I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting five-star dining when I walked into this restaurant and bar.
Rightly or wrongly, heading to Pudsey just isn’t an immediate thought when the curry cravings kick in, especially not when the Bradford curry heartlands are just a few miles away, and when there are a few decent offerings in Leeds city centre too.
However I had heard mixed opinions about East over the years and decided it was time to pay a long overdue visit and see for myself.
When my dining partner and I arrived, on a warm and humid weekday evening, the al fresco drinkers were out in force.
It occurred to me that perhaps the bar element might be the busier side, especially as this place sells itself as a ‘bar lounge grill’ rather than a restaurant and even has an outside terrace. It is also open from 11am to midnight, with an extensive lunch offer and a wide selection of non Asian dishes, so it is obviously trying to cater to the masses, and not without success.
The exteriors are welcoming if not dazzling, the aforementioned revellers providing a lively atmosphere on entrance
East is very easy to get to from ‘mainland’ Leeds, just a few hundred yards off the A647 Stanningley Bypass.
There’s ample on-site parking, an immediate plus.
Inside there is a good size bar area, and a separate dining area split into two levels. The bar area is suitably distant from the diners to not be disruptive.
The decor is pleasant, with dark faux leather chairs, polished wooden floors and no sense of over fussiness.
As soon as we entered, a waitress was on hand to show us to our table. However we found it was a little cramped right in the corner. We asked to move, and were able to do so with no problem.
Our chairs were actually not very comfortable, something I mentioned to the manager later. He informed me that the place is undergoing a refurbishment and the chairs will be one of the first things to be upgraded,
Service was quick and extremely friendly.
We ordered soft drinks as we perused the menu and soaked up the atmosphere.
The restaurant side was extremely busy, even on a midweek evening, with several parties of families, small groups and couples.
We ordered the obligatory poppadums, which were perfectly nice although the accompanying dips were all fairly ordinary - mango chutney, yoghurt dip, onion relish and a green chutney. I do wish East, and many other Indian restaurants, would use a little imagination in this area,
The menu was fairly varied with a decent choice of meat, seafood and vegetarian starters, and mains split into karahi, balti, ‘classic’ and speciality dishes. There was also a section dedicated to ‘handy delicacies’, so called because they are slow cooked in a large pot called a ‘handi’.
The Kashmiri Seekh (£3.95) sounded intriguing so I selected this for my starter. This was one lamb and one chicken seekh kebab wrapped in an omelette. The two kebabs individually were juicy, well cooked and nicely spiced, just right for my middling palate, The eggy wrap was a little too greasy, and with the natural fats of the meat it was just too much. I discarded much of the omelette and was much happier. The accompanying yoghurt and chilli dip was nondescript, another sauce without force.
My companion ordered the Nawaabi Murgh (£4.95) a chicken breast fillet marinaded in spice with a touch of lime and garlic, and topped with cheese and grilled.
The fillet was beautifully tender. The cheese was actually just a blob plonked on the fillet and flash grilled, and my companion said it did not add to the dish at all, and was actually unnecessary and sickly. However putting that to the side - literally - the dish had fantastic flavours.
For my main, I opted for the Gobi Murgh from the Karahi menu (£6.95). This was a chicken and cauliflower curry, an unusual combination perhaps but divine in the tasting. The chicken was beautifully cooked, to the point it was falling apart, It came with chunks of cauliflower in a thick, intensely aromatic sauce which was not overpowering, just warming and comforting. I had this with a garlic naan which came served on one of those massively scary hooks which I have never been a fan of personally. But the bread itself was lovely - crisp, fresh, smothered in just enough ghee and with a soupçon of garlic which I was happy with.
My companion chose the Kaleegi from the ‘Handy Delicacies’ menu (£6.95). This was chicken livers cooked in a thick curry sauce. My partner informed me the livers were nicely cooked, still soft and not at all rubbery. He was impressed, as livers can be so easily overcooked, especially when cooked in a traditional dry bhuna curry style. The liver had none of that weird spongy texture which can put people off, and the sauce again had a lot of depth. My companion ate this with a serving of fresh chappatis, which adorned the same hook that my naan had arrived on. He said the bread was suitably soft and fresh.
Despite a few little flaws - the condiments and unnecessary trimmings like cheese being the main gripe - there is real quality to the cooking at East.
Every dish tasted authentic, and not watered down. But at the same time there seemed to be enough on the menu to please every palate. It’s a balance that can be hard to get right, and many have fallen flat on their face trying to do so.
Our bill came to £36, which we felt was decent value for quality ingredients and service.
I am looking forward to another visit to East when the refurbishment is complete as I think this - along with a few menu tweaks - could elevate this venue to the next level and make it a real contender which can give Bradford’s sultans of spice a run for their money.
Address: 7 Richardshaw Lane, Pudsey, Leeds, LS28 6BN
Opening times: 11am to midnight, 7 days a week
Tel: 0113 2559191