Papadoms don’t preach about their quirky take on Indian food - but they should.
Those more used to lurid curries with a radioactive glow from all the food colouring could learn more than a thing or two about authentic Indian dishes at this new restaurant.
A road trip to India inspired this venture which focuses on street food and that served at roadside diners, known as dhabbas.
This ethos is echoed in the decor, which is informal yet eye-catching with its retro Bollywood images, Moorish-inspired tiling, feature rickshaw and stripped-back industrial chic fittings.
It’s brought a whole new character to this leisure quarter unit that had stood empty for more than three years.
Previous occupants, Italian chain Ask and Central American-inspired Mex Cantina, have tried and failed to make a success of this site, which seems odd considering neighbours Nandos and Frankie & Benny’s have a constant stream of business.
But Papadoms may just have the recipe for longevity.
As well as bringing some life and a kaleidoscope of colour to the site, its food is also worth writing home about. Starters and mains are out of the window here: it’s all about sharing multiple dishes, much like tapas.
The curry faithful needn’t worry, you can still pick up this staple, minus the colouring. But the dish is inspired by Punjabi style of cooking, rather than Bangladeshi, as in most curry houses.
You can also dip into sections including street food, grill, handi (named after the dish in which the food is cooked) and sabji, in reference to the strong flavours in this section.
Prices start from £4.50 for aloo machi tiki (fresh cod and potato crushed together with coriander, ginger, garlic and onions) to £6.90 for king prawn shashlik (king prawns with peppers, ginger and garlic) - and it’s advised you choose three to four dishes to share.
As in Spanish tapas places, food is served as it’s prepared, instead of all at once.
To tide us over, we were given some vegetable pakoras (£4.50). I won’t make the mistake of not ordering them again. Though they are battered parcels, they weren’t as greasy as tempura, and were bursting with flavour.
Our order didn’t take long to arrive, despite this being the first week of opening. We chose four dishes between us and I couldn’t choose a favourite if I tried. The mhita paneer (£4.90) provided chunk upon tender chunk of cheese, given a kick with a tangy sweet marinade.
A heavier flavour was introduced with the lamb rajastani (£5.90). I’m not a great curry lover, it was my friend’s choice, but this one won me over. Lamb which tore apart at the lightest of pokes was marinaded in a spiced tomato and onion sauce, which made for a lighter take on the curries Brits often associate with Indian food.
For our other two dishes, we chose from the grill section - a chicken tikka (£5.50) and a king prawn tikka (£6.20).
They’re dishes I’ve eaten countless times before, but these were heavier on the hunks of meat with none of the additives.
Like in the foods’ birthplace, dishes are served in tiffins, a layered metal food receptacle that’s twisted apart to reveal your food. It all adds to the unconventional nature of this new addition to Sunderland city centre which looks set to tickle your taste buds beyond the classic curry.