The newest member of the Bennett's Hill group of restaurant is contemporary Indian restaurant Isaacs. It has retained the historic building's original architecture, and has the same 19th century features, which make it a beautiful place to dine.
Because the building is on a corner it opens up to a large floor space, with well-arranged seating. Although it is an Indian restaurant it felt more like a Mediterranean villa because of the natural light streaming through the large windows, refreshing air conditioning, and mix of tiled and wooden flooring.
The colours are simple, classic, and chic. Linen table cloths are impeccably draped across each table and the wooden, cream upholstered seats are surprisingly comfortable, even though they are arm-free.
As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a host who took our names and seated us immediately on a table of four, even though there was only three of us.
The drinks menus were already on our table, and our waiter (Abaas), gave us more than enough time to peruse the various cocktails and soft drinks. I tend to flit between virgin cocktails, and the real stuff when I'm feeling wild, but when Abaas told us that the peach picnic non-alcoholic cocktail was a mix of white peach puree and apple juice with grated ginger, I was sold. I love peaches, and when it was brought to our table, it didn't disappoint. Mild, sweet and fruity, it was the perfect drink to start our evening.
On the menu is a mix of traditional and modern meals from across India, such as murgh bhuna (chicken spiced with coriander and chillies, in a tomato reduction), and sag aloo (spinach and potato side dish). Chefs from Rajestan, Punjab, and Goa create their dishes, so you can enjoy authentic Indian food from chefs who know their spices backwards.
I decided, however to try their modern take on the classic creamy korma curry: murgh makhani (£10.95). They claim their recipe replaces the old kurma and massala, using a secret recipe and ingredients to cook chicken in a mild creamy sauce . Thankfully it wasn't too different to the usual korma. Instead of using cream and coconut milk, it was a finer sauce, less sweet, but still delicious.
Admittedly the coconut rice wasn't as 'coconutty' as I'd have liked. Even though there were tiny coconut flakes, and a definite use of coconut milk, they'd used it sparingly; I prefer a heavy-handed approach when it comes to coconut rice. My meal as a whole was delicious, but in all honesty I could have forgone the rice and eaten just the murgh makhani and naan bread, which was melt in the mouth good.
My two friends enjoyed their meals though – they were too spicy for me, but they both left only a little on their plates. The portions aren't huge, but around medium-servings for a healthy appetite. We weren't hungry after our mains, probably due to the cocktails, but I think if we'd not had them we might have considered the desserts.
We ordered three mains, two sides of coconut rice, and two naan breads between three people. For three, twenty-somethings, who are quite slim, we can put away a lot of food. Drinks included the bill came to £73.00. We were happy with the price because the food was very good, and the service impeccable. It's definitely a make or break factor.
Saag aloo, rice and naan
When a bill is scarily large I tend to weigh it up against the level of customer service. If it was great then I'm fine to pay (even if the food isn't up to scratch) because when the members of staff go out of their way to recommend, divulge ingredients, and ensure your restaurant experience is one to remember then you can only blame poor food as a one off. If a meal is superb, but the customer service is poor, however, I won't go back. You may have seen my review of Salt and Pepper's Asian restaurant in Manchester where my boyfriend and I were disappointed. The food was fantastic, but sadly the service was terrible, and we haven't been back since. Thankfully at Isaacs the service and food was great, not incredible, but very good, which is more than fine with me.
Even though the restaurant appears to cater strictly for grown-ups, I saw a few tables of large families, and even little ones who were accommodated. A few high chairs were around the one table I spotted and toddlers were given smaller plates, and allowed to use dessert knives and forks in place of the starter and main meal sized ones.
Pronounced 'Iz-aak' the name of the restaurant is an homage to the religious believes of the Sikh owners. Isaac, in Punjabi, was the son of prophet Ibrahim, and was considered to have continued to spread the message of God.
With divine intervention backing the ethos of Isaacs, and a winning menu it was no surprise what happened that evening; the planned couple of hours with my girlfriends turned into five hours when we checked our watches. I guess it's true: time flies when you're having fun - and eating good curry.