In a world full of contrived dining out ‘concepts,’ 1875 is a restaurant that doesn’t need to invent or justify its offer. The Anglo-Indian restaurant above Menston railway station is a route map to modern Indian cuisine rooted in a Yorkshire location. Opened almost two years ago, the restaurant takes its name from the year that the station at Menston was established. At the same time as industry and train travel was expanding here, the British were introducing a railway system to India. Clever Indian cooks gave familiar ingredients a spicy ‘twist’ and such was the popularity of their creations with the officers of the British Raj that dishes and accompaniments such as kedgeree, mulligatawny soup, curried eggs and chutney were destined to become the classic culinary souvenirs of the Empire.
The British love affair with the dishes of the Indian subcontinent has taken a detour in more recent times. What we know and love as ‘Indian’ food is, in the vast majority of cases, Bangladeshi or Pakistani in origin, so a visit to 1875 is an education and departure from the standard menu format. The black and white period photos in the dining area and the warm welcome on arrival creates the charming impression of a cosy private dining club.
Owner and host Manjinder Singh Sarai is your guide through a menu of selected regional specialities and the different traditions and influences they represent. The two fish starters I tried put the emphasis on fragrance and freshness with subtle spicing to complement the delicate star ingredient. Machli Tuckra (£5.95) from Amritsar features bite-sized chunks of marinated monkfish, finished on a griddle with fresh spices and herbs. Kolkatta Jhinga (£7.50) is a delightful surprise on a number of different levels. This is a cold dish and a really colourful one, consisting of marinated king prawns cooked and chopped with red and yellow peppers and fresh coriander. The spicing is delicate, the flavours zingy and fresh and the presentation attractive and different.
Of the 12 starters, seven are vegetarian and include a lentil soup from South India and Idli Sambar, a dish from Chennai which features steamed rice cakes served with a lentil masala curry. Main courses also offer considerable choice for non meat and fish eaters. Goan Pork Vindaloo (£9.90) has its origins in the colonisation of Goa by the Portuguese and uses a distinctive spiced marinade for the meat which includes vinegar and is followed by long slow cooking. Vindaloo to most British people equals a dish with a high chilli rating and whether this is a mistaken view or not, it is worth mentioning that chilli is used with caution in all the dishes I tried. Powdered chilli is provided as a table seasoning on request but is a bit of a blunt instrument when the kitchen shows such a delicate touch. The French-influenced Beef Masala (£9.95) is a dish from Pondicherry in the south of India. Diced beef, cooked to melting tenderness in a tomato based curry, is a spicier reminder of Beef Daube. A naan bread infused with olive oil and rosemary works exceptionally well with this but more traditional Indian breads and a selection of rice dishes can also partner the mains.
With chillier days on the horizon the plan is to extend the Anglo-Indian theme to the dessert menu so temptations like sweetly spiced bread and butter pudding may soon be available, alongside a selection of the handmade kulfi supplied by Great Taste Award winners Indie Ices. On Sundays, 1875 serves an Anglo-Indian roast lunch and is soon to launch cookery master classes. For special dining celebrations, a Chef’s Table service puts one of the restaurant’s talented chefs at the exclusive disposal of a party of guests for the duration of their visit. Whatever the occasion, though, at the 1875 you can be assured of a true culinary journey.