After a short break from The Cambridge Curry Crew events we decided to boot up and start again. Having nearly every Curry Crew meet up in the city of Cambridge I thought it would make a refreshing change to come to the city of Ely (where I now live) and see what it has to offer in terms of Indian cuisine.
The Cambridge Curry Crew Facebook group
has been getting very active lately with a lot of new members coming in. I have had quite a few suggestions from the group, Twitter
, and on local sites recommending The Sylhet
which seems to have a very popular reputation within the city. Run by a Mr Ahmed, a man clearly very passionate about his restaurant and the work he does here, its the attention to small details which clearly makes this restaurant what it is and gives it the reputation is clearly deserves from people in the city.
Located on the busy road of Market Street, next door to the Montaz Indian restaurant and The Hereward pub, the place is quite easy to miss, yet once inside you realise that is quite spacious and well equipped to take any number of people. The Sylhet is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and has been open for decades, so clearly they have been doing something right all this time, which has only made me want to visit it a lot more.
We booked a table for 8 o clock, so we were all pretty hungry by the time we got in to the restaurant. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table. While walking through I notice that the place is divided up in to two parts. The bar, which comes across as a take away in its own right, then a room to the left which is the restaurant, this separates the two parts of the business nicely. I also noticed that they had the two kings of Indian beer on tap, Cobra and Kingfisher, which is great to see after my visit to Zahza the other week where it was all bottle only.
We were handed our menus while we chatted and settled. I ordered myself a Cobra beer and the gang ordered a large plate of papadums with their drinks. The drinks came out quickly and the papadums not too soon after that.
The papadums came with the four side sauces you would expect to see – Mango chutney, lime pickle, onion salad and yoghurt. Each one was presented in white china pots and were prepared very well. There were no complains from anyone here and though the portions were small, they gave out several portions for each side of the table so there was enough for everyone. The onion salad, mango chutney and lime pickle were all chopped very well with good texture. There was a few comments about the yoghurt being a little runny but I felt it was absolutely fine and tasted great.
Looking at the menu I noticed priced were about average here. Curries coming to around £7-8 each and to have the curry tikka’d came to approximately a pound more. Rice was averaging at about £3 each and the naans were around £2.50.
All the classics were on there from the popular curries, to tandoori grill, to dansaks and biryanis. There were a decent selection of specials too, though nothing overly exotic or unusual on the menu.
Nobody should leave feeling disappointed either way.
Once we were finished the staff took our plates away and Mr Ahmed came out and greeted us personally. He told us a lot about the restaurant, his cuisine and a lot about himself too. You can tell that he is a very friendly and proud man who puts customer service at the forefront of his business ethos, and we could see how well it works with a full restaurant around us that evening. He was kind enough to tell us about his family history, the history of the restaurant and how he came to be here which for me added a real personal level of trust which is so important when dining at a restaurant and this only makes me want to come back here again.
Braille menu – Incredibly impressive!
Mr Ahmed also showed off (and rightly so) the excellent disabled access he had in the restaurant. The front door doesn’t even need a ramp for wheelchair users as it is level with the street, and though The Sylhet isn’t the biggest of restaurants, it was still equipped with a disabled toilet. He even had a braille menu for the blind which really impressed a lot of us at the table. It seems the man who thought of everything here and goes back to my point earlier about his attention to detail which makes The Sylhet Indian restaurant so popular with the locals of Ely. A lot of places could learn a thing or two from The Sylhet and I highly recommend anyone who uses a wheelchair to come on down and visit.
Disabled toilets with lots of space for access.
While we were taking our main order the staff brought out some complimentary starter platters for us. An incredibly pleasant and welcomed surprised which consisted of what I assume was potato bhaji, chicken tikka and fried aubergine. All garnished with a side salad.
Surprisingly it was the aubergine which stole the show at the table being so crispy and full of flavour, yet still managed to be light on the belly. I think the oil they used to cook it was a very high quality and it seemed to be the conversation piece of the table.
For me though, the potato was the best. Cutting through it you see the spices and flavour go right through the middle and the soft fluffy texture coupled with the crispy outer shell was a perfect balance. I have never had this dish before but I could tell that they absolutely nailed it.
A complimentary starter platter.
The Chilli challenge:
Mr Ahmed knows I enjoy spicy food so he took it upon himself to toy with me and bring out some Naga chillies and Scotch Bonnets presented on a cucumber for me to try. For those unfamiliar, they are two of the hottest chillies around so my good friend Caoimhin and I decided to give them a go being the hot heads we are! This was a bad idea in hindsight as I struggled to taste my main course afterwards but it was great fun!
Nagas and Scotch Bonnets – Try and your peril!
The chillies certainly lived up to their reputation and were incredibly hot! I managed to consume 4 naga chillies and a scotch bonnet before starting to feel an incredible burn in my mouth and a torrent of hiccups which lasted the ENTIRE NIGHT (much to my girlfriends amusement).
Our main meals came out shortly after the chillies were eaten… and everything came out together! Which is something a lot of Indian restaurants still fail to grasp (Are you listening, Raja?)
The food was presented well and all looked very nice. Portions looked a good size and the texture of my onion rice was spot on. I wish I was able to comment on the spiciness of the lamb tikka vindaloo I ordered as my mouth was still burning from the naga chillies, but the texture of the lamb was decent, though a little dry, but the rich smokey flavour of the vindaloo was all there.
Lamb tikka vindaloo and onion rice.
There seemed to be no complaint from anyone at the table which was a positive sign. I was also shocked to hear how quiet it suddenly got after all the fun and laughing talking to Mr Ahmed and the chilli challenge. Everyone really seemed to enjoy their food and I had little complaints on my end either. I tried some of my friends chickpeas which were some of the nicest I have ever had. I ended up bringing some of their left overs home to have with me the next day.
Once our meal had finished the staff started to clean up. We asked for the bill and they were presented with hot towels and chocolates (as you would expect). The hot towels were good quality and the chocolates were very nice too. Both were exactly what I needed after a massive meal and some spicy chillies! Phew!
The bill came to roughly what was expected for a group our size and the staff let us pay in cash or cards respectively. Once we started to leave we were seen out by the waiters who all took the time to shake our hands and wave us out. We left feeling like the evening was a fantastic success and not a single bad word was breathed about the service at The Sylhet Indian restaurant so I conclude that this was a night of success for us and the restaurant.
The Sylhet Indian restaurant has really impressed us tonight, me especially. They seem to do everything, and do it well. The staff are incredibly friendly, helpful and warm. They take the time to talk to you and nothing is too much trouble. In fact, I don’t think I have seen customer service on this level in my life and I wish to thank Mr Ahmed and the staff at the Sylhet Indian restaurant for showing us such a warm welcome.
The food was all very good and for an average market price. I really cannot imagine anyone leaving the restaurant feeling disappointed and I highly recommend their cuisine to anyone inside or outside the area.
Everything was presented well and there were no complains from the entire table. The service was fast, polite and efficient with no mistakes being made, which for a table our size can be quite common.
The starter platters was delicious and showed us some new types of cuisine which broadened our horizons in Indian cooking. Not to mention the chilli challenge which certainly put me in my place and I would love to try again!
The disabled facilities were some of the best I have ever seen and living proof that a small restaurant can cater for the disabled. Now I am aware of The Sylhets disabled facilities I look forward to coming back soon with my friend who just so happens to be a wheelchair user.
Its good to know that there is a place in my city of Ely which can compete with some of the Cambridge giants. I look forward to seeing Mr Ahmed and the staff of The Sylhet Indian restaurant again very soon.
For anyone thinking of looking up The Sylhet Indian restaurant (01353669669). They have a take away service too which is only £1 for delivery.
Thanks for reading!