Don’t be fooled by the facade of Alishaan.
I’d driven past it countless times thinking it was just a take-away. Wrong!
Though it looks pokey from the outside and is billed as a cafe, inside it’s a gleaming new restaurant with trendy wallpaper feature walls, mood lighting and gleaming white table settings. It’s all very tasteful.
Hungry take-away punters did indeed filter through the door on our visit but the use of a partition means it doesn’t take away from the restaurant feel, a spin off from its big brother in Durham City which is an equally stylish affair.
Hands up, I’m not the greatest lover of Indian food – I often find it sickeningly rich and overly enhanced with colouring. But Alishaan won me over.
The menu is easy to pick your way through, with each dish well explained, but the staff were more than happy to also make their recommendations for those struggling to make a final choice.
Sections include tandoori, balti, poultry, duck, lamb, fish and king prawn, as well as thali options, which are an Indian version of tapas offering a pick ‘n’ mix of exotic morsels.
To start, I chose the tandoori scallops, a notoriously expensive choice, but this version was more purse-pleasing than most at £5.45.
A hearty portion was soon winging its way to our table. The Indian spices enhanced the seafood, without detracting from its natural delicate flavour.
I must have expensive tastes when it comes to food – my main choice of zaffron king prawn was the priciest on the menu at £17.95, but it did already come with rice.
Most of the mains come in at around the £12/£13 mark.
It was a beautifully-presented feat of Eastern cooking with a modern twist.
The prawns were huge knuckle-dusters enveloped in a fresh but flavoursome blend of saffron and spices.
The swirls of sauce around the dish looked almost too pretty to be destroyed, but it had to be done.
We’d ordered a peshwari naan to share (£2.45) but meal portion size was just right, leaving the side dish barely touched.
Service too was spot on –helpful but not too in-your-face, and there was a good selection of wines to choose from other than the usual suspects of pinot grigio and his menu stablemate sauvignon blanc.
Takeaway prices are cheaper than the restaurant version and I’ve heard from a fellow food-lover that the Thursday and Sunday special meal offers particularly good value.
On these nights you can pick up a starter, main dish, rice dish and ice cream or coffee for £9.95.
There’s also an eat-in early bird menu from 5pm to 7pm for £9.95.