Dining Out: Anoki, Derby

Anoki Derby

Anoki Derby - Credit: Archant

An extravagant menu in luxurious surroundings – fine Indian dining with a difference

Anoki Derby

Anoki Derby - Credit: Archant

FLICKERING candlelight, service by waiters in traditional Indian dress and an elegant dining room in the opulent surroundings of an old picture house make it easy to forget that you’re in the heart of Derby and imagine that you’ve been transported to more exotic climes when dining at Anoki.

Though the restaurant’s sleek façade on the city’s London Road gives little indication of what lies within, on crossing the threshold there’s an immediate sense of comfort. Smiling front of house staff offer a warm welcome and an invitation to relax with pre-dinner drinks in the subtly-lit ground floor bar area.

However, it’s when ascending the staircase to the magnificent first floor dining room that the restaurant really comes into its own. Ornate furnishings beneath a gilded vaulted ceiling with enough space for 120 covers offer an unexpectedly luxurious space that sets the tone for a memorable dining experience.

The venue opened its doors under proprietor Naveed Khaliq in 2003, with the aim of offering Indian fine dining that was ‘a world away from the traditional curry house’. Its elegant touches, indulgent traditional dishes with a twist, and impeccable attention to detail proved a winning formula and restaurants in Nottingham and Burton soon followed. Anoki won a host of awards, including a listing in The Times’ Top 10 Indian Restaurants in the UK.

Anoki Derby

Anoki Derby - Credit: Archant

No sooner were we seated at our table – immaculately dressed with crisp white linen – than a bowl of still-­warm, crispy poppadoms materialised with four delicious dips of creamy mint yoghurt, lime pickles, mango chutney and searing tomato with mixed chillies.

Whilst perusing the menu we sipped on cooling Cobra beer (£4.95) – well-loved in Indian restaurants for its full, malty flavour that goes well with spicy food. There are twelve starters – ranging from hot chilli fish to lamb kofta – and over 25 main courses divided into Anoki favourites, chef’s recommendations, Tandoor delicacies and vegetarian dishes. Accompaniments include freshly-­made, speciality naan breads in flavours such as garlic and cheese or the sweet, sultana-filled Peshwari, plus six choices of rice. All the dishes are freshly cooked to order and diners can request bespoke curries of the sauce, heat and flavour that is just to their liking.

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My partner began with the spicy grill selection (£7.95), presented with a delicate smear of sauce and artfully-cut salad. The seekh kebab was pure meat and spices, with mouth­-wateringly tender chicken and lamb tikka pieces and a vegetable bhaji that boasted substantial amounts of onion and cumin.

Across the table my prawn chat puri (£7.95) arrived in two separate dishes: a heaped bowl of pan­-fried prawns in a light tomato and herb sauce, and a fluffy, pillow-­like roll of puri bread on which to layer them, providing a contrast of textures.

For my main course I was drawn in by the mirch masala chicken (£16.95) – enticed by the fact that it’s a firm favourite with Anoki’s staff. Similar to tikka sauce but with more of a ‘kick’, the blend included ginger, fresh coriander, garlic and spices – but the real star was the succulent chicken.

It’s a cliché to say so but our second dish of Pakistani lahoori lamb gohst (£18.95), marinated and cooked on the bone, appeared to have been slow cooked for so long that the meat really did just dissolve on the tongue. The rust-­coloured, lightly spiced sauce had just the right amount of fieriness and side orders of naan bread – including the meat­-filled keema variety – and mushroom rice were ideal for mopping up any leftovers.

The dessert menu is a mix of classical Indian desserts and we finished in simple style with mango kulfi (£4.95) – a type of dense, thick Indian ice cream that satisfies cravings for something cool and palate-cleansing after a spicy meal.

We were not just impressed with the food but also with those extra little touches, such as warm plates and candle maintenance, that can make all the difference. Everything from the surroundings to personable service helps to create a special experience. We later learned that Anoki is the traditional Urdu word for ‘unique’ – a fitting way to describe this city-centre gem.

Anoki, 129 London Rd, Derby DE1 2QN. Tel: 01332 292888; www.anoki.co.uk