Fine dining in one of Sheffield's classiest Indian restaurants
Fine dining restaurants that offer tasting menus are few and far between these days, and with relaxed eating being all the rage, you might have thought the very idea of bow-tied waiter donning white gloves to deliver food to tables gleaming with white tablecloths, candelabra and highly polished cutlery was a thing of the past.
Think again. Those traditional values of service and painstaking attention to detail are alive and well and drawing an increasingly appreciative clientele to The Front Room in Hillsborough.
It’s different, but the real twist in the tale is that this is an Indian restaurant. Manager Nadim Khan spent 15 years working in local restaurants, including the Ashoka on Eccclesall Road, before deciding to strike out for himself at a venue that has been home to a few restaurants over the years.
Any links with past establishments have been well and truly severed, however. This is not just about changing the fixtures and fittings, there has been a complete makeover, with reconstruction work going down to the bare brickwork before the shell was completely rebuilt to Nadim’s precise image of what a high class Indian restaurant should look like.
So you get gleaming white walls and ceilings with matching leather chairs, candlelight and dark wood floors, very posh loos with Molton Brown soap in the dispensers, and a menu that aims to blend the best of traditional Indian cuisine with the contemporary trend for street food.
Black dickie-bows, white shirts and black waistcoats and trousers give the front-of-house team (including Nadim, who is a very hands-on boss) a smart look to match the setting.
We visited on a Tuesday evening expecting a quiet night but not a bit of it, the restaurant was buzzing.
And while the main menu looked tempting, we could not resist the chance to try something new to the Front Room - a five-course tasting menu specially prepared to highlight the variety and skill on offer in the kitchen.
We started with chatpata poppadoms, which were beautifully crisp and topped with crunchy salad, herbs, spices and home-made chilli sauce.
Then came a trio of beautifully cooked and delicately seasoned dishes that you definitely would not find in your average high street Indian restaurant. There were large cubes of tandoori dill salmon, served on wooden skewers; chicken lollipops, coated in spices and delivered on the bone, and strips of supremely tender lamb boti.
All the food looked very elegant, presented on stylish black plates, and lightly spiced spinach rolls with black and white sesame seeds proved to be just the thing to perk up the tastebuds ahead of the main course.
The savoury element of this spectacular feast was concluded with a lamb shank, with generous hunks of meat falling off the bone into a lightly spicy curry sauce which was just crying out to be soaked up by the side order of freshly made chapattis.
It sounds like a lot, but with no heavy breads or starchy sauces to bloat you up, desserts were still a welcome treat rather than a chore. Chocolate melt, with chocolate sauce and ice-cream, and carrot halva brought our meal to a memorably sweet conclusion.
With service and presentation absolutely spot on, The Front Room feels like a very special home from home. The tasting menu is £45 per person.
The Front Room, 481 Langsett Road, Sheffield, S6 2LN
Tel: 0114 285 3439