Hasan’s, Leeds – Restaurant Review
by Matt Callard
Anyone who has ever visited the Punjab, that culturally rich area straddling the north west area of India and eastern Pakistan, returns with the same enduring memory: the heady aroma of spices – cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia, mace – and, of course, that all-important spicy catch-all garam masala. I can remember once stepping into the kitchen of an Indian restaurant in Croydon (of all places) and, when the smell of spices hit me, I immediately flashed back to the vivid streets of Mohali. In the Punjab, the aroma is everywhere, sometimes sweet, sometimes smoky, sometimes sticky – and it stays with you – it is this that foodies are searching for when they talk about authenticity in Indian cuisine, even if they don’t know it.
Hasan’s comes with good credentials. It is closely affiliated with nearby Sheesh Mahal, one of Leeds’s best and most enduring Indian restaurants. It boasts a head chef from a Pakistani five star hotel, but Hasan’s pitches itself differently to Sheesh. The modern interior, flat screen televisions and Bollywood glamour should entice Leeds’s younger curry disciples. And if there’s one type of cuisine that breeds customer loyalty it‘s a damn fine curry. It’s a smart move by Hasan’s. And there’s a smart space to enjoy too. It is elegantly lit, colourful without being garish and lively without being irritating.
“Authentic Punjabi taste”
So does the food live up to the location? Starters of Grilled King Prawns (£5.50) are surprisingly light. The batter is delicate and full of taste and the spice-marinated and chargrilled lamb chops (£3.50) are a zingy delight.
A nicely soft (not mushy) Aloo Gobi side (£3.50) accompanies a fine, standard Chicken Masala (£7.90) but the star is a full-flavoured Lamb Nihari (£7.90). It is prepared by marinating a lamb shank in complex spices for 5-6 hours until the meat simply falls from the bone. Here was that authentic Punjabi taste encompassed in a single dish. If you need just one good reason to visit Hasan’s, here it is.
“Taste and style”
Interesting too that the desserts were not, as is often the case in Indian restaurants, an afterthought. A Crème Capuccino (£3.50) was hardly authentic but that didn’t stop it satisfying my sweet tongue. A Banana Split (£3.95) was, well, sweet, creamy and a little bit over-indulgent! The Frankie & Benny’s-style dessert menu did the dishes a disservice but, take heed, it’s worth not overdoing the naan bread for once. Leave some room for a decent dessert.
With the rise-and-rise of the Indian super-restaurant in West Yorkshire dumbing-down authenticity and, therefore, flavour to favour blander western palettes, it’s good to find a new Indian restaurant venture that caters for old-fashioned taste as well as new-fangled style.
Hasans Restaurant, 352-354 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS4 2HQ
Open 5.30pm – 11.30pm every day.
Images: Steve Stenson