FEELING down in the dumps? Missing a bit of sparkle in life? And hungry?
Try out a dinky little Indian I’ve found on Sheffield’s Abbeydale Road and if you don’t leave with a full stomach, feeling as happy as a sandboy, then I’m an onion bhaji.
One way to cheer yourself up is with good food. Wrap yourself around the Rupyaal’s chilli garlic lamb and see how you feel.
Another is to get a bargain price. Hardly anything on the menu of the Rupyaal is above a fiver so if money is tight you could do worse than come here.
And yet another way is to watch a man enjoying his job. If you could measure Parvez Khan’s enthusiasm in chillis he’d be a vindaloo.
In less time than it takes to eat a chicken pakora you’ll learn that he started out life in the restaurant trade, left to become a taxi driver because his wife wanted to see more of him but after 13 years the yen to have his own place became just too much.
So it was goodbye to black cabs, hello again to brown masala sauce and here he is, bursting with enthusiasm.
The place is small – just seven tables (24 covers) in the old Kumquat Mae veggie restaurant – and is on two levels, four tables at the front, three above. There’s not much in the way of décor, just a couple of tapestries on the walls.
Last time we came here, when it was still veggie, we had to hammer on the door before a customer let us in. A storm was raging and they’d locked it to stop it flying open. Parvez has fixed that.
It’s pretty quiet our night but that doesn’t seem to matter. The place is full of one man’s enthusiasm.
Rupyaal, named after his family’s home village in Kashmir which was drowned by the Mangla Dam (a sort of Pakistani Ladybower and Ashopton), is also the place where Parvez met his wife.
“Poppadoms and pickles are complimentary,” he says, setting the table. Sounds good. “And it’s two for the price of one on Thursdays and Sundays.”
It’s a Thursday. Even better.
Want some more good news? It’s BYO although we are both having an NHS-approved alcohol-free day.
Wow this mint raita has a bit of a kick, we say. “It’s got chilli in. We get a lot of Asians and they go ‘urgh mint sauce!’” he explains.
If I’m sounding a little bit too enthusiastic, well his infectiousness rubs off on you.
Rupyaal opened in January without a fuss and we failed to register it. “I want my food to speak for itself,” says Parvez and we think yeah, yeah but we are to be won over.
The menu mixes tandoori, balti , apna (home-style) and South Indian dishes and both of us fail to choose the two best-sellers: Goan fish curry and Hyderabadi handi gosht (lamb).
But first the starters. I have a tasty shami kebab (£2.20), the Indian burger, full of fresh coriander, while my wife has machli masala (£4.20), marinated haddock in a lovely crisp batter: Asian fish without the chips, although they do those, too.
Parvez, aged 38, has given the night off to a young waiter who had a trial with Yorkshire Cricket Club the next day. “I told him ‘Get yourself ready’ – that’s more important than this restaurant, playing for Yorkshire.”
Good call. That young lad may be a wizard at the crease but you’d have to bowl a googly to stump Parvez’s good nature.
I ask him to choose a balti and he suggests the chilli garlic lamb (£4.95). The meat is tender and generously portioned but what makes the dish is the thick, clinging, rich brown masala sauce, made, I think, with caramelised onions. There are more of them as garnish.
The sauce with South Indian chicken Chetinad (£4.95), a speciality from the state of Tamil Nadu, couldn’t be more different. This one has an oily texture as the coconut milk separates out, while curry leaves and fennel seeds give it what seems to be a meaty tang.
We look for a vegetable side dish and can’t find one on the menu. “Tarka daal? I couldn’t fit them all on,” says Parvez. It’s a little on the runny side for us and £2.95.
We eat it with decently flavoured pilau rice and a large, fluffy, slightly oily and very garlicky (and coriandery) naan bread (£2.20). Indian garlic bread, that’s the future.
We have washed the meal down with a Diet Coke and a sour lassi (£2 together) and finish with mugs of masala chai (£1 each), which tastes of cardamom.
It’s been a lovely meal and all credit to chef Raaj, from Madras, or as it now called, Chennai.
Parvez, who will if you want take you down a memory lane of old Indian eateries he worked in as a kid, tells us: “I’m enjoying this. It’s hard to contain myself. I am so excited about the restaurant.”
He’s knocked off the cost of the kebab starter and lamb main course because of his special deal so the bill, including drinks, is just £20.10.
For value and taste, I’m pretty excited about this, too.
The Dawes Verdict
353 Abbeydale Road, Shffield S7 1FS.
Tel: 0114 258 4097.
Open all week 5-11.30pm (last orders).
Veggie and vegan dishes. Bring Your Own.
No disabled toilet.