While searching the internet for a suitable restaurant in Leeds to review for this column, I happened upon Peachy Keens.
Which was most fortuitous as it happened. I had planned to go along to the UB40 concert in Millennium Square after the meal and I realised that the concert venue was mere yards away from the restaurant’s front door.
It had caught my eye for a number of reasons and I was intrigued, first of all by the name - although the grammatical pedant in me was irked by the lack of an apostrophe - and secondly by the concept of at-your-table barbecuing - surely a recipe for disaster?
We’d booked a table for four at 7pm and expected that, given the number of people going to the concert, it would be absolutely heaving and we’d have to fight our way through a throng.
But although reasonably busy, when we negotiated the stairs to the first floor dining area and peeked through the door there were plenty of spare tables which, on a Saturday night in the middle of summer, is a little disconcerting.
Nonetheless we bit the bullet, went in and were shown to our table by a very pleasant waiter who, once he’d found out that we hadn’t been to the restaurant before, rattled through a comprehensive description of the way it all worked and what we should expect to happen - most illuminating.
Basically, it’s a buffet, but with a twist. First of all, he explained, he would take our drinks order and then we should go along to the salad bar (as many times as we’d like). While away from our seats and otherwise engaged, a mini barbecue would be installed in the recess in the middle of the table and another waiter would bring along a selection of kebabs to cook on it before we would be let loose on the rest of the buffet.
In case you haven’t grasped the concept fully or are so overwhelmed by the experience that you forget what to do and when to do it then each place mat is printed with a handy guide to the Peachy Keens experience.
At this point it’s probably wise to explain the meaning of the name. ‘Peachy keen’ with or without the hyphen, I have since learned, is 1950s North American slang for excellent or wonderful. I’ve not yet managed to find out how it became attached to a chain of Indian buffet restaurants (there are other Peachy Keens in Birmingham, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham).
I asked a member of staff who had no idea what the name of her workplace meant, never mind why it had been adopted. Perhaps she was new.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand - the food.
Once our orders for drinks were relayed, off we trotted, as instructed, to the salad bar where we were met with a fantastic array of salads and other cold dishes - the like of which I’d not seen for a while.
I would quite happily have forgone the rest of the meal and spent all night going backwards and forwards trying out all the different permutations. But that wouldn’t make for a balanced review now, would it?
Two of our party were on pints of lager, the others on plain tap water but when we asked for a jug at the table we were met with a polite refusal and told a waiter would be along to refill our glasses as required. Why?
Back at our table we’d almost finished our first plate of salad before the kebabs arrived. And, far from being raw they were cooked and ready to eat - the hot coals a bit of a gimmick designed keep your food warm for the few minutes it takes to remove the meat from the skewers - a nice gimmick nevertheless.
As we finished one batch of kebabs another load arrived; succulent meat, chicken and fish and crunchy vegetables cooked to perfection. They were accompanied by a plate of homemade moist and meaty samosas and tasty little onion bhajis and a pot of chips. In the end though we decided to call a halt after four rounds to leave room for the main course.
So kebabs demolished it was time to inspect the rest.
Before we got up though, our waiter, ever attentive, reeled off the list of naan bread permutations available - many of which I’d never even heard of, so we played safe and ordered garlic and plain naans.
Back at the buffet a line of stainless steel tureens held a selection of different curries, meat, vegetable and lentil - along with two or three kinds of rice.
On thee occasions it’s tempting to pile everything onto your plate but I practiced restraint and took only a small amount of dhal, some Lamb Rogan Josh and a modest portion of rice, vowing to come back for more as my appetite dictated.
But, due to my earlier overindulgence that, as it turned out, was as much as I could manage. My dining companions, though were a bit more adventurous and, between them tried just about every dish on offer with no complaints at all about taste and tenderness.
The naan breads we ordered however never arrived, turned out they’d been delivered to another table. It’s probably a good job though - we all said we’d have struggled to eat them anyway.
I did manage to save a little bit of space for a dessert although they looked so nice I wished I could have tried more. Fresh fruit, gateaux, a chocolate fountain with marshmallows, cheesecakes and dainty little cakes and all I could manage was a small plate of fresh fruit.
The meal represented exceptional value for money.;
The final bill came to £73.8o including drinks - in fact the whole experience was peachy-keen.
Address: Electric Press Building, Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 3AD
Tel: 0113 246 9241
Opening times: noon - 3pm 5.30-11pm