I HAVE good memories of Memories of India from the last time I visited for these pages.

That was seven long years ago when I thought nothing of a midweek curry with a friend.

It was BC, which, of course, stands for Before Children, a carefree period of life when such concepts as ‘spare time’ and ‘disposable income’ existed.

These days, such a treat is a rarity, but with one of my oldest mate’s 40th birthday coming I thought what better way to mark four decades of friendship, than by asking him to review a curry house with me. What a pal.

We have been blessed with two little ones each, both under seven, utterly wonderful, and utterly exhausting.

With some military planning required, and passes from our respective partners signed, we agreed on the Monday night over the October half-term holiday.

You are faced with a choice when entering: to the left to collect takeaway order, to the right to go into the spacious yet cosy restaurant.

Inside, the décor is plush and sumptuous with rich red carpets and Indian art on the walls.

Each table is laid with a crisp, white, patterned table cloth with giant attractively folded napkins.

Orders for drinks were taken and arrived swiftly enough with Leo having a pint of Cobra, while I, as the designated driver, opted for a shandy.

When it arrived thought it was undrinkable, as it seemed to have a massive glug of lime cordial in it so I had to take it back to the bar.

Getting the guy’s attention was a little tricky, but he was happy enough to replace it, apologising for the waitress’s error.

Seats resumed, I was fairly certain she would be there fairly soon to offer the highly anticipated poppadoms and a pickle tray while we perused the extensive menu.

After 15 minutes I was getting kind of restless, especially as we were literally the only customers. Perhaps, there was a rush on the takeaway side of things, but still.

The man who replaced the shandy took over and, from there, things went smoothly.

Before long, we were happily munching our way through a plate of poppadoms, onion salad and raita. (£5.10)

Our starters were brought out swiftly afterwards.

My two onion bhajis, (£3.70) each the size of a small avocado, with cooked perfectly, not overdone and not too crispy or oily.

I thought the salad could have done with ‘zoozing’ up a bit as the shredded iceberg lettuce and chunky of red cabbage was a bit uninspired.

Leo’s starter of tikka chicken paneer (£5.50) was by far the better choice for a starter though.

Somehow, they have combined chicken with Indian cheese and formed it in to cubes before cooking it in a tandoor oven.

It was slightly blackened on the edge, which you might expect but the taste and texture was incredible.

From now on, I will always be looking for this as a starter in Indian restaurants.

Our host graciously allowed us a ten minute break to loosen our belts ahead of the main event, giving us time for our food to settle and catch up with each other.

The mains then arrived and were spread out before us like a feast.

I went for a lamb kurma, (£7.30) which was truly delicious, creamy and coconut-y.

We shared an egg pilau rice, (£3.05) which was also tremendous and was probably a meal in itself.

I mopped up my curry sauce with a potent garlic naan bread, (£3.05) which was chewy and stretchy, if a little scorched in patches, but not so I didn’t enjoy it.

The birthday boy was delighted with his mutton tikka Sri Lanka, (£7.85) which was described as ‘fairly hot’ and had a fiery blend of spices mixed with coconut to take a little of the kick out of it.

Service, other than a bit of a delay at the start, was efficient and friendly, and the food, other than the other patch of char, was pretty near perfect.

Such niggles pale into insignificance compared to quality of the food served here and overall experience.

If you have not been, it is well worth a visit.


Memories of India, 3, Pelaw Bank, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, DH3 3TJ

Reservations: 0191-388-7777

Takeaway: 0191-388-2165

Web: memoriesofindiarestaurant.com

Opening hours: Sun-Thur: 5.30pm-11.30pm; Fri-Sat: 5.30pm-Midnight

Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, Service 7, Value 7, Surroundings 8