very tender – too much for me to finish in the short time available – and the place, which is tacked onto the side of St Nicholas Church and features an open stone wall, is certainly a welcome addition to Durham’s growing portfolio of eateries.
I had not been planning to review any of these restaurants (not having the time to do them justice) but thought I’d bring you a brief round-up and will report on each in more detail in the coming weeks.
In all three restaurants you will pay around Ł50 for two with a bottle of house wine.
Vujon, 29 Queen Street, Newcastle NE1 3UG, telephone 0191 221 0601, web http://www.vujon.com/
Raval, Church Street, Gateshead Quays, NE8 2AT, telephone 0191 477 1700, web http://www.ravaluk.com/
Spice Lounge, St Nicholas Cottage, off Market Place, Durham, telephone DH1 3NJ, web http://www.spicelounge-india.co.uk/