Welcome to East@Enigma and what an enigma it proved to be!
Ever since East tore up the curry house rule book several years ago by taking up residence on Richardshaw Lane, Pudsey in a building which could have been mistaken for a carpet warehouse, it’s been treading its own path.
There, they had a pianist in a white dinner suit playing up-beat ballads, a menu the size of the New Testament and a bottle of champagne costing a jaw-dropping £1,000.
Which is more strange: that it appeared on the menu or that people bought it (because Oliver knows some did)?
Now, with East@Enigma, they have managed to create an entirely new dining genre and judging by the crowds, it’s already a big hit.
The team behind East Bar Lounge Grill has somehow managed to blend a nightclub, a trendy bar and a restaurant.
When you first step across the threshold, you are met with pulsating dance music and immediately to your right is a DJ busy mixing records.
This could be a bar in the centre of Leeds, it could be a nightclub... but you’ve come here for a curry, right? ‘How is it going to work?’ you find yourself wondering.
The weirdest thing about East@Enigma is that, somehow, it does work.
In fact, it works so well that after 10 minutes of being there, you’ll look at other restaurants as drab, dreary and downbeat and you’ll ask yourself why no-one else has thought of this approach before.
There’s no denying East is ostentatious. Judging by the decor and the self-aggrandising adverts constantly replaying on the flat screen TVs dotted about the place, they pride themselves upon it. They offer the world’s most expensive brandy, at £75 a shot. The thing is, though, you don’t drive a Porsche to blend into the background.
East@Enigma is a blacked out Lamborghini with jewel-encrusted leather seats with velvet inlay and a champagne bucket where the handbrake should be, it’s the presidential suite of a swanky Las Vegas hotel, it’s a glittering, shiny, spangly gemstone atop a giant over-decorated Christmas tree. You get the idea.
It shouldn’t work. It should curdle horribly and leave a nasty aftertaste and make you want to tell your friends how awful it is. Except, it does work, you will want to eat of the forbidden fruit again and tell your friends all about it.
We pitched up practically unannounced, my partner having telephoned them as we drove to the venue to be told a table for two would shortly be available.
So it proved. We ordered drinks at the bar and managed to find a set of stools to perch upon and chat as we tried to work out precisely what East@Enigma was trying to be.
There’s nothing wrong with the trendy bar, all dimmed lights and throbbing music but this was supposed to be a restaurant, wasn’t it? We could see the dining area, and it was alive with people engrossed in conversation and laughter. In fact, the whole place was positively buzzing. In a very short time, we found ourselves feeling the vibe.
Ten minutes later we were being led to a table for two and had menus and fresh drinks ordered.
To start, I went for the machli tikka (£3.50), haddock marinated in herbs and spices topped with cheese, then grilled, which was a most ample portion, delicate, light and satisfying.
My partner went for machli bahadur (an ‘award winning’ starter according to the menu), which comprised haddock and prawns marinated in herbs, spices, ginger and garlic, then grilled (£5.50) – it was sumptuous – the flavours rolling around inside your mouth – and the kind of dish you wouldn’t mind drowning in.
For my main, I ordered a chicken dahi, a dish involving ginger, coriander, chilli, herbs and spices, simmered to create a medium tangy sauce (£7.50). It was a mild curry and yet robust enough to still challenge the connoisseur, with layers of flavour just waiting to be discovered.
My partner ordered the handi lamb, cooked on the bone in a large pan on a low heat with cumin, fenugreek, ginger and lime. Rarely have I tasted a curry which was so delightful.
It had that slightly oily texture which comes from stewed lamb and was all the more flavoursome for the fact it really did come on the bone.
Our mains were simply superb and everything a curry ought to be. They were rich and sumptuous with a real depth of flavour, the various nuances of which were constantly kicking your tastebuds, making you want to savour the dishes over and over.
We enjoyed them so much that we asked if we could take away what was left, which was arranged without even a raised eyebrow.
By the time we’d finished that course, we were slightly stuffed. However, we felt duty-bound to explore the dessert board, which contained around half a dozen or so offerings. We plumped to share a rather generous slice of toffee and Bailey’s cheesecake – again, this dish hit the spot and was the perfect end to a fabulous evening.
In total, our bill came to a very reasonable £45.35.
East@Enigma is a new venture for Horsforth, an expansion of the East brand and a worthy addition to its empire. It is, as the name says, an enigma, because at first sight, you think it’s not going to gel, that somehow the music of the bar area will be too loud in the restaurant – but it’s not, once we were seated, we hardly noticed it.
If you can open your mind to what they are trying to achieve at East@Enigma, you will enjoy the experience all the more. If anything, the food is better than at East, Pudsey.
It is obviously already insanely popular and it’s a great addition to the dining scene this side of Horsforth. There were a mixture of parties during our visit including a table of 18.
Staff are slick and freshly coiffured and look like they’ve just come from some red carpet event and not overly attentive (a good thing). However, we had to ask for water to be brought to our table twice and on another occasion also had to ask for more cutlery twice, a situation swiftly rectified by the head waiter, who simply nabbed a set from the adjoining empty table.
East are trying to pull the dining scene in a new, more modern, more experimental direction. There’s something exciting about that and it is to be hoped that, whatever praise is heaped upon them, they do not rest upon the laurels they are bound to be bequeathed.
East@Enigma, 145 New Rd Side, Horsforth, Leeds, LS18 4QD
Opening hours: Noon to 11.30pm every day
Tel. 0113 258 0293
SERVICE ..................... ***
***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR