Restaurant review: Gazi’s, Horsforth Hall Park, Leeds

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There can’t be many restaurants in Yorkshire - nay, England - which have a view like Gazi’s. This curious curry house sits bang slap in the middle of Horsforth’s Hall Park directly overlooking the bowling green and its fastidiously tidied flower borders and with much grander views across the main fields, dotted and lined as they are by great sycamore and chestnut trees.

There is, if you look for it, an understated sign in a corner of the car park off Fink Hill announcing the presence of a restaurant in the park but it strikes me it’s not the kind of place you might just wander into, say, if you were on the high street.

We heard about the restaurant through a friend and so were there with deliberate intent - our first collective thought upon hearing of its existence being ‘how delightful’.

But as we approached this hideaway, we were unsure if it was open. It is the epitome of understatement.

The building itself is a puzzle and somehow reminds one of campsites and neatly turned out elderly men and women in beige and lilacs. It looks in shape like an oversized static caravan perched atop the bowling green club house.

It’s exterior is somewhat ramshackle, the white paint peeling away from its wood, some of the rear windows clearly in need of attention. To begin with, we were unsure if the place was even open.

Access is via a long concrete ramp (what else?), which could easily find a home in any seaside resort. This leads to a set of double doors and a foyer complete with obligatory fish tank, stools and some padded seats presumably for people to wait until seats are found.

When we arrived, however, at about six o’ clock one evening the place was completely empty. Still, it had only opened half an hour earlier. Our waiter duly positioned us right at the front end of the glorified cabin (as they do when you’re first in - they want to show you off to the world).

The main dining area is broad enough to fit three tables with ease and the views are amazing and really quite relaxing, even when British Military Fitness turn up to spoil them with over-enthusiastic people jogging and doing star-jumps while wearing blue and red tabards. Still, they’re outside, you’re in.

It’s a shame Gazi’s doesn’t have an alcohol licence because the first thing I wanted to do after taking my seat, with the honeysuckle aromas of summer whafting through the open double doors just behind us, was order a pint of beer. This was our first visit and we weren’t to know and, in any case, they aren’t the only place without a license and so we won’t hold it against them.

Soft drinks ordered and the usual tray of poppadoms and dips (£3), some mild, some a little but challenging, arrived.

To start we ordered a meat thali for two (£6.95), a sharing dish which came with all kinds of goodies on it, including chicken tikka, lamb tikka, tandoori chicken, sheesh kebab and onion bhajis. It was the perfect dish to start, the meat tender, sweet and clean and it put is right in the mood for a good feast.

It was at this point I felt the urge to order a beer but again had to steel myself, even though part of me contemplated dashing out to the nearest off-licence.

Mains came in the form of a chicken tikka chom chom, a very reasonably £6.95. If I had to sum up chom chom with two words they would be: yum yum. The meat was still slightly moist, the flavours of the coating robust and aromatic, the sauce a lovely blend of herbs and spices all of which came together to create a dish with bite but without being too overpowering. It came with crispy curried onions scattered on top, something I’ve not seen before but which was a nice touch.

The other main was also from leftfield and was - wait for this - a curry garnished with cheese (I know). Again very reasonably pegged at £6.95 but this was a strange concoction. To begin with it looked nice and the sizzling platter added to the theatre but within moments as the cheese melted, it resembled a lasagne gone wrong.

Eating it was also problematic as the cheese stretched and drooped and generally didn’t want to leave either fork or plate.

Putting cheese on a curry seems to me to be from the same culinary avenue as deep fried Mars bars or putting a beefburger inside a pizza (yes, there’s a place in Pudsey that actually does that).

So, while the meat itself (chicken) was nice and while I am glad I tried it - never even heard of a cheesy curry before - it’s not one I’d order again.

Which brings us to dessert. On their internet menu, there are several to choose from. However, on our visit we were informed there were just two choices: chocolate cake and ice cream. Dutifully, we ordered one of each. Then, oddly, our waiter asked if he could bring them on the same dish, to which we responded that we would like them in separate dishes if it was all the same.

A whole fifteen minutes passed as we sipped our soft drinks and watched people jogging round the park looking very hot and bothered. By now the place had filled up with other diners and it was also quite warm inside, even with the doors open.

Eventually, our dessert/s arrived, except it/they came on one dish and the ice cream was a sorry sunken half-melted mass drizzled in syrup and forming a moat around the cake - the melted ice cream was a scandalous £3.50, the cake £2.20 and overall, although nice enough, was a real let down.

I have since heard good things about Gazi’s, not least their takeaways. However, the venue itself needs updating, it’s a prime spot (how many places would die for that location) and could be so much better than it is. Some of the dishes are way off the beaten track, service is a little shoddy and at times disjointed, cutlery could be cleaner but still a great venue. Overall bill with sundries a very honest £52.90.

Portugese custard tart. PIC: Tony Johnson.

Restaurant review: Hemingways, Horsforth, Leeds