The Darjeeling, Huntingdon -

IF you take a short walk from Huntingdon Market Square, out towards the north end of the High Street, you will find nestled in amongst the myriad estate agents offices a gem of an Indian restaurant called The Darjeeling.

The restaurant is owned by Raj Subhan, who took over his family business about two years ago, and set about turning it into the well-run restaurant that it is today.

The frontage to the building is quite understated, but once inside, the restaurant is large with room for between 60 and 70 covers at a time. The decor is pared back and tasteful, and quite different from the usual psychedelic wallpaper and fittings that adorn many Indian restaurants. There is also a nice amount of space between tables, so that even when full, you are not wrestling for space with the couple sitting next to you.

The menu is a mixture of classic curry house dishes, interspersed with dishes from the Indian subcontinent, many that you rarely see on the high street. This makes a refreshing change from the generic sauces that are found in so many of the UKs curry houses.

We started with popadums, which were crisp and warm and held the excellent sauces well, allowing the mango chutney to be the star of the show.

Then on to some good bhajis, the onion sticky, with a crunch, and lovely and sweet in the middle.

For our main courses, we went for one of the more unusual dishes on the menu, and one of the old classics. I had the Beef Nehari, which is of Bangladeshi origin. This proved to be a wonderful dish, with aromatic slow-cooked beef, that fell apart to the touch, and melted in the mouth. The sauce was full of punchy ginger and garlic and clean coriander flavours, with the chickpeas that it contained both thickening the sauce, and adding bite to the dish.

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My partner had the Chicken Dupiaza, a dish you will find in most high-street curry houses, but one you will rarely find made as well as this. It contained lovely soft chicken, the sauce yellow with turmeric, and was surrounded by slow cooked onions, then sprinkled with caramelised onions, adding different textures to the dish.

We shared a pilau rice and a garlic naan; the rice was as it should be, clean and fragrant. The naan was excellent, crispy edges from the tandoor oven, with soft dough in the middle and smothered in garlic butter. It was a real treat, and one that we fought over until the last bite.

I very rarely order wine in Indian restaurants, this is for two reasons. Firstly, it is hard to match wine to heavily spiced curries, meaning that flavours are lost in the mix, and secondly because of customers’ preference towards lager, wine lists are usually an afterthought and pretty poor quality. This time though, my partner ordered a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc and was very happy with the citrus laden glass that she received.

We were too full to manage any puddings, but left with a rosy glow and full bellies.

Summing up, the chef can really cook, with service that was both friendly and informed.

This one is a keeper, both for takeaways and eating in!

Rating: 9/10

Price: �20 a head for the works

Nick Markwell