Sheesh Mahal: Possibly the best curry in Leeds (May 2017)

The Sheesh is a Leeds institution, established for over 20 years and run by the Chaudhry family throughout. When the place had to shut for at the end of 2015 owing to the nearby river flooding its premises, there was a local outcry. Jubilation then greeted the recent re-opening of the Sheesh and my recent visit there found the standards to be as high as ever. On a recent weekday evening the place was certainly busy, yet we were able still to gain a table. Such is the success of the Sheesh that at peak times, it is a not uncommon site to see people queuing and willing to wait for a space to become free. The recipe for success here is simple: great service (Azram Chaudhry was on hand to greet us) and superbly-executed food. Dishes are prepared freshly every day using traditional Pakistani recipes. I began with the chicken seekh kebab and followed this with a lamb and spinach Balti. I also had the opportunity to sample my dining comrades’ mains of chicken tikka achaar (a local variation on the ever-popular dish) and muttar paneer (Indian cheese cooked with peas and spices). All had great depth of flavour and a sense of authenticity. In other words, eating at the Sheesh is less about presentation and more about letting the cooking express itself; a bit like being in the home of someone who really knows their stuff. Rather than placing the curry ‘heat’ of each dish at its centre, the chefs seek to create more-rounded harmonies, based around a spectrum of flavours. At c£20/head including popadoms and drinks, this is money well spent.  I am already looking forward to my next visit.