GIVEN I’ve been a curry-loving vegetarian for more than 25 years, it’s embarrassing to say I’ve not been to Hansa’s Gujarati Restaurant for a number of years.
There isn’t a good excuse for my tardiness but having a carnivorous husband probably has something to do with most of our restaurant choices. Anyway, it was about time I returned so I booked a table for us one cold Tuesday evening in January.
The award-winning vegetarian restaurant has been a Leeds institution for more than 30 years, serving up delicious Gujarati dishes to a loyal clientele.
The restaurant, spread out over three floors, is homely and welcoming. Its shabby chic interior, combined with its warm, friendly staff, creates a relaxed dining experience. It was surprisingly busy for such a quiet time of year - always a good sign - with around 10 full tables.
Customers ranged from couples to businessmen grabbing a quick bite to eat after work and also a birthday party.
We were shown to our table on the mezzanine level which had a good view of the floor below but felt slightly too close to the couple sitting nearby, given there was a choice of other empty tables.
We needed a little time to peruse the menu so we ordered a couple of drinks. Mango lassi (£2.75) for me and a bottle of Kingfisher (£7.50) for my husband.
The emphasis at Hansa’s is on sharing and experimenting.
Its menu consists of starters (sharuaat), our own specialities, a section on vegetable curries (lilotri) and beans or pulse curries (kathor), and the sweets (mistaan).
We opted for the mixed platter for two (£9.50) after the waitress enthusiastically described all five dishes.We were delighted with our choice.
There was Patra (Hansa’s best-selling starter), tropical colocasia leaves pasted with a curried batter, rolled, steamed and stir-fried with onions, sweetcorn, mustard and sesame seeds - delicious.
But the Kachori - spicy coarsely ground peas and channa daal mixture, made into balls then wrapped in a thin pastry and deep-fried until golden brown, served with Hansa’s own spicy sauce, was a sensation. The crunch of the deep fried pastry contrasted beautifully with the mixture inside.
I’m a big fan of paneer (Indian cheese) so the chilli paneer was a winner. It was warm and very spicy.
The Pani Puri was a selection of miniature bite-size puris, stuffed with slightly spiced chickpeas and chopped onion mixture. They are designed to be eaten in one bite with lashings of tamarind and mint sauce and were a perfect winter warmer.
We agreed that the Patudi was probably our least favourite dish on the platter but that was probably because we expected it to be hot when it was actually a cold dish.
The Gujarati snack is made with savoury gram flour rolls coated with fried mustard seeds, and served garnished with desiccated coconut and coriander and two types of dips.
The platter was filling and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to eat the main course but luckily we had decided to be a little more restrained and ordered two dishes to share.
Our waitress helpfully pointed out the curries that were dry and the ones that had a lot of sauce with them. I enjoy curries with sauce so I opted for the Bhagat Muthiya (£7.75) - chickpea koftas (Muthiya) and potatoes made into a lightly spiced curry. It was very tasty and there was plenty of sauce to mop up with bread.
My husband chose the Bhaji Paneer (£7.95), a classic spinach and cheese dish, which we both enjoyed.We also ordered a portion of Batura (£1.75), two pieces of fried bread with fenugreek, which was divine.
After both the starters and main courses, it was probably a blessing that the dessert I chose - Pheobe’s Delight, an Indian delicacy made with Indian coconut fudge, almonds and pistachio served hot with cream - wasn’t available.
Instead, my husband ordered Sauraya’s Favourite, and we shared it.
It was made with Gujarati Boondi (miniature gram flour droplets that are deep-fried then soaked in aromatic syrup), served hot with a layer of cooling vanilla ice-cream, almonds and cardomon garnishing, which was a delightful contrast of textures and rounded off the meal perfectly.
The whole meal, with another Kingfisher and a glass of house white (£3.50) plus a 10 per cent service charge added to the bill, came to a very reasonable £49.65.
Hansa’s website says: “You will be able to find a large variety of award-winning dishes, and we guarantee you will want to come back again until you have tried everything.”
That’s certainly how I felt after our experience. It might be a while since I last went but I certainly won’t leave it as long until I go back.
Address: 72-74 North St, Leeds, LS2 7PN
Opening times: Mon-Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun noon-2pm
Telephone: 0113 2444408