4 Narborough Road, Leicester. Tel: 0116 254 4355
On the recommendation of the folks over at thedvdforums.com and in the face of a huge array of choices for Indian cuisine in Leicester, three of us made our way to this eating house, its plain exterior in no way preparing us for the quite mesmerising dining experience that would take place within.
We came well prepared with a raft of wine and Carling Premiers, and from the moment we were sat at our table by the effortlessly charming, deliciously-attired Sarah (more on her later), it was clear that we had made the right choice.
Corkscrew on table within seconds, we began to survey the colossal number of tasty-sounding options ahead of us.
A short time afterwards, lager or wine in hand, Sarah rejoined us to offer her suggestions. Having been accustomed in the past to monotone waiter service with the accent on accruing the management the most revenue possible with the least amount of bother to the staff, it came as a quite wonderful surprise to find Sarah endowed with the most conducive personality and, equally as important, our needs as diners at the forefront of her recommendations.
I give you examples: we were only too keen to request a large number of mains, to which Sarah suggested we should cut out one since there would be too much for us to eat; when we wanted three naan breads, again, she mooted that we might have over-provisioned ourselves, and she volunteered instead that we have three small naans (which were huge - I can only assume the 'standard' naans would be roughly moon-sized).
She also correctly predicted what two out of three of our party were thinking of having, which was uncanny; she suggested a matching third dish for the main course that we might all want to share.
Laid-back service can often be the result of disinterest on the part of the server, but there were no such downsides here. Any requirements were dealt with quickly and with kind smiles.
On arrival the food was perfectly cooked, at the right temperature and accompanied with sparkling cutlery. It's at this point I checked back to the menu: we were paying a fraction of the price I have come to expect from Indian restaurants while the quality was in excess of anything I had ever experienced in the past.
Starters of pakora, tandoori chicken and mutton (as tender as any lamb I have ever tasted, all spiced attentively and resting on a fresh salad bed) and poppadoms paved the way for a selection of fragrant mains, rices with every grain distinct from its neighbour and not sticky or clumped as is often the case, and the hot, doughy naans.
Main dishes came in large balti dishes leaving plenty of scope for the theatre of naan-dipping. There were jalfrezis, tandooris and a balti at our table, among them hot and medium in depth. All were hungrily and excitedly consumed, all the while our conversation uninterrupted by any botheration of either fellow diner (an exceptionally convivial auditorium of cuisine was enjoyed by all) or member of staff. The latter an indication and fine sign of a well-run restaurant.
While our food was without equal in my mind I have no doubt that the restaurant's pantheon of dishes extends far beyond the small number we sampled.
Once dishes were cleared and despite the House's relative compactness compared to the more majestic of Asian outfits permeating the city, we enjoyed a leisurely conversation about Turkey and lunar eclipses, and the north of England, with Sarah. And the grand finale - only witnessed in a select few dining establishments, and guaranteed to please - was when our taxi was ordered for us without haste, yet with perfect timing.
In conclusion, I can reaffirm the verity of all the glowing adjectives used above. Years rather than months have I been in search for the definitive Indian dining experience. It starts with the welcome and it ends in the morning afterglow when the mouth is still fresh with the taste of toothpaste.
And I can say without reservation that, for my friends and I, the holy grail was found at the Jamal Balti House.
Just wanted to put down in black and white my favourite Curry/Balti House in Leicester. Jamals on Braunstone Gate which can be found at the junction of Hinckley Road and Narborough Road. This is a perfect location in the centre of Leicesters vibrant and trendy West End. The area is frequented by an eclectic mix of people from the local Student population to the young professionals to the just plain hungry! The food is invariably delicious and reasonable value. Service can vary between very friendly or professional (mainly depending on how busy they are,I think).The premises are not too big (but, hey, not too small!) and has had a recent upgrade of the decor and is now tastefully traditional. The only part that I could pick fault with is the toilets. You have to venture outdoors slightly to the toilets which some eating partners of mine have commented on. Overall though a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And of course, take your own booze! (I do recommend the King Prawn Channa)