Abul’s Spice//18thMAR|2017

Following last week’s meal in the fashionably styled Mowgli, I had a hunger for curry that was quite insatiable.

I found myself, spending longer than usual, forlornly staring at the ready-meals in the supermarkets. I was transfixed for at least an hour by a rerun of Rick Stein’s India. I was pretty sure that I didn’t like Rick Stein. His travelogues have always felt a little too improvisational to be truly informative and I’ve always thought his cooking lacked a certain level of finesse. But, apparently, Indian food is the perfect cuisine for his oddly sleepy format of television.

As he slowly sweats through his shirt, he lazily stirs chopped onion with an effete hand, whilst his commentary runs wildly off on a tangent. Instead of wanting to turn the channel over, I find myself wishing to be next to him, on that river boat, with the smells of exotic spies floating along with the undulating waters. When I awaken on the sofa, some hours later, I swear I can taste that Goan Fish Curry in the back of my mouth.

Its been a rather strange few days. All the more reason to leave the hectic dust cloud of the city and visit North Wales, in search of the elusive curry that has been haunting my dreams for the past week.

Tucked away in the sleepy town of Corwen lies Abul’s Spice, a multi-award winning curry house run by self-taught chef Abul Hussain. Let’s get one thing out of the way first, Abul is a Bangladeshi man but he’s magnanimous enough to cater to British tastes, whilst retaining an authentic approach to his menu. You’ll find just about every dish on the menu, that you’d expect from a British curry house. What caught my eye first were the unfamiliar curries on the list.

Abul’s own recipe, ‘Shatkora Bhuna Chicken’, jumped out at me. Fresh spring onions, garlic and coriander, all fried together with tender lamb and served with a slice of shatkora (a kind of Bangladeshi citrus) – divine. Of course, you can’t just order one curry. With my interest piqued by the endless stream of exotic plates leaving the kitchen, I soon found myself enquiring with my fellow diners as to what they were eating.

Each dish, though traditional in flavour, came presented in a neat modern fashion. This is hardly innovative in the world of the curry house. For years now, ambitious chefs have been attempting to apply the delicate presentation standards of fine dining to Indian classics – with varying results. Abul strikes a good balance though, understanding the importance of colour and correct portion sizes. We’re not overwhelmed here by mountains of rice or huge pools of sauce with little meat – instead there’s a level of delicacy that has been applied to each dish, truly refreshing.

It would be pointless to criticise the decor or the strange folded napkins that always seem to appear on the tables at these kinds of places – that would be missing the point. The restaurant is a BYOB affair, but you do have the option of bringing a pint in from the pub next door.

Something I’m sure Rick would approve of very much.