Amy Burns enjoys an Indian meal like no other she's ever experienced at this classy award-winning Birmingham retaurant.
enjoys an Indian meal like no other she's ever experienced at this classy award-winning Birmingham retaurant.
There is such a thing as a curry hangover – and it has nothing to do with the copious amounts of lager we Brits are prone to swilling when we indulge in our nation's favourite dish.
We've all been there. You wolf down a nice and spicy jalfrezi or a rich dopiaza and the next day you feel like you downed a balti drenched in beer.
You're tired, bloated and sluggish, sometimes a little nauseous and there's that familiar nagging feeling of guilt that you over-indulged.
Hopefully (and provided you haven't actually been poisoned by said red hot dish), that's where the 'hangover' similarities should stop – but it's still enough to put some people off.
I have many friends who say they won't go out for a curry in the week for fear of feeling 'hungover' at work the next day and so only partake at the weekends – a bit like binge drinking. But as any good doctor will tell you, bingeing is bad.
So thank goodness for Birmingham's Lasan restaurant and it's award-winning curries that – having now experienced one first hand – I can happily tell you will leave you completely hangover free.
Perhaps best known for winning Gordon Ramsay's F Word Best Local Restaurant award last year, Lasan has a reputation for refined, experimental Asian cusine.
What exactly does that mean you might well ask. Well in short what it means is you won't find a bog-standard chicken tikka massala anywhere on this menu.
The slightly more detailed explanation is that chef director Aktar Islam and his team work hard to deliver authentic Indian dishes with a combination of subtle flavours all brought together with a modern twist and served in such a manner that they're that little bit more pretty than your average Wetherspoon's korma with half and half.
I've heard great things about Lasan and I knew I was in for a treat before we'd even arrived as they actually called to confirm the booking – now you don't get that from a 'Spoons £4.99 curry Thursday.
Hidden in James Street, just off the main drag of St Paul's Square in Birmingham's popular Jewellery Quarter, everything about Lasan oozes class. Myself and my dining party, however, do not.
Having managed to drop the entire contents of my handbag in the street outside, we entered somewhat loudly – you might say verging on hysterical – and covered in the pink blusher that I had just smashed and spilled in the process.
We were immediately taken aback by the contemporary and bright surroundings and the extremely polite and friendly staff who rather than looking down at us in the that all-too common 'what are people like you doing in a place like this' manner that is so often associated with fancy restaurants, welcomed us like old friends.
They didn't even balk when we confessed that the fourth member of our now slightly grubby clan was running late and instead led us through to the bar area to wait. The three of us snuggled up on one sofa (out of choice rather than need) where we were brought menus and a wine list. I confess the wine list went untouched and we each plumped for the slightly clichéd option of a bottle of Cobra – you can take the girls out of Wetherspoon's . . .
When friend number four did arrive around 20 minutes later (we'll let her off her tardiness as she's just had a birthday and does seem a little bit slower these days) we'd barely glanced at the menus having become distracted doing what we women (apparently) do best – yes, gossiping.
But as soon as our trio became four, we were shown to our table in the upper seating area of the stunning restaurant where we eventually shut up long enough to read what was on offer.
The menu is not particularly extensive, to stop you feeling overwhelmed,and is broken down into starter, mains and accompaniments. Being a fake-atarian (I don't eat meat but I do eat fish) I noticed straight away that there are no veggie dishes on the main menu – much to the disappointment of my housemate and fellow diner who is the real vegetarian deal.
But we needn't have panicked as a simple turn of the page to the 'to accompany' section and there were a handful of delicious sounding dishes all of which were meat and fish free.
Having consulted the waiter, he suggested the vegetarian opt for two dishes from the sides menu with the option of sharing some with the rest of us if it was a little too much.
And so the feast began.
We were supplied with a complementary basket of poppadoms (small, dainty and without an ounce of grease in sight) and an amuse-bouche – bite sized crab cakes for us and a potato cake for our full veggie friend, all of which were delicious.
I chose the Keralan king prawn curry (£18.95) – a dish made with yellow mustard seeds and coconut oil, simmered in a garlic scented lime curry with wilted sea aster shoots. I can honestly say I have never tasted anything quite like it. The sauce was so smooth and creamy it was as if it had been made of melted cheese, while the spices were so delicate and subtle it left just a hint of heat and was nothing short of exquisite.
My fellow diners tucked into chukkandar ghost (£14.95) – a spice lamb bhuna with beetroot and shallots – and a kukkar makhani (£15.95) – Punjabi-style chicken tikka simmered in a honey and cashew nut sauce – while my favourite vegetarian chose sweet potato kofta (£10.95) and a lentil dish called ghar ke dhal (£7.95).
We also ordered a selection of naan breads and a portion of cumin and petit pois pilau rice.
I can vouch for the veggie dishes as exceptionally tasty and the dhal especially was rich and flavoursome. As for the meat, I'm told it was succulent, tasty and deliciously spiced. But it was agreed that over all, my sauce was the best – go me!
Each main dish was served in an individual miniature pan which initially we scoffed at, assuming that those polite-size portions couldn't possibly satisfy four growing girls.
How wrong we were.
Such is the expert skill of the Lasan kitchen, that not only do they know how to cook their food to perfection but they know exactly how much of it is required. The flavours are so rich that after just a few mouthfuls you realise that to over indulge on something so good would be a crime against cookery – they want your lasting memory to be the taste, not a crippling stomach ache.
But we thought we'd increase the risk of feeling rough the next day by ordering a dessert despite our already full bellies. We opted for the dessert platter (£10.95) to share between the four of us.
Featuring dishes such as chocolate mousse and traditional Indian sweets like rasmali (made of curd milk and pistachio cream) the whole thing was divine. I've been friends with my three dining buddies all of my adult life and I don't think there is ever a time we've been so quiet in each other's company – such was the power of the pudding.
Our total bill came to around £120 including drinks but I would happily pay double to re-live such a wonderful experience all over again. And you certainly wouldn't catch me saying that about a £4.99 Wetherspoon's bhuna.
Lasan, 3-4 Dakota Buildings, James Street, St Paul's Square, Birmingham B3 1SD
Tel: 0121 212 3664
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