How do you like the sound of some Jimey Bum Bums Puri? Me too! But I’ll have to wait till my next visit to Arami to sample that dish…
Arami is the newest, and definitely the most stylish, addition to the restaurant scene in Newcastle. As it was the Curry Monster’s birthday celebration it had fallen to me – Chutney Mary – to make the arrangements and I certainly made a good choice.
The restaurant is situated on Leazes Park Road, in the shadow of St. James Park. It’s close to two Metro stations and to Eldon Square bus station just a couple of minutes walk from the very center of town.
The exterior is stylish but simple with big picture windows and black woodwork; it is just a taster of the simple decor inside. The bar area is warm and cozy with low lighting and tactile leather and suede cushions on low banquettes. The only thing that seemed a bit out of place and, perhaps a throwback to the more traditional “curry house”, was a plasma television screen on which a Bollywood movie was being shown. Thankfully, that distraction was missing from the dining area.
Over a beer (Kingfisher for the CM) and a gin and tonic (for me) we looked over the menu. Choosing was not easy. Arami describes itself as a Bangladeshi restaurant that specializes in the food of the Sylhet region. According to the notes on the menu this means that a lot of fish is eaten and, indeed, there were more fish dishes than you would normally find on a menu in a typical Indian restaurant. I thought that a choice of seventeen starters was maybe a bit over the top but reading on I found that the menu as a whole was vast – something that always makes me suspicious as I think that if a restaurant can offer all those things, maybe some of them are not made to order and are not fresh. Fourteen chicken dishes, eleven fish dishes, nine tandoori dishes, eleven meat dishes, three veggie dishes….and so it went on and these were just the restaurants specials!
The menu also has a section called “Classics” – the standard dishes you get in most Indian restaurants – dupiaza, vindaloo, pathia, dansak, etc. The vegetable side dishes were also fairly standard but the list was comprehensive.
Once our choices had been taken down we were shown to our table where two popadoms and a pickle tray were waiting for us. A minute later our wine arrived – a beautifully chilled South African chenin blanc (£14.95). As the waiter poured we looked over our surroundings. the dining area is split into two by a partition wall with open sections; both parts were quite small but certainly not cramped and care had been taken not to cram in too many tables.
The soft furnishings were muted coffee and walnut colors, the walls were very plain and off white. Two massive and very modern chandeliers hung from the ceiling. While the decor was not groundbreaking it was definitely modern and finished to a high standard. Above all it was comfortable – and sometimes that is compromised when trying to achieve a contemporary look.
To start I had chosen the Chittagong crab salad (£4.75) which was delicious even though it did not come with the mango dressing nor the garlic croutes that had been mentioned on the menu. The other half’s Tandoori Machli (£4.75) was superb – a good sized fillet of rainbow trout that had been well marinaded in a host of spices and cooked in the tandoor. Both dishes were beautifully presented and even the salad garnishes were imaginative – I especially liked the long spirals of mooli and carrot.
My main course was Bonnani shank (£10,.95) – a decent sized shank of lamb that had been simmered until very tender and then marinaded in hot spices. The flavors were amazing with mint and ginger coming through most. Best of all was the way the meat fell away from the shank with just the slightest touch. The bones were completely clean.
Curry Monster had chosen Machli Chochoree (£11.95) – according to the menu this was a “lightly spiced fish cooked with onion, green chili, mustard seeds and fresh herbs”. According to me it was very spicy indeed, but able to handle hotter dishes quite easily, the Curry Monster declared it just right. We were told that the fish was called “rup chanda” – a freshwater fish that is imported specially from Bangladesh.
Alongside our mains we shared a very fragrant pilau rice and a good-sized naan bread; the latter was perhaps a little too sweet. Finally we had a side dish of Sag Dial – a spinach and lentil dish that was fabulous. The lentils were perfect and the gloopy spinach still had just a little bit of bite.
After all this I was not intending to have a dessert but since the waiter brought the sweet menu without being asked to I thought it was most polite to comply. Since I am allergic to nuts I always avoid kulfi even though it looks divine. Instead I plumped for a refreshing sounding “tartufo Limoncello”. When it arrived it was sprinkled with pistachio but the waiter happily took it away and came back with a fresh one with no nuts on it in seconds. I am pretty sure that this is a bought-in dessert but it was fantastic. Rich, tangy lemon ice cream with a Limoncello center, covered with tiny pieces of meringue and drizzled with sweetly scented honey – heavenly…
Overall I would certainly say that I made a good choice in picking Arami. This is one restaurant where the food lives up to the promise of the surroundings. The service was unobtrusive but the waiters were easy to catch if you wanted them.
But the most impressive thing was the excellent value. I do not begrudge splashing out for good food; I would rather eat out less and pay more for quality when I do. However, when we arrived at Arami I had a suspicion that I would be paying somewhere between 80-90 for the meal, so a bill for £67.00 was certainly unexpected and most welcome.
With so much choice and the promise of more fine food, I am already looking forward to our next visit…..
By the way – “Jimey Bum Bums Puri” is “a delicacy of baby potatoes in onion and tomato sauce, tempered with garlic and exotic spices. Served on shallow fried baby chapattis.
6-10 Leazes Park Road, Newcastle upon Tyne
tel 0191 2220659
Mon – Sat Lunch 12.00-2.00pm, Evening 5.30pm – 11.30pm
Fri & Sun – Lunch closed, Evening 5.00pm – 11.30pm