Food review: Indian truly worth of curry crown

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield
Manager Sufi Miah and his staff outside the restaurant
Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield Manager Sufi Miah and his staff outside the restaurant
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Great expectations were on the menu.

Not only had Viraaj in Woodseats recently claimed a plaudit in the English Curry Awards, but it was also highly rated by regulars.

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield

Colleague George drives to pick up takeaways there from Hunters Bar - an area hardly short of an Indian or two - and as we sat down a regular at the next table struggled to pinpoint just one dish to try.

“We’ve been through the whole menu”, he said.

“They’re all good.”

It’s fair to say the award has garnered Viraaj some attention.

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield

Another table of diners were discussing it on the night and owner Sufi Miah says he has had plenty of feedback.

“I took a video as the award was announced and you can see it suddenly cut off when we won and I threw my hands in the air”, said the beaming Bangladeshi, as he showed off the video.

“A lot of people seem to be really happy about it because every time these awards are held the winners are from Bradford or Manchester, but this was something for Sheffield.

“People said ‘you’ve made us proud’ and it is great because it’s another way of putting Sheffield on the curry map.”

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield

Viraaj Restaurant on Chesterfield Road in Woodseats Sheffield

Viraaj opened in 2010 in a former pub but is the second business of Sufi and his uncle, head chef Abdul Rouf.

Firstly they ran Dilshad across the road before spotting the opportunity to expand.

But they kept the concept the same and offer dishes from Indian and Bangladesh which they say can’t be found elsewhere in the city.

Sufi added: “When I go back to Bangladesh I pick up ingredients from there which make a difference because you just can’t get them here.

“I come from a village where they used to use clay ovens to cook and everything is fresh.

“We do some special dishes here which I don’t think you can get anywhere else - and we’ve got a lot of regulars who come in all the time.”

We arrived absolutely ravenous last Friday evening, and could smell the waft of spices from our parking spot.

We were shown straight to our named table, ordering starters almost immediately.

My husband had barely cracked his poppodom before they arrived, the service was unbelievably rapid.

There seemed to be an endless stream of smiling waiters flowing through the tables in a sort of seamless dance, which meant not waiting, for anything.

The entire meal - from entering the restaurant to paying the bill - took one hour, one minute. Call it one hour and ten minutes with the interview.

It must be a record, review or no.

Those poppodoms were hot and crispy, with some interesting dips to boot.

An unusual carrot concoction had a hint of coconut to it, tamarind was tangy sour and the usual mango, raita and onion were all top notch.

My sizzling cod platter came with large chunks of pink-hued fish on grilled onions, presented well.

It had been expertly cooked to create pearly chunks of succulent fish under the tandoori crust, and came with the obligatory Indian salad.

His tandoori platter (£4.95) was just as good, with soft chicken and melt-in-the-mouth lamb tikka, plus high quality meat in the seek kebab.

Harleem soup, puris and chicken kalijee (liver) are among the more interesting starters, if you don’t want to stick with the classics.

For mains there are dozens of choices in quite a lengthy menu , so hats off to the regular who’d worked his way through the lot.

As a creature of habit the husband stuck with a favourite, the lamb keema handi, which when done right is up there with the best.

It was done right.

Both slow cooked lamb mince and chunks of lamb shoulder were covered in a powerful sauce with real depth of flavour.

And at £8.50, it was far more affordable than our regular Indian versions.

It was spicier too than my chef’s special, a dhall gust.

To say the lamb was tender would be an understatement, and it had retained its meaty juices to boot.

The sauce was the consistency you can try but usually fail to achieve at home, thick but slick, with no pool of oil lingering underneath.

Every now and again you’d come across a lentil, chilli or slice of pepper and the layers of garlic and ginger kept powering through in waves.

Both were so good that we, unusually, devoured the lot with a pale yellow Viraaj rice, dotted with herbs, mushrooms and peas, as well as a slim garlic naan of the right consistency to mop up sauce without folding into a soggy mess.

The desserts seemed to be mostly bought in and ice cream based, so we gave them a swerve, finishing with the tiny square of obligatory chocolate.

Viraaj doesn’t look like an award winner from the outside, and is more old school than other Indian restaurants emerging in Sheffield, but the food is truly worthy of the award. It’s a proper good, Sheffield, curry.

With soft drinks we paid £51.60

Viraaj, Chesterfield Road, Woodseats

Tel: 0114 2509066