Stepping inside The Sultan of Lancaster is a little different to entering most Indian restaurants.
It is housed within what used to be a church and the owners have retained the ornate structural features of its former life.
My friend Paul, on a visit from ‘darn sarf’ – Reading to be precise – had certainly never seen anything like it and commented on the magnificent ceiling and ornate pillars.
Also, with us were my girlfriend Becky and colleague Gayle, both of whom had sampled the restaurant’s delights before.
We received the customary friendly welcome and were shown to our seats.
The restaurant was pretty busy, as you would hope for on a Friday night.
The pleasant burr of chattering diners filled the vast main room along with the sounds of traditional Indian music.
Our drinks order was taken promptly. I chose a sparkling elderflower juice (£2.10), while Becky went for a traditional yoghurt-based lassi (£2.20).
Paul opted for a mango juice (£2.20) and Gayle plumped for an orange juice (£2.20).
We studied the menu which includes all the traditional dishes you would expect at a good Indian, including samosas, kebabs, biryanis, baltis and vindaloos.
All dishes come with either a naan bread or pilau rice, so we decided to share two of each.
I went for a chicken masala, lured by the menu’s promise of a “special taste” and was not disappointed. It was spicy, but not too much so, and the flavour of the tomatoes came through nicely.
There were generous sized pieces of chicken and the dish was the just the right size to leave me feeling pleasantly plump.
Paul was similarly happy with his chicken rogan josh, a rich, medium strength curry cooked with green peppers, tomatoes, fresh herbs and spices.
The girls both opted for the shai korma.
This very mild curry was accompanied by a delicately spiced sauce including fresh cream, coconut, nuts and saffron.
Both agreed it was a good option for those who do not like their curries too hot.
The naan breads were cooked just right – nicely ‘fluffy’ and not too greasy.
And there were no complaints about the rice, although I would have appreciated an option of boiled rice, which is not listed on the menu.
It was difficult to fault the quality of the food, but if I was to suggest one improvement perhaps The Sultan’s Special Dishes menu could be a little more adventurous.
There are one or two more unusual dishes like the salmon masala, but others like the balti and tikka masala are main attractions at most curry houses.
That is only a minor criticism however, and another thing in The Sultan’s favour is the impeccable service. Both on this occasion and previous visits the staff were attentive and courteous, and the service speedy.
And in a city where there is so much good food to choose from, that really counts for something.