Thinking back, it must have been 30 years ago when Susan and I, fresh with the knowledge of what a good curry should taste like, took our two young nephews on their first outing to an Indian restaurant for an evening meal. We parked our tangerine Datsun Sunny on piece of wasteland in a dodgy neighbourhood and risked life and limb crossing a very busy road to experience a taste of Asian cuisine. The boys enjoyed the meal and we were delighted that we’d shown them something new. Our delight was short lived. When we returned to the car it was minus a side window, a Philips stereo cassette radio and, most precious of all, Sue’s new Suzanne Vega tape!
The eye-wateringly vivid Datsun has long since gone but not our desire for Indian-style food. When an opportunity to dine at The Elaichi arose we jumped at the chance to try Bangladeshi cuisine.
The Elaichi is on Bridge Street in Belper, Derbyshire. It’s easy to locate, is close to the train station and a few paces from a lot of safe parking. The ground-floor, with it’s comfortable seating, houses the stylish bar area where we ordered our drinks. Several diners had already gathered waiting for their table, chatting and drinking, giving the bar a lively atmosphere.
We were quickly escorted to our table in the bright and contemporary dining area on the first floor and took our first look at the extensive menu. Choosing was going to take some time. Along with the many Bangladeshi dishes on the menu are a wide range of other northern Indian favourites.
For my starter I chose the prawn puree. A warming dish of prawns cooked in fresh herbs and spicy sauce served with a fried flat bread and a fresh salad. It was a pleasant introduction to the sometimes complex spice combinations of Indian cooking. Susan selected the mixed platter. This was a nibblers delight of chicken pakora, aloo pakora, a meat samosa and an onion bhaji. Both required the accompaniment of a very delicate, cooling raita of yoghurt and mint.
The choice for our mains was as different as chalk and cheese.
Sue chose the tandoori butter murghi; chicken marinated in spices, ginger and yoghurt, cooked in a tandoor and served with a mild chilli, creamy sauce and toasted almonds. I went all out for the lamb tikka chilli bhajee served with a madras dall samba. The lamb was coated in a rich, hot, chilli and tomato sauce garnished with fresh green chillis and coriander. The madras dall samba is a vegetable dish made with tamarind, tomatoes and on this occasion potatoes. It has a sweet, spicy taste and is perfect with the tikka. We shared a dish of pilau rice and 2 naans, one garlic and the other a peshwari. The naans were light and full of flavour; the peshwari one had a hint of coconut along with the fruit.
There’s an extensive wine and beer selection and for a little treat you can get a 20cl bottle (a big glass) of prosecco at a reasonable price.
The portion sizes are generous and so it was with some reluctance that we declined the desserts but I couldn’t resist a quick peek at the menu. Before me lay temptation: pistachio kulfi, my favourite. Kulfi is made of sweetened milk that has been simmered for hours to reduce it to a thick sauce then traditionally flavoured with rose water and pistachio and then frozen. We ordered one kulfi and two spoons; bliss!
The Elaichi is open in the evenings, 7 days a week and although we visited on a Wednesday it was not quiet. The menu has enough variety to make you want to return to try something different that won’t cost the earth.