There isn’t a moment I would turn down a chance to visit an Indian restaurant. When I found Simla that was it… I had to go. Situated in the Quayside area of Newcastle, Simla is a modern, entirely renovated restaurant that has served modern Indian cuisine since 1981. They state that their menu ‘reflects our deep appreciation of historically significant dishes from throughout the Indian subcontinent.’ So, would Simla be able to outclass the competition or would it be a case of too ‘similar’ and be trounced by the competition? The restaurant area is petite yet comforting. Although the place was packed, I enjoyed the relaxed ambience. Sat at our tables in the centre of the restaurant, we had a useful picture of our surroundings. Vilius, our waiter on the night, asked us what we would like to drink. Even though Simla has a wonderful wine menu, we went for two of their special gins from their inclusive gin menu. The Brooklyn Gin which came with ginger beer was amazing – I could’ve drunk them all night. My colleague’s Fruity Bombay Sapphire Gin was first class. We were feeling refreshed and ready to indulge in Simla’s spices.
For our starters, with excitement brewing from Simla’s enticing new menu, we ordered a Poppadom Bowl served with Homemade Chutneys, Trio of Chicken Tikka and Sea King Scallops. The poppadoms were terrific with their accompaniments: mint, honey and mango chutney. All three were good combinations with the poppadoms but the mint was the standout for me. However the real star of the starters was the Sea King Scallops. What a pretty plate of food. A triangle of three chunky spiced scallops, lightly dressed, pan seared with chilli garlic and separated by five neat dabbles of a wonderfully sweet crimson tomato sauce – it’s fair to say they were the best scallops I’ve ever had. I wasn’t the only one in awe of our starters. My colleague raved about his trio of succulent chicken kebabs. Standing side by side, this triplet couldn’t have been any less identical; variation was their triumph – they all had their own style which meant it was like having three starters in one. Great value.
So the starters had panache, Vilius, bring us the mains! With our mouths salivating, we ordered Lamb Shank Kashmiri Rogan Josh from the Chef’s Selection, Chicken Madras, Saffron Pulao Rice, Garlic Naan and Palak Aloo. Without any hesitation (thankfully, as our anticipation was getting the better of us) Vilius, our great host, brought us our mains. With our table transformed into an array of colours, it was time to tuck in. Slow cooked in its own bone marrow juice and with Kashmiri spices, the Lamb Shank Kashmiri Rogan Josh was out of this world. It was lamb of the highest quality; it literally fell off the bone. The Chicken Madras with mustard, poppy seed and coconut was rich, super spiced (my colleague asked for extra heat) and had sour-sweet smoothness. My colleague knows his curries and he was wowed. The Saffron Pulao Rice was an elegant accompaniment and added to the fragrance of our main selection. The Garlic Naan, cut in four, was superb. The Palak Aloo, potatoes in lightly spiced fresh spinach puree, was an excellent extra to our already brilliant night.
In essence, Simla has everything you want from an Indian Restaurant: excellent customer service, a relaxing ambience and most importantly, they have a mesmerising menu. Even though they are already a popular Indian restaurant, if you haven’t been, make it your mission to go. I can safely say Simla was a unique, fabulous experience.