Dining out, in these image conscious days, has for some become as much about the surroundings as the food.
Dining rooms full of shiny fittings, plates in all manner of geometric shapes and sizes and menus which blur the boundary between fact and fiction. But isn’t it all really smoke and mirrors – all fur coat and no knickers, if you get my drift.
For a start the sort of places which do this kind of thing well aren’t the sort of spots you pop to on a week night when you fancy some decent grub but can’t be bothered cooking.
They’re certainly not the kind of place you might want to meet with friends for a bit of honest grub, a few beers and the best of company.
That’s why every neighbourhood deserves, nay demands, a good curry house.
It doesn’t need to be flash – indeed the best are often the most unassuming, rough around the edges in a delightful and slightly comforting way.
Take Gemma in St Annes as a good example.
It’s not on the flash town centre restaurant strip. It’s the kind of place you need to know about and make a point of visiting.
Flash it most definitely is not, but the welcome is warm enough – we share a joke with the waiter about having a choice of almost any table on a rather quiet Tuesday evening.
The menu isn’t mind-boggling; solid curry house classics and a small selection of house specials, very much comfort food at its spicy finest.
There’s a decent and very reasonably priced wine list (or lager on draught if you prefer). The South African Chenin Blanc arrives nicely chilled although, given the screw cap, there’s really no need for the formality of tasting. No chance of corking here.
Poppadoms out of the way, our starter selection to share arrives at the table piping hot and very tasty.
Two types of tikka chicken, one on the bone, a divine onion bhaji and, the highlight, a very yummy meat samosa, the casing light and crispy, the filling nicely spiced.
It’s all rather filling but, still, onwards with the main course, lamb tikka karahi for me and a chicken tikka jalfrezi for my wife.
The curries arrive at the table sizzling and piping and are packed with flavour. The lamb dish, rather refreshingly comes with bite sized, rather than the usual giant chunks of lamb. The sauce, rich with tomatoes, garlic and peppers isn’t overbearingly hot, allowing the combination of spices to sing.
The chicken is moist and there’s a nice spice to the jalfrezi, and, as we share a giggle over the Indian pop music playing on the stereo, we agree the curries have hit the spot.
The garlic naan is just the right size to mop up that extra sauce, crispy on the bottom and bubbly on top, it’s spent just the right amount of time in the tandoor before hitting our plates.
Mains polished off there’s an offer of puds but, in truth, we’re both too stuffed to give it a first thought – even if I am normally a sucker for a good mango kulfi.
Complimentary nightcaps, a whisky for the gentleman, cream liqueur for the lady, are a nice touch and ensure we hit the streets feeling thoroughly satisfied and a little warmed on the inside.
Address: St David’s Road South, St Annes
Phone: (01253) 782030
Open: Daily 5.30pm to midnight
Disabled access: Step to front door
Worth a visit for: Good value Indian food
One thing I’d change: Turn down the music!