Restaurant review - Backwaters

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Backwaters Indian Restuarant, St Thomas Street, Sunderland

FIRST of all, an admission. I didn’t know Backwaters was there. I remember its predecessor, Naz, but didn’t realise that a new restaurant had opened about seven months ago. A friend passed on a recommendation and son number one and I went along last week.

If you’re wondering, like me, where the name Backwaters comes from, it derives from Kerala, an area of large inland lakes in south India, which also inspires the restaurant’s menu.

And it is a very different menu.

I have to say there was very little I recognised, and I’m a curry veteran of many years standing.

Starters included thairu vada, a savoury doughnut, and kutty idli, a steamed rice cake made from de-husked black lentils and rice. See what I mean?

The food, however, is absolutely terrific. We visited early last Friday night and were welcomed by charming managing director Yohann Chacko like old friends. We looked through the menu while sipping drinks in a bar area. Yohann realised we needed help, and was only too happy to spend some time explaining the dishes.

Once we’d ordered we were ushered through into the large dining area.

We were served with a complimentary spicy soup pre-starter, that Yohann explained was good for the digestion. I’m not sure about that, but it was lovely all the same.

For our starters I’d ordered the mini masala dosa, a thin rice and lentil pancake, partially filled with potatoes and served with three different dipping sauces. The pancake was the shape of a bathroom loofer, but tasted great and was complimented wonderfully by the potatoes and sauces. On Yohann’s recommendation, my son chose the prawn starter – konju porichatu. Tiger prawns were marinated in spices and pan-fried. The prawns were served with coconut sauce and spicy fruit. Gabriel loved the dish.

My main course was a meat platter (erachi vibhavam) which was a combination of chicken, lamb and beef, served with a large portion of rice, vegetables and two sauces.

It was fantastic, full of rich, contrasting flavours. The lamb was my particular favourite. Predictably, Gabriel opted for a hot curry. The kozhi varutharacha curry, a spicy chicken curry with a lovely consistency, served with basmati rice.

We’d ordered appam (lace hoppers) to accompany our meal, which were new to me too. Apparently, they are the Kerala version of a naan bread, but, more delicate and with more flavour.

My son had spotted the dessert dishes, which again were new to us, so we had to try two. I had the thenga ada, which was crepes filled with coconut served with maple syrup, fresh fruit and ice cream. This was delicious, and very filling.

Gabriel had the Backwaters halwa, which was two different puddings made from semolina and mangi, served with pistachio ice cream. It was a meal to remember, with service to match, and I would heartily recommend Backwaters.

Starters are priced from less than £4, main courses start at £7.15 and desserts are from £3. There is a wide choice of wines, which start at just under a tenner with a pint of John Smith’s at £2.60 and a pint of Kingfisher at £3.20.

* For more information, visit www.backwatersrestaurants.com or to make a booking ring 0191 5651100.

Rob Lawson