“ Cuisine: Indian / Address: 261 Ponteland Rd, Cowgate, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne And Wear NE5 3EL / Tel: 0191 286 6621 „
You know those restaurants that you pass all the time but never get round to actually visiting? The Rumana on Newcastle's Ponteland Road is one of those for me. For years I have been vowing to try this Indian restaurant but by public transport it would be a two bus trip and for an evening meal I can't be bothered with all that. However, when Groupon were offering what seemed to be a good deal for the Rumana, we bought two vouchers and arranged to go with friends who agreed to drive.
The restaurant is in the suburb of Denton but is just a ten minute drive from the city centre. It's quite close to several of the airport hotels and a taxi from there would be just a couple of Pounds. Whether because it was a Friday night or because the Groupon offer was pulling in the punters, the restaurant was quite busy when we arrived and the small car park was full. We parked in some spaces by the adjacent petrol station but when one became free in the restaurant parking area, the manager let us know and Andy went to move the car.
When we entered the restaurant we could see immediately that it was quite busy and there were lots of people sitting in the bar area, having a drink and reading the menu. Another party arrived after us and we all stood around waiting for a waiter to attend to us; we were asked to wait a moment and invited to order a drink at the bar which was almost entirely covered with dirty glasses and plates. Fortunately our table was ready before we got a chance to order and we were happy to sit down straightaway as there were no free seats in the waiting area.
There is a main dining area and off this a smaller, slightly raised area, which is where we sat. There was a wall dividing the two areas but "windows" had been created so that you weren't completely isolated from the main dining area. Similarly some fake columns in the main area gave the idea of cosy corners while maintaining the feeling of one big space. Adjacent walls are painted in a variety of bright colours such as aqua, royal blue and orange which sounds pretty shocking and, particularly in combination with the garish carpet which is woven with the name Rumana, it is. In fact almost everything - salt and pepper pots, plates, napkins and even the little bud vases on each table - bears the name Rumana, just in case you forget where you are.
Our drinks order was taken first and then we were left to mull over the menus. The choice is pretty standard for the type of restaurant although there was a page of "specials". One dish that stood out was described as containing a special pink melon and sounded like one of those dishes that's either really wonderful and delicious, or absolutely awful; as I was exceptionally hungry and looking forward to the first Indian meal out in a while, I decided not to risk the disappointment.
I have the vague memory that our starters seemed to arrive in very little time at all but the four of us were catching up and not paying much attention to time. I suppose that had it been too long we'd have been complaining among ourselves. Before the starters arrived a waiter came over to make space for the plates, moving our glasses around and generally fussing which I found quite annoying, especially when he leaned in front of us to do this. Later on when talking to people at another table the restaurant owner repeatedly leaned on the back of my chair, which was also irritating. But back to the food...
Andy and Jill had both ordered the onion bhaji which they declared to be very good. I chose the sheekh kebab and Himself chose the sardines kebab. Mine was excellent: definitely the best choice. The lamb was well cooked and nicely flavoured and beautifully moist. Himself was not so impressed with his starter but I really liked it. The sardines had been minced (or mashed) and formed into patties before being char-grilled; although I thought it tasted more like tuna than sardines, I thought it was delicious.
My main course was the bindi ghosht - lamb with okra. At first I thought it was a bit bland but, actually, it was a 'builder' wasn't so bad after all. I'd have liked to have had both a bit more lamb and a bit more okra but the flavours were pretty good. The real downside with this dish was that it was swimming in oil and I had quite a job to transfer the curry to my plate without bringing an oil slick too. The pieces of lamb were quite small but the meat was still tender and tasty.
Himself chose the lamb Ceylon which was a fairly hot number that didn't sacrifice flavour for heat. This dish was also a bit lean on lamb pieces but, again, the meat was nicely cooked. It was interesting that Andy also ordered a Ceylon dish but his was with chicken and he thought the dish was very dull and tasteless: we wondered if the flavour of the lamb had somehow made that version a bit tastier. Unfortunately Andy left most of his, as did Jill who had ordered the chicken tikka massala. She said hers was very bland and didn't contain much chicken. Looking at the garish red slop I was enjoying one of those rare occasions when I am grateful for having a nut allergy.
Himself and I shared a portion of lemon pillau rice which was lovely and worked well with our main courses. We also ordered two chapattis instead of naan bread; these were larger than expected and a bit too dry but that didn't matter too much when using them to mop up the sauce from our mains.
It was disappointing to see that all the desserts were bought in; in fact I'd seen the whole dessert menu at other restaurants so not only were the desserts bought in, but all from one supplier too. Himself and I decided to share a coconut ice cream which came in half a coconut shell. It was, admittedly, very good. Andy risked ridicule - and got plenty - from our waiter for ordering the punky penguin ice cream so he could take the penguin shaped container and the free toy home for his son.
I wouldn't rave about the Rumana, but I did enjoy my meal (of course, the amount of oil on my main course was a matter for some degree of alarm). It was, though, a tale of two halves with two of our group of four being totally unimpressed with their main courses. There were one or two issues with the service being a little intrusive at times but on the whole the staff members were friendly and prompt to meet requests. Overall, the Rumana is a pretty standard middle of the road "curry house" that you can find all over the place. Clearly it has its regulars who love it but I couldn't say I'd rush back; I would, however, love a lesson in making that lemon pillau!
We had two vouchers that covered approximately half of our bill but the full amount was approximately £84 for four people including drinks (although we actually only had one drink each).
261 Ponteland Rd, Cowgate, Newcastle Upon Tyne