In Carrington, many years ago, I had my first ever experience of Indian food: a volcanic hot meat followed by an equally unsubtle Chicken Madras. Despite this searing initiation I was hooked. The restaurant where I sampled these delights is no longer there; however, there's a new kid on Carrington's curry block, and it's a cracker.
Occupying the former Natwest Bank premises on the corner of Hucknall and Mansfield Roads, Masala Junction is the new venture of the former owner of city-centre eaterie Mem Saab. Like Mem Saab it's pointed firmly toward the higher-end of the curry market, and also like Mem Saab it does a very good job indeed. This isn't a place where you can just roll up after a night out and, in a fit of drunken bravado, order the hottest thing on the menu. No, this is sophisticated cooking and definitely best enjoyed while in full control of one's faculties.
The interior sets the scene for the rest of the experience, with nary an algae-covered fish tank or oversized elephant vase to be seen. Instead we have nicely designed window blinds with a pattern which matches the menus, and a high, white-painted ceiling. The music is similarly non-clichéed, so much so that I can't even remember what it sounded like. Which is as it should be.
Our party forewent the poppadoms and pickles and opted instead for starters of paneer, cod, scallops and - in my case - duck. I can't speak for the others, but my duck was a delight; perfectly pink with a spiced coating and served with, among other things, tiny pickled cauliflower florets and a coriander puree.
As good as the starter was however, the main was even better. After a lot of deliberation I finally settled on a Murgh Methi, which is one of my all-time favourite curries, and it's fair to say this was the best one of these I've ever had. Firm chicken thighs smothered in thick, deep, smoky sauce. Pilau rice and a crispy, light keema naan complemented the dish perfectly. Clare asked for "something like Tikka Masala but not Tikka Masala" and the restaurant rustled up a sublime Butter Chicken which wasn't even on the menu.
Service was slick throughout, our house wine was an excellent Chenin Blanc and the final bill for four of us was just short of £100.00, which I think represents excellent value for a meal of such quality. It's early days yet but Masala Junction looks like a winner. We'll be going back without a doubt.