Food & Drink: Rajdhani, Dore and Totley Staion, Abbeydale Road South, S17 3LB

Rajdhani restaurant, the former old train station on Abbbeydale Road.
Rajdhani restaurant, the former old train station on Abbbeydale Road.
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Eat-in and takeaway available.

Opening hours: Sun – Thur: 5.30pm till 11pm. Fri & Sat: 5.30pm till 11.30pm. Tel: 0114 2353280 (Reservations) 07544 558398 (for enquires)

info@rajdhanirestaurant.

This won’t do. First time out on a main food review and it’s all gone wrong from the start. How? I can’t find fault with anything.

Here I am with secret pen and notebook ready to be waspish about sloppy service, over-priced mains or dreary decor and there’s nothing to write.

My only comfort is that, as the master Mr Dawes himself would have it, the meal starts with the booking.

But I couldn’t book despite numerous phone calls. When we arrived on spec I was told they take bookings from 4.30pm and there is a mobile number I could have booked on at any time. So no real chance of a moan there.

Manager Afzal Miah, one of two Bangladeshi brothers who run family restaurants in Sheffield and Chesterfield, was delighted to finally have the old Dore and Totley station building open in September after a £165,000 restoration.

Rajdhani means The Capital in Hindi. The railway link comes from the Rajdhani Express, a fast passenger train service operated by Indian Railways from New Delhi. This building’s last incarnation as a restaurant was as Delhi Junction owned by casino boss Dave Allen, but that was six years ago.

“We have had the place for five years but have been unable to open it until the railway people restored the building, said Afzal.

“At one stage we thought it was done and an inspector came to look at the roof but it started raining inside while he was there, so we had to wait.” It was worth it.

We turned up early Friday evening and were greeted with courtesy and warmth, told our luck was in and shown to a free table.

The decor is smart modern British Asian with a hint of the 19th century in the beautifully restored station building ceiling and black and white prints of the old station hanging on the walls. In between the prints we had the real thing through windows overlooking the working station platform.

We ordered beer and a soft drink, poppadoms and a six-pickle, pickle tray and we’re impressed already – not least with the takeaway-pitched prices.

Service is Rajdhani fast, the poppadoms warm, light and crisp and every pickle and chutney is a winner, especially the mango with an extra something and lime pickle with a real whack of citrus and spice,

We share a starter, my fellow foodie has been under the weather all week and isn’t too hungry – but I soldier on manfully.

Not that I had to try too hard with the king prawn chop poti, described on the menu as ‘tiger king prawns stir-fried with baby potatoes and served sizzling’ and arriving exactly as that.

The prawns were cooked to delicate perfection and the sauce rich and spicy without being too hot.

It was at this point I went to the toilet to try and find something about the place to moan about. No luck there either. New, tastefully done- out loos smelling only of paint and new tiles. Though as I returned I overheard a lady diner say: “Lovely room, could do with a splash of colour though,”

She may have a point but it’s clutching at the whispiest of straws.

Throughout the service was attentive but arms-length. Sufficient attention so as to feel looked after but not enough to be smothered. Perfectly pitched.

And the trains came and went past our window.

Some with weary, bleary commuters on their way home, others carry giggling girls heading to Sheffield with night-out excitement in their eyes, the window framing their fleeting moments on the platform connected only by their glances at our table.

Some smart travellers order takeaway from the other side of the Pennines and pick it up when they get off the train. We order from our table, main courses of aloo beef and chicken karai with a naan bread and pilau rice.

The karai has tender, moist chicken pieces with a beautifully rich sauce with roasted onions, peppers, garam masala, and piquant karai spices.

The beef is a less volatile number in a deep and creamy sauce with onions and tomatoes, though some of the beef chunks are slightly chewy, the flavour is exceptional.

The rice is as though every grain has been indvidually prepared, light, aromatic and perfectly cooked.

The naan bread? No room for a whinge there either. It’s as light and fluffy as a Bollywood cloud.

If there is a moan it’s this – isn’t it about time indian restaurants got a grip of desserts?

The dessert menu reads like a sweet-shop ice-cream list – because that’s almost exactly what it is. No-one goes to an Indian restaurant for dessert you may say.

But they might if they were served something home-cooked and authentic, though we can hardly hold one restaurant responsible for a world-wide culture.

I had filter coffee and a pistachio kulfi, Indian ice cream that was pleasant but not memorable.

Otherwise the whole event was pretty flawless and all for £39.10.

What good is THAT to a new food writer?