REVIEW: Jinnah, 1 The Common, Ecclesfield, Sheffield

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Too much choice. It always has me floundering.

“Where would you like to sit?” asked the slender waiter dressed in Johnny Cash-black. Where indeed. The Jinnah Indian restaurant, as many are these days, is housed in a former pub; Ecclesfield’s old Earl of Arundel, just down the road from Morrisons.

And on a Monday night, there were tables a-plenty in the former lounge, tap room and conservatory, all now decorated in contemporary minimalist style with not a patterned carpet or horse brass in sight.

We settled for a nicely-lit table in the conservatory; me and my glasses don’t like reading menus in poor light. But just after we’d passed up the £10.95 buffet in favour of the a la carte menu, the man in black was back.

He’d decided we’d be better off a couple of tables down, away from a party of diners we’d snuggled up to.

We were too surprised to argue and our new site did prove more spacious. Though decidedly dimmer. Could we have a candle, I asked.

No candles at the Jinnah, sadly. And I do think they would be a good addition; the place could do with a bit more sparkle.

But our gallant chap had a plan; he and a teatowel-clutching colleague got a chair and twisted the ceiling spotlamps in our direction; perfect!

At this point, I discovered the menu is a veritable tome. Rich in description, with a liberal sprinkling of humour and historical reference, there are over 60 main course dishes scattered across the chef’s spicy specialities, the home-style medium-intensity curries, the milder collection and the tandoori, vegetarian and seafood sections. And you already know what I’m like about too much choice.

But even worse, I’d never heard of two thirds of the dishes before; what a terrific change from the usual tikka masala, bhuna and jalfrezi offering. I wanted them all.

I mused over the Masaledar’s “explosive flavours”. I pondered over the Panch Rangia, diced chicken or lamb marinated and cooked mixed pickles.

Bloke tried to talk me into the Fauladi, lamb or chicken “marinated in aphrodisiac”. And we giggled at the little eulogy dished up with the Nepalese-Style Lamb or Chicken: “Race, religion, age, gender, we all united in our intention to eat well. Food can cause havoc with our pysches as well as our bodies. A little of what you fancy and a lot of what you need is the way to go. So trust the chef,” it says.

After much dithering and a bottle of ice-cold Kingfisher (£1.95), we decided on the Jinnah’s Special Mix starter for two (£4.25 each), a chicken Parsi for him and a £7.95 lamb Nawhabi Khana, billed as the most complex of curries with 21 ingredients in the roasted spice mix for me with a £2.25 steamed rice portion to share and a £1.35 tandoori roti.

The waiter dissuaded us from ordering poppadoms–we should leave room for what was a substantial starter, he said. I do like a waiter who doesn’t push for sales.

He was right, too. The mixed platter far exceeded expectation, in both size and quality. Too often, such a medley arrives as stodgy, oily and limp as one of those family packs you get in the supermarket.

But at Jinnah we got chunks of plump, succulent chicken tikka, meltingly soft fish pakoras, decent onion bhajis and tiny triangular pakoras which were piping hot, not at all greasy and crammed with taste. Best of all, though, in the centre was a steaming and fragrant mound of diced chicken chaat–and the whole lot was sitting on a fresh roti; an edible doily!

There was a bit of a wait for the mains, but we took that to signify they were being cooked, as opposed to dolloped out of a perpetually-simmering pan.

It all arrived with a flourish–and two attentive waiters. We instructed them to put the curries in the middle of the table. “It’s good to share,” grinned one of them. Jinnah staff are so very likeable.

So were the curries. Bursting with fire, flavour and lean meat, they were. The Persian, golden-hued Parsi, loaded with garlic, spring onion, ginger, green chilli, tomato, lemon and chana dall had the edge. The deeper, richer Nawabi was very good, but the chilli hadn’t quite mellowed out in the cooking process and I expected more from the 21 spices. The rice was perfectly done and so was the roti–it was light, fine and dry, but with just enough bite.

The bill came to just £29.95, not that much more than if we’d plumped for the all you can eat buffet.

I’d read a few negative reviews about Jinnah in Ecclesfield when the York-based chain, named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, opened this, its most southerly restaurant, in 2007.

But it was all pretty faultless on our visit.

- Jinnah, 1 The Common, Ecclesfield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S35 9WJ

- Tel: 0114 246 7238

- Open: Mon to Fri 530-11pm, Sat and Sun 12-11pm.

- Credit and debit cards accepted. Big car park.

- My star ratings (out of five):

Food HHHH

Atmosphere HH

Service HHHHH

Value HHHHH

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