APROPOS of absolutely nothing the thought pops into my head as to why Fifties singer Ruby Murray should be associated with curry.
It’s Cockney rhyming slang of course, Murray rhymes with curry, and in the manner of Londoners’ slang, the word flips to Ruby so we talk about going for a ruby.
But why Ruby? We don’t talk about going for a Pete or a Bill or a Jennifer.
Did the Irish singer, most famous for hits such as Smile and Le Me Go Lover, have a passion for a pathia or a secret vice for a vindaloo?
Doesn’t matter, really, although I suspect more people can name different curries than Ruby’s hits – and this is a woman who once had five entries in the Top Twenty at the same time.
Small wonder then, it being a Friday night, that I should get that familiar feeling wearing on to finish the evening with a curry. But where to go that we hadn’t before?
Which is why we are walking up to Rubeez (Ruby’s geddit?) at Gleadless Town End, wedged cheerfully between an undertaker’s and a tattoo parlour, and checking if they’ve got a table for two.
Inside the doorway of the slightly shabby front of the blue-painted restaurant is a framed black and white photograph of Ms Murray herself signed “To Tony” with three kisses, although I think she ought to have drawn three chillies.
Did she ever come here? Difficult: she died in 1996 and Rubeez didn’t open until three years later.
Anyway, says owner Shofik Ali, who took over in 2005, the picture was given to them by a customer and the place was named after someone’s daughter, although Ruby isn’t known as being an Asian name.
Whatever. By 8pm the little 38-seater restaurant, which is actually smarter and smaller than it looks from the outside, was full. So it’s obviously a great favourite with the locals for their weekly ruby.
If it’s blue outside, the impression is red within, on the walls and serviettes. It’s the usual long menu with curries all comfortably below the £10 mark. We began with good, crisp poppadoms (four for £2) and a pickle tray (£1.80) which is taken away after the starters, so for that price you’re only renting it.
The pops were great but surprisingly salty which makes you thirsty. Sadly, Rubeez is not authentic enough to run to offering lassi so it had to be lager which always bloats me out.
For starters, a chicken chaat (£3.20) tasted lively while mixed kebabs (£3.50) featured a shami and a sheek, which seemed to be almost identical except in shape – nice, gutsy flavour, though – and an enjoyably crispy onion bhaji.
On to the mains. My wife ordered the fish tikka sizzler (£7.50) which the waiter said was cod although I doubt it, because of the price of cod, and there was a lot of it. “It’s slightly overcooked but I like it,” she says.
My lamb tikka shazani (also £7.50) also came in generous portions and the meat was tender. What makes this dish is the spinach sauce, which adds silkiness, and the high meat-to-sauce ratio.
We have the obligatory tarka daal (£3.20), here soup-like but not unpleasant, decent pillau rice (£2.30) and a meritorious peshwari naan (£.2.30), with that engaging sweetness.
Now it struck me that with Rubeez you get exactly what it says on the tin: a good curry in generous portions for a reasonable price.
I wouldn’t call the curries authentic in the Asian sense – the spicing was broad rather than precisely defined – although they certainly are in the British sense.
In fact people who have made their money in the British Indian restaurant trade are going back to the sub-continent to open places in the style of curry houses from Gleadless to Godalming.
Continuity counts. Head chef Badsha Miah has been here since Rubeez opened.
“We get the more mature customer,” says Shofik as I pay the bill. I’ve had my back to most of the restaurant all night so I look and see a lot of grey hair.
Authentically, Rubeez doesn’t go in for Indian sweets and as we didn’t have a yen for a Venus or Strawberry Goblet straight from the freezer, called it a day after the mains.
We paid £33.30 for food and £6.20 for drinks, totalling £39.50.
We left, to pinch a couple of Ruby Murray’s song titles, with that post-curry Grand and Glorious Feeling and are happy to report we were not Forty Shades of Green the next day.
11-15 Gleadless Mount, Sheffield S12 2LN. Tel: 0114 264 9995.
Open all week 5.30-11.30pm (Fri-Sat til midnight). Fully licensed. Credit cards. Street parking.
My star ratings (out of five):
Ethnic restaurant category.
Do not compare ratings between places of different style or price.