A man in gold turban and flowing robes sweeps forward to open the door and as soon as we’re over the thresh-hold, restaurant owner Abdul Ghafoor is shaking us by the hand.
A first-class greeting all round, I’d say.
Ecclesfield’s former Jinnah Spice Lounge has gone up in the world.
The Jinnah closed down after a blaze last May and what has risen from its ashes is indeed a phoenix. It’s now Jumeirah Spice, a restaurant which takes its inspiration from the world-famous, seven-star Jumeirah resorts in the Arabian gulf.
It looks very glamorous, particularly the conservatory, which was gutted in the fire. It’s now a sleek, silvered palace, a sophisticated palette of greys and deep browns, with sparkling chandeliers and gleaming upholstery..
I’m glad we reserved a table; it’s Friday night and the place is packed. The Jinah crowd, who hail from Chapeltown, Barnsley, Sheffield and Doncaster, are back.
The table isn’t ready, though. We’re asked to wait, but the waitress admits she “has no idea how long it will be.” Hmm. Her boss seems to, though. Just as we’re starting to fret, he sweeps us off to our table and from there on in, the service is great.
Beautifully crisp poppadoms arrive with no less than eight tangy pickles. We browse the very large menu - 22 starters, a grill section, seafood specials, 12 house specialities, karahis, biryanis, balti and desi sections, plus “Old School Favourites” and a collection of mild dishes. Everything is heat-scored with little red chillies.
Our starters, £3.75 chicken boti (ultra-tender and lean chunks of chicken marinated in ginger, garlic, yoghurt coriander and turmeric with a splash of lime) and £3.50 chana puri (chickpeas slow-cooked with onions, garlic and tomatoes in a fold of deep-fried Indian bread), are big on size and flavour, but presentation is poor. It looks like it’s been chucked on the plate -I’m guessing because the kitchen is rushed off its feet.
Our main courses look more stylish. Pilau and boiled rice and an interesting £3.25 spicy naan are accompanied by big bowls of tikka chicken rogan (£8.95) and lamb parsi (£9.95). A side of tarka daal (£3.25) is lovely - a soft, sweet mulch of pulses and tomatoes with a dense, smoky finish.
The parsi, a Persian dish with channa dall, ginger, spring onion and tomatoes, has plenty of heat and very tender, quality meat. Ditto for the rogan. But my guess is they’ve been cooked in a hurry as the individual flavours of the spices weren’t as evident as they should have been.
Proof of that was the fact that we took our leftovers home and when we ate them the next day, both curries were fabulous
A very pleasant glass of house red and two pints of Cobra brought the bill (which unfortunately e had to ask for three times) to £54.05. To sum up, the Jumeirah looks a treat and is deservedly popular, but at peak times, the kitchen needs to ensure its high standards don’t slip.
WHEN AND WHERE:
1 Common, Ecclesfield
0114 246 7238
Open: Mon to Sat 5-11.30pm Sund 4-10.30pm
My star ratings out of five: