A historic cotton mill in rural Staffordshire seems a peculiar place for a curryhouse, but it’s home to one of the best Indian meals you’ll ever have.
I feel like once people find a curryhouse they love, they’re fiercely loyal to it. For me, that curryhouse is now Qarma.
Qarma Tandoori is tucked away on Cross Street Mill in the market town of Leek. The old mill is divided into four or five different businesses, of which the Indian restaurant is one of them.
They reopened in June under new management, and have had raving reviews from takeaway customers and dine-in visitors alike.
We were greeted warmly by our waiter who let us have the pick of the room, seeing as we had the place to ourselves.
The building is absolutely breathtaking, with exposed brick arches separating tables in the centre of the restaurant. Indian music plays softly through the sound system, with cultural decor throughout.
We were waited on at the table by incredibly attentive staff who brought us drinks and poppadoms with dips to start.
The giant poppadoms broke with a satisfying ‘snap’, and the pickle tray dips were incredible. There was your typical mango chutney and yoghurt and mint dips, both of which were so refreshing, as well as spring onions with tomato and cucumber. But the one that blew me away was the red-toned dip unlike anything I’d ever tasted. It was super zesty with a spicy kick, and really complimented the other condiments on the table. Our waiter explained it was a pickled combination of mango, lime and lemon which had been blended together with some chili flakes.
A mixed platter arrived on a sizzling skillet, serving chicken tikka, lamb tikka, seekh kebab and a large onion bhaji. The freshness of the salad with the flavours of the meat was amazing. Jake and I were more than impressed before our mains had even arrived.
It was evident that everything was as fresh as could be, cooked perfectly with attention to detail and presentation.
Our mains were brought to our table on a serving trolley before being set down on a hot plate to keep them warm.
I ordered the chicken tikka masala, whilst Jake opted for a chicken and keema balti. We had pilau rice and a garlic cheese naan to share.
I really like that the elements are served up separately to plate up yourself. I like the choice of being able to add as much or as little sauce as I like. It also makes it easier to share side dishes like rice.
Chicken tikka masala is an old school favourite, served in a rich, creamy sauce. The curry is ordinarily £7.95, but Qarma are taking part in the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August. This means if you dine in from Monday to Wednesday, you can get 50% off your bill. Who can say no to a £3.80 curry?
The portion sizes were great and I kept finding more and more chicken hiding in my bowl beneath the surface of the sauce. I couldn’t have eaten any more if I tried, though I couldn’t get enough of the flavours,
Jake was thoroughly impressed with his balti. He said that you often can’t tell much difference between the likes of a jalfrezi, balti or rogan josh. But the spices and herbs were so distinguishing, and unlike any other curry we’ve eaten.
At the end of our meal we were offered a coffee, chocolate mints and lemon hand wipes. We were thoroughly looked after by the hospitable staff, who made it a lovely night.
Qarma would make a great meal out before a few drinks in one of Leek’s many watering holes, or for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary.
Jake and I at least know where we are ordering our next takeaway from!