Rosie O'Brien finds that the tasting menu isn't quite to her tastes at this legendary vegetarian Indian
Food, and therefore my job, is inherently emotional. There’s so much at play when you cook for others, be it in a restaurant for paying punters or in your own home, you desperately want people to like it – but in one, your livelihood depends on it too.
In the same vein, restaurant critics do it not because they want to regurgitate their meal as bile-tinged words on a page, demonstrating that their wit is even drier than their chicken may have been. We do it because we care, because we want the business to be the best it can be. I provide honest advice for you, dear reader, to ensure you’re parting with your cold hard cash in the most deserving places, but also to provide fair and honest feedback to restaurants and genuinely hoping they grow as a result.
So when I eat out for a review, it's my sincerest wish that it’s going to be stonkingly good and I can write them a rave. In reality, life isn’t that simple, it’s not always going to be the best, but saying that can be tough – particularly when it’s a family-run place, with all the history, tradition and emotion that entails.
Dear old Kaushy herself still makes their signature garam masala mix to this day
Prashad is one of those restaurants that I’m not allowed to be nasty about. A suburban Indian restaurant that has its roots in a deli opened by Kaushy and Mohan Patel a quarter of a century ago. A vegetarian establishment with a beer menu curated by its cooler, next gen cousin Bundobust. A kitchen where dear old Kaushy herself still makes their signature garam masala mix to this day. Everything about its identity is deftly crafted to make criticism look graceless, churlish, plain mean-spirited. This may begin to explain why it’s minutes to go until my deadline, and uncharacteristically I still can’t quite get this one down on paper.
When done right, tasting menus allow you to sample the extent of a chef’s versatility without ordering enough dishes to feed a rugby team. When not done right, you risk only displaying a sliver of the restaurant’s potential, leaving you wishing you’d just ordered full versions of the dishes you’d liked best. The four paragraphs of preamble I put you through up there has probably prepared you for the following announcement: Prashad’s tasting menu unfortunately falls under the latter.
Prime example of this? The poppadoms were excellent, to the point of and outshining some of the fussier dishes – crisp shards of savoury delight paired with chutneys that sang with delicate flavours and spices, including a mango one that’s worlds away from the orange gloop you slop out of a jar when you order a takeaway, with just a hint of tartness, plus a stunningly good mint yoghurt that was somewhere between a classic raita and an aioli.
The Sanku was basically a samosa as a Cornetto; filled with paneer and soy, complimented by delightfully vibrant fresh garden peas and surrounded by lovely samosa pastry, as oily as you’d expect. Thing is, a Cornetto is frozen and so stays together when you bite into it; this is hot and squishy inside, and does not come with a plate. 1 of seven courses down and our dinner table looks like Jackson Pollock let loose down the fresh produce aisle.
Much less presentation-conscious was the Pattra (marinated leafy parcel); something like a take on spinach and ricotta cannelloni, but leaves instead of pasta. Much tastier than it looks, but squandering the show-off potential of the tasting menu format by being served with the same green sauce I’d dribbled over the tablecloth last course.
Repetition meant the next few courses are also a bit of a blur: I remember an upmarket version of that Bundo favourite, Chaat, being fresher and lighter than its cosmopolitan counterpart, glistening jewels of pomegranate extinguishing the heat that had been building over the last few dishes. The thinnest doilies of dosa crepes with rich soup for dipping. Naan sticks set up like kindling, a blaze of hot kofta, and a bed of precisely spiced rice, only let down by a strange sun-dried tomato sauce that’d be more at home on a pizza, not here. Take that out and it’s a winner.
Three hours and six courses later – pudding - there were times I never thought we’d make it to the promised Shrikand – hung yoghurt with pistachio and cardamom. How does one hang a yoghurt? I was informed at the end of the meal, it’s literally hung in a muslin cloth, the whipped into submission to make it soft and creamy. I could (and would) eat this for breakfast lunch and dinner, it was stunning, truly delicious.
I desperately want to say there were moments of real brilliance at Prashad, because that would mean I could give it the glowing review I so want to – reflecting the love and warmth this family so obviously put into the place, but I can’t quite get there. There were flashes of inspiration, but all too shortlived as part of the tasting menu, and lost among the procession of dishes and green sauce.
The best way I’ve found to describe it while grappling with my feelings with a few minutes until deadline is that it was unequivocally, emphatically...fine. As a restaurant I can’t really fault it, but as for the tasting menu, I’ll take a starter, main, and side any day.
All reviews are conducted unannounced, paid for in full by Confidentials.com, and independent of any commercial relationships.
Total - £122
7 Course Tasting Menu - £46 per person
Poppadoms with Chutney Selection - £3.8
Voss Sparkling Water x2 – £6.7
Camden Gentleman’s Wit 330ml - £3.9
Schneider Alkoholfrei 500ml - £3.9
Long Island Spiced Tea - £6.95
Pomegranate Mint Sling (non-alcoholic) - £4.75
Address: 137 Whitehall Road East, Drighlington, BD11 1AT
Poppadom & Chutneys 7, Sanku 7, Pattra 5, Kopra Pethis 6, Bhel 6.5, Massala Dosa 7, Kofta 7, Shrikand 8.
Reverential to the point of deferential and could loosen up a bit, knowledgeable and passionate about the food though. Scored down because the tasting menu format didn’t work for me.
Downstairs buzzing and alive with the Saturday night Drighlington crowd if you can imagine such a thing; upstairs a bit like your grandma’s front room – but not in a bad way.