Sultan of Lancaster

Tel: +44 (0)1524 61188
Address: Brock Street, Lancaster, LA1 1UU
Cuisine Type: Indian

The Sultan, set in an exquisite old stone building reminiscent of a church, is something of an institution in Lancaster, as newcomers will notice from the awards displayed in the entrance and cloaks area. The restaurant, which does not serve alcohol, is still regularly packed to its exquisitely decorated rafters every night after more than a decade of trading, and even a weeknight meal calls for a reservation.

From the sweet lassi jugs at £4.50 through the pakora starters (vegetable, potato, onion or mushroom, all around the £3 mark) to the wide range of Indian cuisine styles that make up the mains (£8-£13), it’s easy to see why this restaurant is popular. Everything is cooked perfectly, everything is overflowing with flavour, everything is just the right amount and, in such an atmospheric setting, it’s the perfect Indian restaurant.

And to call the Sultan Indian is not to stray wide of the mark. South Indian dishes such as Madras and Vindaloo appear alongside tasty Moglai and Masala offerings, as well as less obviously well known dishes on the specials menu.

The potato pakora arrived with a hefty portion of standard carrot-cucumber salad. We made the mistake of not ordering the proffered selection of chutney, relish and pickle – the pakota and our naan bread (plain or garlic are available) lacked anything juicy.

One of my companions ordered a salmon masala – I’d had one in another Indian restaurant just a few nights earlier, so opted instead for a chicken moglai, the better to taste the sauce. I couldn’t remember ever having tasted it previously. Moglai cooking, originating from the Moghul empire, is of medium strength and made with lentils, giving a creamy, textured sauce that still finds space for flavour and spice. The choice proved perfect. For the record, the salmon was no less superbly cooked.

The specials menu features less well-known dishes like Kashmiri Kofta, a minced lamb curry from western India with spring onion and peppers in a “very rich” sauce, alongside house specialities like the “Sultan Balti Special”, a curry cooked in a wok using coriander, fenugreek and lemon. Many of these options come with copious chilli symbols – but our waiter advised that we could select the level of spiciness to suit our palates.

For vegetarians, as ever Indian food is a boon – there is at least one vegetarian option in every section of the menu.

Restaurants in Lancaster come and go, but the Sultan remains the most reliable Indian choice in the city.