STRADDLING the furthest corner of Durham’s North Road, Alishaan was like a warm beacon on a toe-curlingly cold October night.
Our meal started off with a couple of poppadoms and chunky white pots of flavour-packed dips while we browsed the menu.
It’s Indian food – specifically Bangladeshi – but not as we know it, with modern dishes sitting alongside much-loved classics.
I was impressed by the range of fish, seafood and duck dishes on offer, with a few options that even seasoned scoffers like my friend and I hadn’t seen.
Mussels are not something you often see on the menu at an Indian restaurant, so I went for those, while him opposite had a mixed kebab.
Plump and simmering in a lentil broth, my mussels were delicately flavoured and the perfect appetite whetter.
His mixed kebab was a winning combination of chicken tikka, lamb tikka, sheek kebab and onion bhaji, served with a vivid green but subtly-flavoured yoghurt dressing.
For the main course, I had a mixture of meats crammed into a tandoori cocktail.
My pal stuck with his tried and tested route of something mild with chicken, but dared to be a little different by shunning the usual korma for a nawabi murg – a heady mix of almond paste, mango and yoghurt.
We hadn’t bothered with side orders, but the ever-helpful staff recommended something to mop up the delicious-sounding sauce-based dish, so he went for a keema naan and I got involved with a side dish of sag aloo.
My chunks of meat sizzling on a tandoori grill were perfection, helped along by a generous portion of spinach and potatoes, made a little spicy at my request.
It was love at first bite for him and a quick tester mouthful revealed he’d chosen well – his dish was rich, creamy, but not overpowering and studded with soft chunks of mango.
Served with a side of fresh and flavoursome vegetables, it disappeared in minutes and the naan was also a revelation – fresh and packed with proper meat.
Desserts are variations on a theme of ice-cream and it might be nice to see more traditional Indian offerings to join the pistashio-topped kulfi, which we shared.
Nice touches included being asked if we were ready for our main courses, pleasant chit chat from the waiters and hot wet wipes to repair any damage before dessert.
With soft drinks, our meal came to just over £50.