You can’t accuse the owner of Haveli restaurant in Darras Hall, Ponteland, of lacking ambition. When I speak to him, he tells me that he not only wants to offer the best Indian cooking in Newcastle and the North East, he wants to offer the best Indian cooking in the whole of the UK. He wants people to come from far and wide to sample what his chefs create – the way he travels the globe eating at the very best restaurants.
One way, he tells me, Haveli stands out from the crowd is with its ingredients. The restaurant and takeaway uses the highest quality ingredients possible, with Northumbrian lamb and fresh, locally sourced seafood featured throughout the menu. You may pay a few pounds extra for your dish, but it will be worth it, I’m told.
The second way Haveli differentiates itself is its range of signature dishes that offer a myriad of favours and varying spice levels to suit all palettes.
Created by the team of highly experienced chefs, diners can opt for the likes of murgh methi palak, a mildly spiced chicken dish cooked with fresh spinach and sun-dried fenugreek (£11.50) and jhinga moilley, Indian Ocean king prawns in a mild ginger and coconut sauce (£12.50), or railway lamb curry, Northumbrian lamb cooked in a tomato-based sauce with new potatoes, curry leaf and coconut (£11.95). This latter dish was a particular favourite of mine when I ate at the restaurant last month. So was the machar jhol, the traditional Bengali-style grilled monkfish (£11.50) that had been recommended to me prior to my visit.
In order to appeal to everyone, Haveli still provides traditional dishes such as korma, bhuna and vindaloo (featuring deadly ghost chillies) but, for me, it does seem a shame to visit a restaurant such as Haveli, which is trying so hard to broaden your Indian tastes, and stick to your go-to curry house dish.
Of course, there are also the usual sundries that you would expect to add to your dining experience (starters, rice, breads and naans), all created with that extra degree of care and attention – which you can definitely taste.
These are offered alongside a few side orders that you may not expect, such as feta cheese naan (a revelation to me) and low-carb cauliflower rice for those who are watching their waistlines.
With its elegant contemporary interior combining sumptuous red and gold soft furnishings with geometric wallpaper, Haveli Restaurant does present a different and exciting Indian dining experience – and, in my opinion, is worth making a journey to visit.