Sweet sensation


Jane Pikett experiences Indian fine dining at its best

My husband is a lucky man, as evidenced by the facts that, a) he’s married to me, and b) when I eat out in the best restaurants for this magazine, I sometimes take a dessert home for him.

His haul from Haveli comprised no less than four gorgeous puddings specially chosen for him by the manager, who I think felt sorry for him because he’d been left at home, where I might add, he was very happy because he had the telly and the cat all
to himself.

In addition to his very own four-dessert feast, there were also several boxes of carefully packed leftovers because the three of us who’d been to Haveli that night had eyes larger than our stomachs.

He didn’t get any of the lamb seekh kebab they kindly gave us as a complimentary extra, but he did get half of my exquisite paneer dumplings in cashew sauce, a good portion of the lamb and spinach saag gosht, and a taster of the braised lamb in garlic and onion, so he was pretty happy; so much so he got out of bed to eat it.

I chose not to tell him about the scallops with cauliflower purée because he might have been jealous, and I definitely didn’t want him to know about the 24-hour black lentil dal, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, particularly when he’s got his own dessert feast to go at.

I am a bit sad, however, that he didn’t get to experience the exquisite presentation of the food here, or the gorgeous surroundings, so I might have to actually take him with me next time.

For Haveli is the first restaurant around these parts to specialise in fine Indian dining, and it does it extremely well. The food is minutely executed and exquisitely presented, its looks as finely balanced as its flavours.

It is no exaggeration to say that our party of three loved Haveli for its style and its substance; a wonderful revelation in Indian culinary theatre which is very welcome and I like to think raises the North East’s food bar a little further still.

45The elegance of the food is matched and indeed enhanced by the immaculate décor, which is all exceptionally clean white save for the spice-hued seating and a spectacular ceiling mural which very nearly had me fall on my face as I walked to our table with my head in the air.

Clearly, no expense has been spared in creating this impeccable, contemporary space, its white canvas and flashes of vibrant colour a rather lovely reflection of the culinary art created in the kitchen. The prices on the menu do not reflect what has clearly been a sizeable investment or the quality of the food, and you can enjoy three courses and wine for two for about £80-£90.

The experience, from the warmest of warm welcomes to the attentive, careful service, to the food (my goodness, the food!), to the décor was faultless; a triumph of meticulous, disciplined execution.

As for the husband’s desserts, they were among the best you will find, a happy collection which included a saffron milk pudding, a passion fruit masala chai cheesecake, and a sublime chocolate torte. As I say, he’s a lucky man.

Haveli, Broadway, Darras Hall, Ponteland, NE20 9PP, tel 01661 872 727, www.haveliponteland.com

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