Sachins in Newcastle - Posh spice
Posted: 13 Oct 2009
Currying favour to Newcastle
Sachins in Newcastle is unique. The only Punjabi restaurant in the North East and the food is as original and distinctive as it was when it opened 30 years ago. It’s not your run-of-the mill curry house featuring heavy, cloying sauces. And you won’t need five pints of lager to put out the fire.
Punjabi cooking is regarded in South Asia like French cuisine is Europe – refined and a cut above. Think spices, subtle flavours, delicate taste and texture.
The restaurant is perched at the top of Forth Banks, above the Quayside and only a few minutes’ walk from the Central Station.
Bob Arora took over in 2000 and spent a small fortune on a major refurbishment. The new décor is full of vibrant, rich dark colours and a huge black and white print depicting bustling street scenes of contemporary Delhi.
The menu still boasts a splendid array of exotic dishes concentrating on murgh (poultry) and bakra (lamb). But the secret lies in the tandoor – the deep unglazed oven fired by charcoal, which gives the food amazing flavour and fragrance.
Bob explains: ‘The key with Punjabi cooking is that the spices gently promote and never dominate the flavours. All our dishes have individual sauces too – it’s not just a case of sticking in another spoonful of chilli to make it different.’
If you like seafood try the machhar jhol, marinated and barbecued monkfish pieces or chingri makhani, king prawns marinated in Punjabi spices, tossed in butter and garnished with an edible silver leaf.
My current favourite starter is chingri prawns - four juicy tandoori king prawns with a mango dressing and a lovely nest of salad to accompany them.
While a lot of Indian food is too overpowering to enjoy with a bottle of wine, this fare thoroughly deserves a grape accompaniment.
My two favourite main dishes here are murgh makhani – delicious pieces of tender chicken breast barbecued, tossed in butter and cooked with tomatoes and fresh yoghurt. This gives it a wonderful smoky flavour.
Lal goshat is the other one. It’s a slow-cooked lamb concoction, marinated in yoghurt, red chillies and spices, which really does melt in the mouth. It’s one of the hotter dishes on the menu but can easily be tempered with a raitha if required.
My partner’s favourites include murgh jalfrezi – a masterclass in sophistication with its subtle use of fresh green Punjabi spices - and murgh marchi masala, diced chicken in yoghurt, green peppers and green chillies. A side dish of palak paneer – an alluring combination of spinach and curd cheese – provides a vegetable balance.
If you like lentils go for the dall makhani – black and yellow split peas cooked in butter and fresh cream – and if you order the large nan with it be warned: you’ll need another table to house it. It is big.
Expect to pay around £50-60 for a meal for a two including house wine.
The original owner – an accountant – would probably tell you statistics don’t lie. Sachins has more than 80 per cent repeat customers. And you may even spot the odd celebrity among their loyal clientele.
The UK’s oldest example of this cuisine is The Punjabi in London’s Covent Garden, which has been trading since 1947, but I think Sachins is even better.
Sachins Restaurant 0191 261 9035 www.sachins.co.uk