I like curry; I like a the Guardian food review recommendation; and I very much like the company of my cousins, Uncle and Aunt. So when the latter proposed a Sunday drinking beer and eating at The Cat’s Pyjamas, recently favourably rated by Jay in the Grauniad, what wasn’t there to like?
It’s unavoidable that the combination of craft beer and Indian street food in this part of the world will bring comparisons to Bundobust, whose first branch is just five minutes down the road. Although here the menu sees the addition of more substantial meat and fish dishes.
They also serve their food on proper plates, with real cutlery. I have no objection to using a plastic fork to shovel up the last scraps of bhel puri from a paper dish when half-cut on fancy double IPAs, but sometimes it is nice to hold a proper knife and fork (then promptly abandon them to scoop everything up with up with a basket of fluffy naan bread...).
Speaking of the beer, I had been promised good things by my Uncle, who had eaten their the week before. Although, clearly our visit had been preceded by some thirsty Loiners and sadly half the choices were scratched off the board, including the tasty-sounding First Chop Mango Pale, that ran out just as we arrived.
In the end I went with a pint of the Wild Beer Lobster Gose - a beer made with cockles and lobsters, seaweed and sea herbs, and seasoned with Cornish sea salt, saffron and star anise. As you can imagine, not a choice for everyone, although the briny, spicy undertones matched up well to the punchy food.
My Uncle's curiosity overcame him and he also ordered a bottle of coconut beer to share, spurred on by the Ewing's enthusiastic love for the tropical fruit. While it smelt unnervingly like Ambre Soliare, it was also strangely delicious; although I heard its sun protection isn't great.
We started with baskets of poppadoms, obviously, with a tray of punchy fresh dips - tomato, mango and an appreciated raita, they haven't stinted on the spice levels here. Followed by sharing platters of tandoori mixed grill - including chicken and prawns - and fiery seekh kebabs packed with flecks of fresh green chilli and served with a zingy green mint chutney.
We also shared a plate of pani puri, little bite sized baskets of crisp dough stuffed with spicy cubes of potato and pomegranate seeds, served with a dish of fiery tamarind water to pour over, before devouring in one with as much decorum as you can muster. (Not much, based on the amount of my Aunt’s Vanish Gold I got through later that evening).
The Ewing’s sea bream was a whole fish grilled in a spice paste of lemongrass, red chilli, ginger and lime and served with a chopped salad and more mint chutney. A decent specimen, nicely cooked to be both crisp and yielding, and at five pence under eleven quid, it was also good value.
Keema mattar, or minced lamb and peas, is a childhood favourite that my mum often used to cook from her battered copy of Madhur Jaffrey. This version was light and delicately fragranced, perhaps a little too underpowered, but served in a generous portion. I also loved the nostalgic fresh pop of peas added towards the end of the cooking time and not boiled until mealy and grey (my Mum’s peas were always perfect).
To accompany our mains we worked our way through the naan menu, from classic garlic and coriander to a great peshwari, stuffed with plenty of coconut-ty filling. I went a bit more outré with the Yorkshire cheese naan, spurred on by Mr Rayner’s words; ‘ordered because it would be rude not to in Leeds, is the sort of thing you order early here, when you have somehow managed to arrive drunk. It’s oily, melted cheese and oven-scorched bread. It’s filth.’
Having managed to arrive not only early, but drunk too, I can also confirm it is filth. Of the highest order; shared with these Filthy Animals. I wouldn't want it any other way.