I have a vivid memory of walking through Lancaster one day and smelling a glorious smell of curry. I looked around to see if a new restaurant had opened, but there was none. I was puzzled but then I realised a few Indian women in colourful saris had walked past and the smell was from them. Another day we were having a picnic with our two small children in a local park when we walked past a large extended Asian family sitting on rugs. An array of bowls of curries, rice dishes, naan bread was something to behold. Our dried up sliced pan sandwiches paled in comparison.
When I was having my daughter I used get longings for an "Indian". I remember my ex telling me that we had to cut back on takeaways as we were spending a fortune we could ill afford. The grand total of £7. I don't remember if that was each or for both of us. But it was expensive as we used go to one of the best Indian restaurants in the city.
When I returned to Ireland what was offered up was muck by comparison and rapidly turned me off Indian food for years. I couldn't bear the luridly coloured, overwhelmingly spiced dishes with an oil slick across the top for effect.
Then the same daughter who was intravenously fed Indian food decided to go to university in Manchester. If I say "The Curry Mile" you probably get my drift. My love affair had begun all over again.
A few months ago I was invited to a tasting menu in an Indian restaurant nearby. I was curious as unlike a lot of restaurants round about, it had stood the test of time (quite a feat in recent times) so it must be doing something right. The food was delicious and the spicing very well-balanced, but what stood out for me was the presentation. It was delicate and beautifully judged. We had matching wines by Wines Direct and as the representative from WD was at our table we got well-filled glasses. I was so disappointed not to be able to take photos as I had brought my camera but it was really dark and a flash would have ruined the shots.
I had been trying to get back for a meal for ages but every time we organised to go something happened. Last night we finally made it. We had the early bird. It was really good value for money, €60 a couple, for three courses and a bottle of wine. So often the wine in these sort of offers is plonk but this one was anything but. It was a crisp but delicately fruity Sauvignon blanc.
We were sent out a delicate amuse bouche, pretty as a picture. Please excuse the quality of the photos as the light was rapidly fading and were taken with my phone.
It was a fish croquet with a coconut topping and a mint and coriander purée. It certainly amused my bouche!
I went for the samosa to start. Deliciously hot and spicy. No holds barred and stuffed with filling. An accompaniment of chickpeas was served cold. I would have preferred it warmed but that's just me. I loved the presentation here too.
My friend had the keema kebab with fenugreek, cardamon and cottage cheese dip. We both loved this lean and delicately spiced lamb.
For mains, which I could not photograph as it had got dark, I had lamb rogan josh. This is my indicator test for the quality of ingredients used in an Asian restaurant. Usually the lamb is mutton and it is too strongly flavoured, tough, grizzly and fatty. Here it was anything but. I loved it and the sauce which, while tomatoey was not oily or over flavoured. My friend had the prawn Himalyan curry which she asked for mild. I tasted one of the king prawns. Not tough or overcooked and the sauce was mild and lightly creamy. Their sea food supplier here is Connolly's Fish Shop in the town, to my mind one of the best fish shops in the country and his prawns are always fresh.
I asked for a coffee to finish as I was much too full for dessert. The coffee machine was out of order (as was the card machine which necessitated a mad dash to the cash machine up the road for my friend). I settled for a tea and my friend had Burke's farm ice cream which she said was just right to finish a great meal.
There is a reason Copper and Spice has stood the test of time. I just wish it wasn't so dark inside and I could take photos to do it justice.