Small but perfectly formed, Ashoka has been at the forefront of quality Indian cuisine in Sheffield since 1967 – and is still as strong as ever. Newly refurbished, it’s literally like stepping back in time and on board a 1st class sleeper train in the days of the Raj. Chess board tiles, elegant booths, ingenious lighting (using clay chai cups), family photographs and a great selection of products and paraphernalia from the sub-continent give a real authentic ambience that can only enhance the experience.
We’re greeted and seated by Ashoka’s charismatic owner Rahul and are walked through the new look menu. It’s not the usual novel length menu you might receive in other curry houses but a streamlined yet comprehensive arrangement of speciality dishes and Anglo-Indian favourites. Many of the dishes come with a small narrative on their origin which leads to some pretty intriguing names – such as Hill Station Hot, Taxi Driver Curry and Cricket Pakora.
We’re hungry, so go for a selection of four starters. The black pepper prawn puri was elegantly creamy and gently spiced in a crisp shell; the Seekh kebab had a lovely kick and was smothered in fresh, tasty and sizzling peppers and onions. Our personal favourites were the Cricket Pakoras and mustard pepper lamb chops. The Pakoras hold the ‘Cricket’ moniker as they were made as snacks whenever India played cricket back in the day. Crispy, with a melt in the month centre, we could have literally eaten 50 of them. The lamb chops are up there with the best I’ve tasted. Deliciously spiced, with plenty of meat, they fell off the bone with very little tempting. Overall, this was an excellent start.
For our mains we wanted to sample as much as possible – so Rahul kindly agreed to provide half portions of four dishes (they will do this on occasion, depending on how busy they are). Their top seller, the caramelised Kashmiri lamb was superb – medium spiced with tender lamb and a sticky onion based sauce. The Kolkata Karai, a traditional Apna style dish, was fragrant with ginger and a great green chilli punch. Our seafood option, the Keralan coconut prawn curry, gave a real taste of southern India with a devilishly spiced yet rich sauce. The crowning glory, however, was the Taxi Driver Curry. The dish is named after a local cabby that fancied eating his own creation and kept coming back. This very special ensemble comprises of minced lamb and chicken tikka with a serious smack of garlic and chilli. Believe me, it’s awesome.
We have an abundance of curry houses in our fair city, but there are only a handful of great ones. Ashoka is certainly in the great minority – and on this showing will certainly be around in another 50 years and beyond.
307 Ecclesall Rd, S11 8NX
0114 268 3029
Open 7 days a week from 6pm.