Headingley has been in dire need of some classy Indian food for a long old while, so when I was invited down to try out the food at The Cat’s Pyjamas, I was genuinely excited to get a chance to chow down on one of my favourite cuisines.
What I didn’t expect was to be eating food at the level The Cat’s Pyjamas offers; if the food scene in Headingley needed a reminder that while it is good it can still do better, The Cat’s Pyjamas has provided this reality check in abundance. The food, atmosphere and pricing is spot on.
When the concept of The Cat’s Pyjamas had first been mentioned to me, it sounded like it was going to be the Headingley equivalent of Bundobust but this simply isn’t the case. When you walk in, there is an area downstairs to grab a drink, chat to your mates (and quite probably wait for a table as this is a restaurant that is likely to get seriously busy!) and, to a lesser degree, watch the work of the kitchen team, who are working with Alfred Prasad.
When you get upstairs, you can see this is a restaurant and not a bar that happens to serve food (so not at all like Bundobust!). The decorations are simple but nice and the toilets have some rather funky customised wallpaper to give the whole place a more authentic feel!
Having held a Michelin star for 13 years (and being the youngest Indian chef to receive the famed accolade), this is a man who knows his cuisine. This is no slap dash kitchen that is attempting to understand the thousands of years that have refined and defined Indian cuisine; Alison and the team at The Cat’s Pyjamas have brought in someone who can really cook. You won’t need me to remind you of this when you are sat down eating his food!
As I was on my own (Charlotte was gutted that she didn’t come down so we are going to have to return soon!), I decided that the best way forward was to try a range of dishes, so I went for the street food styled small plates. In some restaurants this can cause all kinds of problems as this involves waiters attempting to guess the food portions and sizes despite not really knowing how to advise you and this can often involve serious over or under eating! At the Cat’s Pyjamas this wasn’t the case. Straightaway the helpful waiting team said that two dishes and two sides (including a rice or naan) would be a perfect amount for one person, so I went with this.
I decided to go for dishes that I felt would showcase the skill of the kitchen and so opted for the small plates of Kolkata Chaat and Amritsari Fish as well as sides of a chilli garlic naan and moong tadka that I was reliably informed was a type of lentil daal! With the small plates coming from different regions of India, I was looking forward to seeing if there were any differences in the spicing and flavour levels and was not left disappointed after my short wait for the food to arrive.
My Amristsari fish dish was a small selection of tilapia that had been seasoned and then fried in gram flour batter. The fish pieces were melt in your mouth delicious and the crisp salad provided a nice touch of freshness to the plate. The real bonus here was the beautiful dipping sauce that turned me into some kind of food monster as I had to refrain from licking the plate clean in a crowded restaurant!
The Kolkata Chaat for me was a bit of a risk as it contained pomegranate which can sometimes be out of place in a savoury dish. At the Cat’s Pyjamas this dish isn’t a risk at all. The chef knows what he is doing as the sweet pomegranate helps to balance the dish against the beautiful fresh and spicy chickpea salad. I’m not a vegetarian but if I was this would be a dish that would leave me more than satisfied; after all a lot of traditional Indian food (and street food) is vegetarian. A lovely dish.
The side fish of moong tadka was perhaps my favourite. I had held back my chilli garlic naan to dip into this dish. The seasoning was again spot on and the dish had that really authentic feel to it. The main courses had delivered excellent food and I was a happy man!
Having had a quick look at my watch, I felt I had enough time left before heading home to try out the kulfi dessert. I often have found Indian desserts get lost in a sea of curry and spice as people overlook them and find that they don’t have room or have had a few too many beers to want to bother with delicate flavours. The fact that the dining area in The Cat’s Pyjamas is set up for you to eat and not to drink means that you feel you are not just going to be throwing back the booze but are there primarily for the food, so I hoped the dessert would show this to be true!
I was again slightly nervous about ordering a rose flavoured kulfi as rose is a flavour that has to be treated with extreme caution! Again though, the food was fantastic. The plate looked wonderful, the food tasted great and was not overpowered by the rose petal flavour and was enhanced in texture by the addition of the pistachio on top of the kulfi. This was a wonderful dessert that you basically need to leave room for if you visit!
All in all, I had enjoyed a great dining experience. The food was great, there was a nice lounge area downstairs to chat with friends or loved ones before or after eating, and the dining area and waiting staff all contributed to the good vibe. If you like Indian food, live near or in Headingley, you really do need to head on down and try on The Cat’s Pyjamas for size.
Categories: Restaurant reviews