May 16th 2009
IT’S hard to imagine that not so long ago the Bengal Brassserie in York Business Park was severely damaged in an arson attack. In May last year, burglars broke into the popular eatery and, after stealing £5,000 from the safe, set the place on fire. The main dining rooms were seriously damaged in the blaze and the rest of the building was affected by the smoke. But owner Iqbal Chowdhury and his team were determined to re-open. And, after a major refit costing in the region of £150,000, the Bengal Brasserie was back on its feet late last year.
It had been a while since we dined here, so we decided to check out the new look. It’s modern and minimal, smart and chic. Black leather chairs, “marble” tables and light-coloured walls give it a very contemporary feel. And the background music is as it should be – in the background.
Our children, Elliot and Zara, were impressed with the lighting behind the mirrors which changed colours every few minutes. This kept them amused for a while – just as well as we had left their Nintendo DSs at home.
We’d booked a table for 6.15pm on a Bank Holiday Saturday and, although it wasn’t particular full, you could tell by the sheer numbers of waiters hovering around that they predicted a busy night. The staff were polite, helpful and attentive – but a bit too attentive at times. When they had nothing immediate to do they seemed to pace up and down between the tables, which is off-putting.
It’s nice to have a clean table, but it’s a bit much when a waiter leans right over you while you are eating just to scoop up a plate with a few crumbs on it. As with most Indian restaurants, the menu at the Bengal Brasserie is extensive. After taking what seems like an age to decide on a dish, you turn another page and find something you’d like better.
For starters (or armabo as it’s called in the menu) there are the usual suspects such as chicken tikka, onion bhajis and king prawn puree, but there were also more unusual dishes such as prawn chotpati (tiger prawns marinated in herbs, spices, butter and deep fried); murg-e-dilruba (chicken breast wrapped in cheese) and nehar-e-kebab (mashed potatoes mixed with red lentils and coriander then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried).
All sounded exceptionally good, but in the end I chose wisely with murg bunda (£2.95) – deep-fried chicken in a crunchy, but delicate, pastry roll. It was a lot like a Chinese spring roll, only lighter. My wife, Jayne, and children Elliot and Zara decided to skip starters. They were happy with a plate of wonderfully crunchy poppadoms and chutneys (45p each for the poppadoms and £1 for the chutney tray). There are dozens of main courses to pick from: old favourites such as your bhuna, madras, dopiaza and patia (all reasonably priced at £5.55, excluding rice); and substantial fish and tandoori dishes, plus a huge number of house specialities.
I opted for the Bengal special chicken patil curry (£8.95). This delicious traditional dish is made up of very small pieces of chicken cooked with a mixture of spices. Simple, but effective.
The portions at the Brasserie are generous. My bowl never seemed to empty; it was like the Indian version of the magic porridge pot. For her main course, Jayne chose korma satrangi – a selection of fresh vegetables covered in the traditional mild creamy sauce.
Like most Indian restaurants, the Bengal Brasserie caters well for vegetarians. We shared two huge peshwari and garlic naans (£2 and £2.20 each), pilau rice (£2.20) and mushroom pilau (£2.50).
The children, who are no so keen on curries, were happy with French fries and a share of the naans and rice. They also sampled the korma which met with their approval.
For dessert, I wanted something light, so chose traditional Indian ice-cream, which was very good, while the children had went for the Punky penguin toys filled with vanilla ice-cream.
With drinks and a coffee, the meal came to just over £52, not bad considering the high quality of the food and the surroundings.
A return visit it definitely on the menu.