Striding down King Street in Alfreton on a dark Monday night we were greeted by the drifting aroma of charcoal ‘Ah the naan bread oven is fired up’ we thought. Cooking in a traditional Bangladeshi way has always been the priority at the Sanam and for the past 23 years they have stuck to that premise. Over that period of time they have seen restaurants come and go, some change hands and also weathered two recessions to boot. Their philosophy of providing quality food at a fair price has stood the test of time and they are immensely proud of their track record.
Seated snugly in the spacious dining room we sipped a pint of Mongoose and perused the menu. Wanting to wander from our usual choices we asked the owner Iqbal, who is a very friendly front of house chap, to give his brother who is head chef instructions to surprise us with the food. With the customary poppadoms and pickles we sat chatting and could hear the clatter of dishes as our meals and takeaways for others were being prepared.
Our starters consisted of a sample of three dishes – Chicken Achari, described on the menu as being marinated in the chef’s special Achari spices and cooked in a tandoor uses the Achar pickle, traditionally a centrepiece to the Indian family dinner table. Scott particularly liked this dish and I struggled to get a share of it.
The Chicken Pakora really took my fancy. Tender pieces of chicken cooked in a light batter and beautifully spiced. I asked Iqbal how he would eat these at home and he replied that he likes them cold, normally as a snack eaten with the fingers. “Would you use the dips?” I asked. He replied in the negative “but if you do, you just dip them lightly in. It’s your choice. We provide the dips because many like them”. With Shasli kebab (chicken and lamb) to accompany the other dishes we settled into our evening; the Mongoose flowed keeping us well watered.
In his early years, chef worked at a top Indian restaurant in Derby and was trained in the art of blending spices by a leading international chef which explains the extensive and mouthwatering menu now on offer at the Saman. There’s everything on the menu you’d expect but I advise straying onto the ‘chef’s specials’ section if you fancy something a little more exciting. which is what Iqbal provided for us.
The Mirch Masala dish was full of strips of stir fried chicken with peppers, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and a subtle tweek from the chef to add that special zing. We loved the way the ginger was delicate in flavour and didn’t overpower the meal. The blend of spices ensured a very balanced flavour.
The Handi Gosht, is a very traditional dish consisting of diced lamb cooked with curry leaves, green coriander, garlic, onions and tomatoes. Of the two this dish came out slightly ahead and again it was a bit of a tussle between us to finish it off.
The sauces at the Sanam are rich in flavour and there’s plenty of substance to them. I have been to places where the ridiculously thin sauces run around the plate and that’s no good. We experienced good portions of quality food at Sanam, prepared carefully and properly cooked by an experienced chef.
What about that charcoal smell that we first smelled on our way? Well, this is also where the Sanam is streets ahead. Their naans are properly cooked and not anaemic little undercooked triangles. These are the proper job. I happened to mention that I liked Peshwari and out one came. Normally the coconut overpowers the naan but I was happy to see once again the balance of flavour.
Everyone at the Sanam did us proud and we had a super evening. We always feel that you get what you pay for where food is concerned and the Sanam has that fine balance of quality food at a very reasonable price. They don’t go in for the buy one get one free philosophy but provide top drawer food in the right way. It was only on the way home that we realised that we had been there three hours. How time flies when you are enjoying yourself.