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Top nosh but don't tikka leak.

Byline: GaryRalston

TIf the food at the Shahbaaz was as disappointing as its loos, it wouldn't have survived in the cu throat food game for 27 years.

Aggie MacKenzie, of Kim and Aggie fame, used to study round the corner in the old Aberdeen College of Commerce.

It's time the Queen of Clean returned to the Granite City.

The food at the Shahbaaz is stunning and its interior is sleek , comfortable, cosmopolitan and bang up there with everything you would expect of an Aberdonian institution.

However, a walk through the doors to its smallest room exposes its biggest flaw. The look of the toilets is best described as counci l office chic, off orange walls in need of a good scrub and no sign they'd been checked the previous 24 hours, never mind 15 minutes.

The angriest department in the place should be the kitchen because it detracts from the skilful cooking that has seen the restaurant flourish since the 80s.

Apparently, Willie Miller turned up on the opening nigh t and was immediately banned for trying to tell the head chef how to cook a chicken korma.

Yours truly played Rodney to my mucker Del when we turned his Robin Reliant down Rose Street on a Wednesday for the restaurant opening at five sharp.

Unlike Kenny Rogers, the exterior of the Shahbaaz doesn't appear to have had a facelift since it opened. However, the interior is a class apart with low mood lighting, lots of crisp linen and leather banquettes.

Positive first impressions were matched by the food, although they did the old cheeky switcheroo with the soft drinks and poured our diet cola from two litre bottles behind the bar and then charged prices Tesco would never dare dream.

However, the impressive menu cut no corners - not only offering the traditional range of Indian , Bangladeshi and Pakistani dishes but also several exclusive to the Shahbaaz.

Del and I stuck to the familia r with the starters after battering our fists on two fresh poppadoms that looked like Pringles on steroids. His mixed tikka and my mixed starter were wonderfully fresh - succulent chunks of lamb, chicken and beef, light and perfectly cooked and the pakoras on my plate carried just the righ t amount of crunch.

The range of main courses available are mouth watering, including all the old favourites as well as dil bahar dishes (swee t and sour), turka (tomatoes, onion , mushrooms and coriander) and shaha (tomatoes, yogurt, chilli and spices).

The jalhari, exclusive to the Shahbaaz and created with chef's sauce, is so secret he'll tell you nothing except it's medium hot and made with delicate herbs.

I went for a king prawn qandari and it came with big, boisterous pieces of seafood marinaded in tandoori to a recipe that included everything from mint and green chillies to tomatoes and ginger.

It was slightly spicier than usual but the flavours were stil l delicately balanced against the fleshy meat and it was smashing.

Del went for the chicken tikka massala and the generous pieces of breast were roasted to perfection in a creamy tomato sauce. Glasgow claims ownership of the original recipe - surprise , surprise - but Del swears this Aberdonian version stands free as best of all.

We shared a plate of fluffy pilau rice and a plain nan so big it resembled King Kong's keyhole.

There's nothing worse than biting into brittle bits of burned bread but this was oven-cooked to perfection, light brown and crisp, rather than having a consistency of cindered cardboard.

Rightly or wrongly, Indian restaurant desserts have never floated my banana boat, so we skipped a third course and settled for coffees with the ubiquitous After Eights.

Over a frothing cappuccino I confided to Del: "We might just have a Hot Plate contender here , big man."

He sat back in the booth and nodded: "I wouldn't disagree. This is as good an Indian as you'll find any where."

As I slid a bill that wasn't too excessive back to the waiter I answered: "Spot on. Now give me a minute, I've just got to nip to the toilet" SHAHTANDOORI ODTOT SAAR ORTRFISAURAN T STT ADAMS SAROANO OA LADI ITIHAAS DSTT RA HARAURAN T SSTM HT ARMS AURAN T MI IAKHOU TSROSSLHHO HRO ORHO TS AURAN T OL HAR TAN T SHAMROK ANANALA RORHD FISHIST 4 (BBTADOOR
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 2, 2014
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