The daddy of all curries?
Is Babaji dishing up the daddy of all curries? Meaning ‘dear Father’, Babaji is inspired by the Indian fathers who moved to Britain in the 1960s, pioneering the Indian food industry in the country and sparking the nation’s love of curry. And, in a nod to its culinary heritage, the artisan curry house opened its doors at the beginning of the year promising an “unfiltered” taste of India.
Housed in the former Royale Thai unit (the Royal Mail sorting office of yore) in Mary Street, the new kid on the block has got off to a flying start as the current toprated place for a curry in the city on Google ratings.
It’s certainly come from great curry stock, being brought to the city by the same restaurateur behind the award-winning Delhi 6 and Delhi Lounge ventures in South Shields.
While Shields is home to the North East’s answer to the Curry Mile, Sunderland too has welcomed a wave of new Indian restaurants of its own recently with new city centre openings such as MyDelhi, Chilli Mangoes and Babaji flying the flag for this most colourful melting pot of flavours.
Inside, the decor takes its colour scheme from a curry dish, all burnt orange and saffron hues with splashes of green and walls peppered with family pictures and spices. Make sure to check out the Murano glass chandelier made for Fendi too, which is a stunning focal point.
It all makes for a warm, homely feel with a mixture of booth and standard seating – there’s plenty of covers too if you’re dining out en masse.
Curries are the speciality here, and the menu is very much dedicated to this most classic of Indian dishes, with options such as ‘70s
style chicken madras; Governor’s jalfrezi, a recipe dating back to the British Raj and Royal lamb rezala, an ‘80s dish inspired by spices native to Bengal.
Prices are really reasonable with a two-course menu running from 5pm to 10pm Sunday to Thursday for £15 per person and Fridays and Saturdays for £17 each.
There’s also a broader main menu with a range of starters and curries, including chicken, lamb, seafood and veggie options – worth noting it’s predominately curries.
Pickles to start, £4.50 with two poppadoms, were a little different from the norm, a real medley of smooth dips including a hot take on a Marie Rose sauce with chillis that we couldn’t get enough of.
Proper napkins, instead of the flimsy paper ones, are also a classy touch for sticky digits.
To start, I had the paneer tikka (£5.50) which was good value for four large cubes of distinctive Indian cheese, its mildness complemented well with the smokiness of the tandoor and a punchy spice dip.
My main was a Bengali classic: Kolkata fish curry, a great alternative to more common meat curries – £13 for the curry and £3.40 for pilau rice side.
It was a beautifully fragrant dish, with plenty of chunks of flaky tilapia in a mustardy curry, which wasn’t overly greasy or laced in artificial colouring as can often be the case with Indian food. A great medley of authentic flavours.
Cobra on draught (£4.80 a pint) can help wash the curry down, but there’s also a range of other drinks such as wines, sparkling wines, spirits, cocktails and mocktails.
We enjoyed a really decent bottle of Sauvignon for £16.95, its crispness cutting through the richness of the food.
Manager Sohel insisted we round off the evening with a Brain Skull shot – a weird and wonderful tipple that looked like something out of Stranger Things. A mix of Peach Schnapps, Baileys, Blue Curacao and Grenadine, it shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’s a shot that’s definitely worth knocking back.
“Babaji’s pearls of wisdom” feature on the wall of the restaurant – top being “treat your guests as though they were guests in your home”.
Service was excellent: friendly, chatty, swift and efficient. With the hospitality industry struggling with recruitment at the minute, it was refreshing to get such a professional level of service that made you feel right at home.
Our bill for the two of us came to £61.10 – a bargain for such a true taste of India in the heart of Sunderland.
• Babaji, Mary Street, is open Sunday to Thursday from 5pm to 11pm and Friday and Saturday from 5pm until 12am.
It’s certainly come from
great curry stock