I was recently invited to review Luigikhans restaurant on Westgate Road, Newcastle, and decided to pop along having not been near a naan, poppadom or lamb saag in some time. Being asked to review local restaurants and attend menu launches and events is one of the real pleasures that’s come my way since starting my blog and while I can’t make it to all of the places I’m asked and don’t accept every invitation to eat for free, it has helped me get more of an overview of what’s on offer in the region and brought to my attention some places I may otherwise have missed.
Luigikhan’s is homed inside the Best Western Ryokan on Westgate road, which is why I probably would have been unlikely to come across it had I not been asked to visit. Though the building itself is easy to miss from the road, once inside the interior is rather surprising. The hotel won the first prize in the refurbishment category of the Lord Mayor Design Awards a few years ago and you can really see why.This snap of the restaurant’s bar makes the place look rather darker than it was, but my dining partner and I were big fans of the dark wooden furnishings, sturdy tables and the ample space. Too often when you go for a curry with friends (in certain town centre establishments) you are rammed elbow to elbow with the next table. Here, we were impressed to find lots of space between tables, large booths for dining groups and a separate area for private functions, which was full when we arrived for a very early dinner at 6pm on a Tuesday evening.
We arrived a little early for our booking but were welcomed in and started working our way through the fairly extensive menu. Luigikhan’s is a Punjab restaurant, so I was expecting lots of ghee and paneer. I was a little disappointed to spot standard pub starters like potato skins and garlic mushrooms on the menu but presume these are here to accomodate hotel guests who aren’t fans of Indian cuisine.
I ordered the Lahori fried fish to start ‘cod marinated in Asian spice and coated with gram flour & deep fried. Served with a mixed salad’ and priced at £4.25. Hungry Hannah my dining partner, who had purposefully had a very light lunch to make room for curry, chose Baghbanpuri Samosa Chaat, which was described as ‘slightly roasted vegetables with a hint of spice wrapped in pastry, served with chichpea curry, fresh salad, mint yoghurt and tamarind chutney’ (£3.95).
I was very pleased with my fish when it came out – a perfect portion for a starter, though the tamarind chutney it came with was a little runny and sour for my tastes. The moist fish was perfectly cooked in a very light batter, though the spices in the batter were slightly overpowered by the chutney – I think they may have been better set off with a mint pickle, a little lemon, or even a mango chutney. When Hannah’s starter came out the food envy started, the samosas at Luigikhans are served a little differently to most Indian restaurants I’ve been to and were all the better for it.
As Hannah is a good friend she gave me a taste of the samosa, which was light and crunchy without a hint of grease with a delicious middle. The vegetables within had been delicately spiced and the samosa itself would have been just grand on its own. However, it was the other elements to this dish that made it a real treat – a slightly sweet chickpea curry, tamarind sauce and yoghurt. I’m a real fan of raw red onion too, though the generous chunks of this may have been too much for lesser onion fans. In short, Hannah won in the realms of the starter.
After a short wait our main courses arrived and we were slightly scared to see the generous portions. We looked around the room to check if our bowlfuls were more plentiful than those served elsewhere, but ours seemed to measure up with everyone else’s. I can rarely resist lamb when at an Indian restaurant – when it’s slowcooked with spices it’s one of my favourites, so I chose Luigikhan’s Special Lamb Handi Lamb on bone with an onion, tomato and garlic sauce (£8.25). Hannah selected another lamb dish, this time with spinach puree – the Palak Goshat Lamb cooked in fresh tomatoes and onion sauce (£8.95).
I’ve never had Handi before but was impressed with the amount of meat (which came on the bone) that was nestled in the sauce, which was somewhere between a dopiaza and rogan josh in taste and consistency. I was given the choice of hot or medium spice and chose hot, though the spice temperature was a little lower than my usual madras.
Hannah’s chosen dish seemed to have a greater depth of flavour than my own, though thanks to someone leaving the flash on (sorry, should have warned you about that, Han!) it looks a little plastic and shiny in the photo. It really wasn’t. Though the dish was described as medium spice it had more of a slow-burning kick after it, with quite a strong gingery taste (which I love). The lamb in both dishes was nicely tender. To mop up the sauce we ordered a roasted fennel seed and cottage cheese naan (£3.25) and a garlic and coriander rice (around £3). The naan was perfect in every way other than being a bit sparse on fennel seeds – the roasted seed flavour didn’t really carry through here, though the naan was delightfully ungreasy and just the right size for two. The rice was a good amount of garlicky, about the level where you can’t stand too near anyone who hasn’t just been to dinner with you.
Feeling rather full but not wanting to fail on sampling something from each course, we requested a glass of water each to wash down our two courses and make room for a third. This is a backwards type of logic that usually only serves to make me feel fuller, but in this instance I think it actually worked. In case of serious struggling with the final course, we ordered soft, melty looking desserts that could be eased down gently. Myself – Rassmalai – a creamy soaked paneer and milky blancmange of almonds and pistachios (£2.95) and Hannah – Galab Jarman (little warm donuts in syrup) served with ice cream (£3.95).
I’ve discovered a love for almonds and pistachios this year having previously been a nut-free zone and this dessert added fuel to my new nutty passion. Of course, it was far too milky for someone who isn’t supposed to have milk and I did feel a little poorly later as a result, but it was worth it.
My dessert was delicious but the smell of Hannah’s fresh donuts again caused a little food envy to stir. We really had no room left for coffee so thanked our hosts and left. As we departed the waitress remarked that she was surprised we’d opted for the Indian desserts, which confirmed my earlier suspicion that the restaurant is attempting to cater to all and while this usually upsets me (don’t get me started on what I think about takeaway pizza places that also sell Chinese food), I think in this instance, it is probably a strength.
During our meal there was a real mix of diners – from single hotel guests through to a large private party of Asian diners. We were also intrigued to spot Shisha on the menu. We really enjoyed our meal – particularly our desserts. With it’s spacious dining area, friendly staff and a menu to please all I’d say Luigikhan’s is an ideal spot for a family meal or an outing with colleagues and I hope to bring my own family back to sample the cuisine in the near future.
* I was invited to taste test Luigikhan’s menu free of charge but have endeavoured to give a fair representation in this review and observed diners at other tables in order to compare their experience with my own.