Entering the Leeds Eastgate chain of Akbar's, I immediately noticed the lack of space compared to its sister branches in Bradford and Manchester - it was packed.
The bar was crowded, uncomfortably warm, and offered no chairs for guests. We were told to order drinks while we waited for our table. We ordered a cider (£3.95) and a Fanta (£2.10).
The drinks came quickly, and soon afterwards the waiter told us our table was ready. I was surprised; we'd only been waiting fifteen minutes, and I couldn't see a free table in sight. We were seated in a secluded corner, giving us more space than I thought we'd get.
We ordered papadums (75p each) and a pickle tray (£1.50) which came in no time. The chutney fetched a mouth-watering tang, the onions were sharp and sapid, and the lime pickle was acrid as ever. They even re-filled our tray after we'd emptied it. A nice touch.
For mains, I opted for the chicken madras (£7.95) with pilau rice (£2.65) and a family garlic naan (£4.50). The waiter told me that a family naan was "too big", measuring 2½ feet. I told him he was wrong.
The curry came in a cast-iron Balti dish, garnished with green chillies and a coriander leaf. It lacked in sauce yet was full-bodied, with chilli powder and garlic stealing the limelight. A hefty portion of tender chicken complimented the already wholesome meal. Akbar's also offer nineteen vegetarian curries, so everyone is spoilt for choice.
If you want to keep it Indian, order a 'lassi' (glass £2.45, jug £5.95), which is a yoghurt-based drink perfect for cooling your taste buds if you've found your curry was a little hotter than you expected.
The dessert choice was cake or ice cream, or a combination of the two (mostly under £3).
The food was mouth-watering. The service was mediocre. The overall experience was mystifying.
From my previous visits to other Akbar's, I was convinced that they were the best curry house in the UK, but the Leeds Eastgate chain of Akbar's let the side down. I left feeling convinced that I could've found a better curry elsewhere. If it wasn't for the family naan, and the fact that I have a soft spot for Akbar's, I don't think I'd be overly convinced to come back. I can only hope that this restaurant had an off night.
Akbar's can be found at: 15 Eastgate, Leeds, LS2 7LY.
They're open 5pm - 12am daily, and you can visit their website here. To book a table, call: 0113 245 6566
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