Compressed into the crowded lounge of the Sangam a year or so ago, awaiting a takeaway to be reviewed in this very newspaper, I made a mental note to return if possible and repeat the feat for the restaurant proper.
Incredible smells wafting from the kitchen and dozens of beaming diners told me the word of mouth which had led me there was sound.
Needless to say, the food toted home more than measured up, and when an opportunity to fill this slot popped up last week the compact but cosy Lostock Hall balti house was swiftly in my thoughts.
The first thing to say is that any prospective diner more accustomed to the chic, stylish modern Indian restaurant which has arisen this past decade or so – East is East, say, or the smaller eateries which have followed its lead – should brace themselves for a very different experience.
The Sangam, with no street presence and occupying a first floor space, is an object lesson in down to Earth.
Decked out like a 1980s family home, all textured wallpaper and pastel hues, there are neither frills nor bling. Nor, it must be said, a huge amount of tables.
We dined without reservation Thursday evening, unusually early, thank goodness, and by the time we rolled out few chairs stood empty.
Next time, on safe side, we’ll book.
And with food this good is best to be safe. For what the Sangam lacks in décor and sundry peripherals, it more than makes up for on the plate.
Three starters were shared, two were among the finest I’ve eaten in this area.
A meaty Royal Starter boasted the most succulent chunks of lamb tikka I readily recall; tender as fudge, beautifully seasoned; and a sheek kebab which detonated herb and spice bombs across my palate at every bite.
The onion bhajis were excellent, but the second star of this course was a simple Fish Massala, fried white fish under a hefty splodge of unctuous golden spiced onion shot through with bright green coriander.
The fish was excellent, the massala several steps beyond; sweet and savoury, subtle heat, floral notes – the best £3.50 I’ve spent this century.
Main courses were cut from the same cloth.
A Chicken Tikka Shashlick, which arrived singing on a skillet alongside a Madras heat vegetable curry, was sublime, meat and vegetables seared to perfection, sauce rich, pungent and lip-tingling.
A Chicken Bengal Massala lacked the heat I prefer – well, crave – but was fully endorsed across the table and enjoyed on my side, too.
Subtly spiced, unusual on the eye – a foamy buttery garnish creating a ‘two-tone’ marbled effect – and perfect mopped up with chapati.
Pilau and boiled rice were fluffy and fresh, and in truth one or other – the portions were vast – would have sufficed.
Superb from first bite to last, and at £44 plus drinks a delicious miracle.