Richard Miller is only half convinced by this restaurant’s menu revamp

I admire anybody with a bit of well-placed ambition, and Harry Khinda – owner of The Crafty Indian in Shipley – has bags of it. In a bold effort to 'do something different' and offer 'something unique' to the locals, Khinda’s given his long-established restaurant a refurb and re-jigged the menu, ditching the likes of ye olde korma and bhuna for the double-header of 'street kitchen' (ugh) and 'craft beer' (double ugh).

For a restaurant looking to move away from late-night curry house tropes I had hoped for more

I know, I know. In the heady days of 2020 this may not sound as groundbreaking as I’m making out, but around here, where your old-school curry gaffs are still a big pull, it probably is. Fair play to the fella. But while there’s promise, there are peeves, too.  

2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Interior
The Crafty Indian gets a makeover outside and in

Things are a touch chilly, for example, in both temperature and welcome. Within seconds of arriving we’re asked, unsmilingly, not if we’d like any poppadoms but, presumptuously, how many we’d be necking. Granted, they might only be 50 pence a pop, but it’s a grabby move, as subtle as the bright pink walls and the kind of chainy technique I’d have thought The Crafty Indian wanted to rise above.

But anyway, the three we get are fresh and snappy, although the assorted dips (£2) – which include a vibrant coriander chutney (love it) and a milky substance akin to strawberry Nesquik (bit weird) – are on the frugal side. 

2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Poppadom
Crispy poppadoms get things underway

From 'roadside snacks', a clutch of crisp onion and spinach bhajis are excellent (£3.50) and a plate of delicate pani puri makes for decent beer fodder, despite the chickpea filling lacking serious punch (£3.75).

2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Onion Bhaji
Onion and spinach bhajis hit the mark
2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Pani Puri
Perfectly puffed-up pani puri

Chicken momos, however, are a no-no. The filling may well be a delightful coming together of minced meat and spice, but getting to it requires dealing with the tepid, uncooked dough encasing it, so we abort.  

So far so middling, and it’s telling, perhaps, that despite the restaurant’s new direction, the meal’s highlight is an old turn from a short and snappy list of 'street curries'. Yep, the dhaba chicken (£7) is a bona fide belter (alluring enough for me to turn a blind eye to the rapidness in which it lands on the table just seconds after the starters are taken away), seasoned liberally, and with a real kick and slow-burning heat.  

A saag paneer, heavy on the greens and light on the cheese, isn’t half bad either (£6), and the warm breads we use to scoop and smear it all (roti £1.75, garlic naan £2.75) are fluffy and fresh.

2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Chicken Momos
Give the chicken momos a miss...
2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Chicken Curry
...but the dhaba chicken is a hit

Side note: if this was a post-pub takeaway, then a dreary salad wouldn’t get a mention, but for a restaurant looking to move away from late-night curry house tropes I had hoped for more than the wedge of shredded cabbage and nubs of aged tomato that £2.25 gets you here. And, while we’re at it, I’m not sure that there’ll be too many folk supping the High Wire at six quid a pint.  

2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Beers
The Crafty Indian does craft beers

Hey-ho. Dessert picks up the pieces, where an apple and cinnamon samosa’s sweet pastry and molten fruity filling (£4.50) is reminiscent of the much-missed McDonald’s apple pie  – but a far better version.

2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Dessert
Apple and cinnamon samosa adds a sweet ending

There are good intentions and a good curry to be found at The Crafty Indian, but things feel a little frayed around the edges. Perhaps it’d be an idea, then, to treat the team to a trip out somewhere beginning with, let’s say, Bundo and ending in Bust, where the service is warm, the food sharp and the returning punters are plentiful.  

The Crafty Indian, 34-38 Bradford Road, Shipley, BD18 3NT  

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2020 18 14 Leeds Crafty Indian Receipt

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 6/10

    Poppadoms 7, onion bhajis 6, pani puri 5, chicken momos 2, dhaba chicken 8, saag paneer 6, breads 7, apple samosa 8.

  • Service 2.5/5

    Bluntly efficient.

  • Atmosphere 2.5/5