I’ve written about curry before, but since you can never have enough curry, I’m going to write a bit more. You’ve heard about my previous Indian outings to Masala Lounge in Rugby, and there are a few others in the town that Mr M and I have been known to frequent. But last week I was introduced to a new one by a friend.
Omar’s is in Dunchurch, a village literally just outside Rugby. It’s home to some rather nice houses, a couple of nice pubs, and a handful of eateries. I’ve written about Nook on the Square before, and I’m sure at some point you’ll get a rave about the Huntsman Carvery (I know, carvery – but it’s actually bloody good!). Anyway, a friend suggested we go to Omar’s. He’d had a takeaway from there and was jolly impressed, so we went to try a sit down meal. And in fact, I enjoyed it so much that I ended up returning just a few days later with Mr M and my mum in tow.
It’s a funny little place, inside an old cottage, so as you walk in you do kind of feel like you’re wandering into someone’s house. The restaurant is far bigger than it looks from the outside, spreading through endless rooms which actually serves to give it quite an intimate atmosphere, a bit like the feeling I got at the Shimla Palace in Wolseley Bridge.
The service was efficient – we were whisked into the back room to a table loaded with ‘Omar’s’ decorated crockery, soon joined by drinks, poppadoms and dips.
I was so busy catching up with my old pal that I didn’t do my usual poring over the menu. Instead, I resorted to asking our waiter what I should have. Always helpful, especially when there are a few dishes you haven’t tried before.
For starter he suggested Rashmi kebab – tandoori chicken breast, with an egg on top. I’m not too good with egg descriptions, but I think we’d call it sunnyside up – you know, when it’s been fried on both sides? It was nice – nothing to write home about, but nice. The chicken was tender, the egg cooked nicely, and the whole thing fairly light and tasty. Andy went for the cryptically-named ‘Assorted’. I’d been half-tempted just because of the name, but it turns out it was literally, an assortment of some of the standard starters you’d expect – sheekh kebab, pakoras etc.
For main course I couldn’t decide yet again, but our waiter suggested the lamb chilli gosth. I’ve got pals who never order lamb in an Indian restaurant amid concerns that it might not actually be the meat it claims to be, but I can vouch for Omar’s. Tender chunks of meat that was clearly lamb, spiced with fresh green chilli. The chappatis I ordered to go with it were thin and light and a great vehicle for scooping up the sauce.
While our starters didn’t blow me away, the main courses trumped some of our regular curry haunts in Rugby. The restaurant was packed which is always a good sign, and Omar himself was a great host, recognising my friend and inviting us to stay for a drink afterwards. Pretty darn impressed, when I found myself nearby with Mr M and my mum a few days later I thought I’d make a return visit to try some other dishes, and get their verdict on Omar’s too.
This time I opted for ‘Sizzling fish’ – Bengal-style spicy fried fish served on a Hades-hot cast iron dish with onions. I completely forgot to ask what kind of fish it was, but it almost had the texture of tuna. Meaty and chunky, and a blimin’ generous portion. So generous that I was going to save half for my lunch the next day until Jamie polished it off. He had gone for a lamb pathia – his dish of choice, spiced up with some extra green chilli. It got the thumbs up from him (not all of them do, trust me).
Instead of rice or bread, I decided (as I often do) to have a vegetable side dish as an accompaniment. Saag is one of my all-time favourites, and despite usually just having a plain saag bhaji, I decided to try the saag paneer. I’ve recently developed a serious love for cheeses like paneer and halloumi – it’s all about the slightly-chewy-but-not-rubbery texture and they seem to carry flavours and spices really well.
It’s got to be said, Omar’s was one of the best saags I’ve ever had. The perfect consistency – smooth but not a complete liquid, delicately flavoured, and without – this is a rarity – that layer of ghee that you get floating on the top of so many. This was going to be the other half of my lunch the next day, but also got polished off!
Mummy B s a sucker for a thali – and since this is on Omar’s menu it was obviously the dish she was gonna choose. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a selection of small portions of several different dishes – curries, sides, rice, bread. I’m not even entirely sure of the entire list at Omar’s but her feast of little treats included two different curries, a veg dish, some fluffy rice, yoghurt rhaita and a chappati.
Despite being stuffed, mum couldn’t resist a dessert of gulab jamun once she spotted it. These Indian sweets aren’t on every menu – at least I don’t see them that often – but they’re one of her favourites, and I remember her making them for me occasionally when I was younger. Basically, they’re usually made of a dough made from milk powder then deep fried (sort of like a kind of donut) then soaked in a syrup flavoured with rosewater and cardamom. I love them because they’re usually more sickly than a five-year-old’s birthday party.
These weren’t quite as sweet as that, which might appeal more to some people. They were served cold rather than warm (apparently this is the norm – just goes to show how variations on a theme can trump the original for some of us) but the syrup was a party of rosewater, sugar and cardamom that provided a nice closer to the meal.
Omar’s winning hosting skills on my previous visit certainly hadn’t been a one-off. He charmed mum and Jamie, as he did the whole restaurant, and I watched him work the room like a consummate professional restaurateur, greeting regulars like old friends, and getting to know newbies like us. A few minutes of close study and you could see his eyes flick over each dish as it was brought into the restaurant as a hawk does its prey, checking it was up to scratch. This guy has got the important stuff right – quality of food and good service – and knows these are the hallmarks of a decent eaterie.
It’s a shame Omar’s is a little bit further than the other Indian restaurants we frequent, but hey, only a few miles, and well worth the extra journey. We’ll be back!
We paid in full both times and they didn’t know I was a blogger.