They must have thought that having 60 dishes showcasing cuisine from around the world was choice enough.
But respected restaurant chain Aagrah was in for a surprise. Not long after their new buffet-only dining concept at Crystal Peaks was opened in October by Coronation Street’s Dev Alahan (actor Jimmi Harkishin), diners started clamouring for more.
They wanted Aagrah Kashmiri dishes they knew and loved from eating at sister restaurants in West Yorkshire and Sheffield’s Leopold Square. So swiftly, a compact a la carte menu featuring their best-known speciality dishes was created especially for Crystal Peaks diners.
Set in its own grounds with a large car park, it is a vast place that cost a six figure sum. The decor is modern contemporary, there’s a bar by the entrance and we are to the right, in the large, glass-walled seating area. It feels a bit too big and soulless, though,The ceiling is high and cars flashing up the darkened bypass are visible through the windows.
To the left is the purpose-built world buffet section with an open-plan theatre kitchen where white-coated chefs calmly cook. Having gazed in awe at the row upon row of gleaming silver serving tureens, and lifted lids to survey the appetising-looking contents, it is the neat little menu we have decided to order from.
The buffet is great value - three courses, and all you can eat for £13.95 Sundays to Thursdays and £1 more on Fridays and Saturdays - and it looks very tempting.
But, after being gluttons over Christmas, we decide it looks too easy to over-indulge. All around us, folk are returning to their tables with plates stacked high.
The drinks menu is actually larger than the food menu. There are some sexy-sounding cocktails: my Raspberry Collins, Bombay Sapphire gin with raspberry juice, £5.50, is perfectly made. The husband has an Indian beer.
There are 12 starters; his Shami Kebabs, £3.50, are beautifully scented with cinnamon and nutmeg and soft and moist; often, these minced meat and lentil patties come as hard and rubbery as beefburgers. My Chicken Bihari Tikka (£3.50) is equally good. It’s been cooked on a skewer over flames; I saw it on the TV screen next to us, which has a live feed from the kitchens. The flames add smokiness and crispy edges to tender, marinated meat with a spicy fire of its own.
My main is Gosht Achar, meltingly-soft lamb in a hot sauce bursting with ginger, methi, mustard and coriander seeds and a hint of aniseed and bay. It’s topped with whole chillis, as is the husband’s big, gutsy Lahorie Charga (£9.95), a boned half chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices from Lahore then grilled, sectioned and liberally doused in a hot, tangy sauce - that bizarrely contains green olives.
Tangy lemon rice (£2.95), a slender roti (£1.30) and a too salty and oily Saag Panner (£3.50) bring the bill to reasonable £44.15.
We are surprised by how good everything is; the place is so vast you almost expect a negative experience. But we shouldn’t have been. A family owned business set up 36 years ago, Aagrah has a strong reputation and its chefs have over 50 industry accolades.
Service is spot-on, too; polite, attentive and yet unobtrusive.
WHERE AND WHEN:
Aagrah Crystal Peaks
200 Waterthorpe Lane,
Tel: 0114 2482049
Open: 4pm-11.30pm Mon-Sat, 4.30pm-10.30pm Sun.
MY STAR RATINGS OUT OF FIVE: