REVIEW: Next level Indian is full of surprises

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Flickering candlelight, service by waistcoat-wearing waiters and a glowing white dining room - it is easy to forget that The Front Room is located next to a Hillsborough tram stop.

The suburb’s newest Indian restaurant - billed as its ‘premier’ one - is full of surprises.

There’s candelabra and real candles on the go, Molton Brown goodies in the tiny bathroom and a concise, compact menu as well as 28 wines on offer.

You have to visit Langsett Road to see the menu, as it’s not yet available online, which is also a handy way of getting people to have a sneak peek inside.

“Some have said that one side of the road is Hillsborough, and this side is more like London’s Bond Street”, laughed manager Nadim Khan, who had just advised us on how to make an authentic, rather than sickly, korma with cashew nut juice.

He has 15 years of experience in Indian restaurants locally - some keen diners may recognise him from Ashoka.

There’s no lack of experience on the team.

Chef Allam Shah Ullah, from Cutlers Spice in Gleadless, is the executive chef and Nadim describes Cutlers as a sister restaurant.

Business partner Robbie Macfarrow, who welcomed us, was many years ago a potwasher in his relative’s restaurant, the much-loved BB’s on Division Street.

Their aim? To elevate Indian food with a fine dining focus.

The tasteful decor gives that impression, and there was certainly plenty of attention paid to niceties such as pulling out chairs and soothing music.

Nadim added: “This is something different for Sheffield.

“Nobody else does what we’ve got at the moment.

“We’ve had a very good response from people and excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.

“Its meant to be like fine dining, at first we thought we might be fine fine dining but we stopped and thought, is Hillsborough ready for that, is somebody going to pay £12 for a starter because it is not Ecclesall Road?

“Our dishes come from different parts of the world, we’ve got some south Indian and because Allam is Bangladeshi we have some Bangladeshi, there are Pakistani dishes because I am from Pakistan.”

The Front Room was previously the Bangla Cottage and at some stage a house, apparently the fireplace left behind was inspiration for its latest moniker.

There are already hopes for little extras - an upstairs dining room, outside shisha for customers and lunchtime opening, as well as exotic dishes such as apricot and chicken balti.

For now we were pleased to see that starters were far from £12 a head.

Crispy, warm poppodoms were 75p a pop, and we had six pickles on our chutney tray for £2.50.

The stand out stars were a thick, creamy mint yoghurt, tangy pineapple and a searing tomato with mixed chillies.

Nadim told us they were all freshly made. ‘That’s why we don’t do lime pickle’, he added.

My other half went for the most expensive starter and his usual, a mixed appetizer at £5.50.

It was presented with a delicate smear of sauce and delivered on flavour, too.

The seek kebab was pure meat and spices, with mouth-wateringly tender chicken tikka and a chunky bhaji that boasted substantial amounts of onion and cumin.

Across the table I’d had another surprise.

My chicken chaat arrived in a parchment thin, buttery bubble of puri with a little hole on top for fork access. It looked stunning.

Once inside the chicken was slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce and delicate spicing.

By now we were impressed, not just with the food but also the dedication to little touches such as warm plates and candle maintenance.

We did have to ask for water twice, but as a fault that is splitting hairs.

‘It’s what you would expect from a good Indian, and then a bit more’, he said, leaning across the table conspiratorially.

His main (£10.95) was the showstopper.

It’s a cliché to say so but the recommended Pakistani dish of lamb handi appeared to have also been slow cooked for so long that the meat really did just dissolve on the tongue.

It was just the right amount of fiery and oily, leaving the tongue blazing. He topped a pillow-like garlic naan with it before it could all be stolen.

I’d been warned that the special Arabian lamb (£9.95) was not spicy, and to make it so would ruin the dish, so I can’t complain about the mildness. The fillet was light, served with arcs of mushroom, in a delicate creamy sauce and fresh coriander.

A saag aloo had rather more spinach than potatoes but was delicious.

Unusually, there are both Indian and English desserts on the menu. I couldn’t manage sticky toffee but he took home a goeey chocolate sponge with mint chocolate ice cream.

It wasn’t exceptional, but who goes to an Indian for pudding anyway?

We would definitely travel four miles out of our own front room to eat here again.

The bill was £48.65, including soft drinks.

The Front Room, 481 Langsett Road, Hillsborough

0114 2853439

The Living Room'Hillsborough'Sheffield

The Living Room'Hillsborough'Sheffield