Brick Lane has long since been synonymous with Indian dining. I’ve no idea how many Indian restaurants there are: the street just seems to be lined with them, almost without interruption. It’s arguably the curry epicentre of London, perhaps of the UK, though I wouldn’t want to swear to the latter. As you walk along Brick Lane you get invited to eat at many of these restaurants, with what seem like excellent deals.
But are those deals all that they’re cracked up to be? I can recall in the past being seduced by one only to be disappointed. It’s far better to be swayed by experience, either your own or that of people you trust. Our destination on this occasion was Sheba, one of the more established Indian restaurants on Brick Lane, situated near the junction with Buxton Street and the railway bridge that crosses the Lane.
Sheba is quite deceptive; as you look through the window this 110 seat restaurant doesn’t look at all large, but there’s also a lower level with a significant amount of seating. Decorated predominantly in red, Sheba has a good feel and it’s a very popular restaurant with a lot of bustle and buzz.
We sat and decided what to eat from Sheba’s extensive menu, me with a bottle of Cobra and Phillip with his glass of red wine. Our meal chosen, the starters soon arrived; a dish of two onion bhaji that were nicely crisp on the outside and a great texture internally with some good spice to them. With these we’d ordered the garlic king prawns, which were well cooked and served in a fragrant garlicky sauce. They were each great dishes.
For main courses we had the Bombay mix masala, a mixture of chicken and lamb tikka with tandoori chicken, king prawn and minced lamb cooked in a good rich thick sauce. The meat was tender and well seasoned and the sauce gave a good fragrant spicy heat, supporting the meat and the prawn really well, without overpowering their individual flavours. The chicken bhuna Hyderabadi, tender cubed chicken cooked in a thick spicy sauce with onion and tomato, had a good freshness, together with a little chilli bite and we loved the flavours in it. We also had the lamb Lucknow, a lamb shank slow cooked in a spicy but aromatic thick sauce with carrot. It was rich and warming, the aromatics had penetrated the meat adding to its flavour and it was so soft from the slow cooking that it just fell apart at the touch of a spoon. All three of these were well seasoned and full flavoured dishes.
We supported the meat dishes with a side of channa masala (Phillip’s favourite Indian side dish) and this was a good one in which the chick peas were left with good texture, having been cooked perfectly in their tomato and onion spiced sauce. We also had a good, light, fluffy, garlic nan, which had a light toasted crispness on the outside and nice garlic flavour. Our final side dish was pilau rice, which was perfectly cooked, light and separate; it worked well with the rich sauces on the meats helping us to ensure we mopped them up from our plates.
It was a Thursday evening that we went to Sheba, and they were really busy, understandably, ‘Thursday being the new Friday’ and all that, but the staff and kitchen coped really well, they were helpful and took time to discuss our choices with us. Although there was a fair amount of bustle, they worked really well as a team.
Starters at Sheba come in at around £4.50, mains average out at £12, though most of the curries are about half that price, sides and sundry dishes are in the £2.50 – £3.50 range. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Sheba, the food was tasty and the service excellent, we would happily recommend the restaurant to anyone looking for a great experience at a reasonable price. I would suggest that if you’re planning to go to Sheba in the evening, Wednesday through to Saturday, that you book in advance, or you may be disappointed.