Is it possible to travel back in time? You could look at some John Bulmer photographs of the North. Alternatively, you could drive to Barnsley perhaps with its Saturday afternoon shopping centre populated by walking adverts of the results of ignoring NHS advice on smoking, eating the wrong foods and taking inadequate exercise. A more effective method would be to take a trip to the Nobin Indian restaurant in Hazel Grove. We had been once before when we were served a Chicken Rogan Josh cunningly disguised as two dead pigeons in a can of Campbells’ condensed tomato soup. Ever since we had wondered whether all their diners were taken in by the décor of cleanliness and food hygiene awards.
Any way that was the Eighties and this is now and we wanted something quick on Sunday night after dropping off YS and RDIL at Stockport station. As it turned out our timings were wrong again , this was 1973.
Since our last visit, in perhaps 1988, the restaurant has been madeover in an “interesting” colour scheme of black and red and we have heard a number of people say how much they enjoyed the Nobin. ( what does Nobin mean anyway? Full marks for originality. A quick Google suggests that Nobin may be a first name in Bangladesh)
There were not many people in the restaurant. But it was still early on a Sunday evening and, unlike many other south Indian curry houses, the Nobin has no Sunday “All you can eat” or buffet options to drag the cost-conscious punters in. Service was fine, drinks brought and menus provided after a considerate suggestion to use another red and black padded booth as an over-active heater above the one we originally chose had made sitting there uncomfortably warm. The menu looked similar to many current Bangladeshi curry houses with lots of additional House Specials, Signature Dishes and the curiously titled Fish Pool. But we opted to eat “Old School” with starters of Onion Bhaji and Shami kebab, Chicken Dhansak and a blast from the past , Chicken Tikka Ceylon. We also selected a side order of Aloo Gobi, one pilau rice and a plain naan, Oh and pint of cobra and coke (note the deliberate omission of indefinite articles in a patronising attempt to describe the waiter’s accent)
The starters were brought to the table in short order and OH pronounced her Onion Bhaji a good attempt, I was a little less impressed with the Shami Kebab which was a bit limp and lacking spice. I should have known better than to order a dish that shares at least part of its name with a similarly characterised Director of Liberty. The garnish, as Michel Roux jr may have said, lacked finesse with a substantial slice of raw white onion on top of some cucumber.
On to the main courses. YS likes to refer to a curry as a “Cludge”. (I don’t know why, but then I don’t understand chrimbo, timbo, snags or corrie either.) These curries could best be described as sludges. Thick gravies with no real sense of any spices or herbs that made them up. No cumin, cardamom pods, mustard seeds or fenugreek, just spicy sludges in almost puréed form. This was back to the old days of the Seventies when the majority of curry houses maintained 3 vats of sauce in their kitchens. One yellow, one brown and one red. These formed the basis of all the curries on the menu. On order, one Chicken Bhuna, right, that’s two scoops of the brown sauce on to a few bits of precooked chicken and garnish with more onion. You get the idea.
The naan was good and the rice OK. I would not order the Aloo Gobi vegetable side dish again though as it did not strike me as one cooked to order; the cauliflower was mushy and the potato, well, what potato?
This all reads a bit negative but as the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts, I would actually go back, if only to recapture my loon clad youth , dining out for less than 50p on Albert Road , Southsea in 1973. The pleasant surprise was that the pricing of the food and drink is also in atime warp with the bill at just over £30. Where else could you enjoy pint of ice cold Cobra for £3.10 !