Despite being a North East native who repatriated over 18 months ago, there are still plenty of nooks and crannies I’ve yet to explore, so it’s particularly nice when I’m invited to test out a place that’s out of the Toon. One such place I was lucky enough to visit recently is Haveli, a fine dining Indian restaurant located in Ponteland, Northumberland.
If I’m going out for a meal to a restaurant I’ll be pretty excited for a few days beforehand, fuelled by the usual menu perusing. In the case of Haveli I was perhaps a little more so than usual thanks to the photographs of food on their site. By the time we arrived for our meal early on a Friday evening, anticipation levels were running quite high. The venue itself is very classy, with lots of round tables perfect for groups of friends chatting and eating and a beautiful bar facing the room where the staff prepare cocktails. Here’s a peek:It was a little darker and more ambient when we arrived and though it was moderately busy as we were seated it was very busy before we left, with people also popping in to get takeaways. Although the place was busy it never felt too crowded because the tables are nicely spaced out, which makes me feel much more relaxed when dining.
The menu at Haveli offers plenty of choice without being overwhelming but we still found it difficult to make our selections thanks to how appealing everything sounded. There were some great choices on the early evening menu, which gets you two courses for £18 or three for £21 but in the end we settled on some a la carte options, I chose the crab and cod fishcakes (£6.85) and across the table was a lamb kebab (£8.30). Before they arrived we were presented with some rather pretty poppadoms and a pickle tray, which looked like this;
I really liked the way the poppadoms were presented as a flower in the bowl – it made them a lot easier to eat as well as looking pretty. Of the sauces – tamarind, mint and mango chutney the mint was our favourite, we half suspected there was also some pea in it but the colour and flavour were perfect. The tamarind was perhaps a little too sweet for us but it didn’t stop us eating a good few spoonfuls!
For our mains, I chose Nihari Gosht (£14.50) otherwise known as braised Northumbrian lamb in an onion gravy, also on the eating agenda was a chicken curry with black pepper, though I can’t seem to find it on the menu both were delicious. What really impressed about both of the main courses was the depth of flavour in the sauces, which had really taken the flavour of the meats as well as the spices. Portions were generous too and we struggled with our sides of rice (£3) and garlic naan (£3.50).
Despite the struggle to reach the bottom of our bowls, there was no way I wasn’t taking the opportunity to eat the gin sorbet I’d spotted on the desserts menu. It was the accompaniment to a passionfruit masala chai cheesecake and although it took a little longer to reach the table than the previous courses, it was well worth the wait. If I was being picky I would have liked a crunchier biscuit base, but the flavours and the sorbet were delicious. The second dessert was a mango and cardamom brulee, which unfortunately had been taken that little bit too far. We did mention this to our server who was quick to notice that we hadn’t cleared the plate and the staff were very apologetic. In different circumstances we would have been disappointed but when staff do notice that you’ve not finished something and make a point to enquire why, you feel a lot more at ease and it’s great when feedback is received well.
As the atmosphere was now quite buzzing, we decided to order a cocktail while we waited for our taxi, I chose my favourite espresso martini. When it came it ticked all the boxes and it was the perfect finish to our meal.
We loved Haveli even though a few minor things weren’t perfect and this was largely because the customer service was excellent and the rest of the food was some of the best we have eaten this year. I look forward to testing their takeaway service too.
*I was invited to dine at the invitation of the restaurant but did pay for drinks and service.