So when I called at Eurasia Tandoori, in Bridgnorth, I got there just after the doors had opened.
I felt like the foodie equivalent of a Glaswegian drunk who’s stood outside his local pub at opening time, swaying in the street as the landlord loads in fresh kegs of beer.
The staff were still laying tables and making their preparations for the evening – and probably wondering whether the quick-out-of-the-blocks diner who’d arrived within a minute of opening time hadn’t got a home to go to.
Or, perhaps, they weren’t.
Because on an unremarkable Tuesday evening in Bridgnorth, when the town’s chefs are supposed to be twiddling their thumbs, Eurasia was surprisingly busy.
Families with kids arrived for an early supper, groups of friends ordered beers and curries, hard-working couples gave themselves a break from the kitchen and let someone else take care of the cooking and washing up.
Eurasia is a consistently reliable neighbourhood curry house that’s long been one of this area’s best.
Standards are high, prices are low and service is efficient and friendly – what’s not to like.
It opened its doors in 1975 and over a period of time became a thriving, high class Indian & Bangladeshi Restaurant.
In 2001 executive chef Amjad Ali and his partners Shamim Haque and Shahid Ahad bought the business and focused on taking Eurasia to new heights.
It is not quite a Mecca for fine dining, but Eurasia deserves plaudits for establishing itself in a busy market and notching up more than 40 years in a competitive industry.
Nonetheless chef Amjad Ali has earned recognition on the national stage, earning Curry Chef of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016.
The restaurant has also invested in improvements during the course of its lifetime, the last major refurbishment coming in 2013 when Eurasia embraced a contemporary new image.
Chef Ali’s vision is easily described.
He aims to capture authentic cuisine as it is traditionally served in India and Bangladesh.
The flavours created every day have travelled all the way from South East Asia as chef Ali carefully combines traditional and contemporary styles and techniques to provide an enjoyable dining experience in Bridgnorth.
The menu is a mix of signature dishes and old classics. So if you’re looking for a balti or bhuna you’ll find that at Eurasia, or you can feast on chef Ali’s signature dish, ginger chicken, or others that showcase creativity and flair.
The restaurant is one of the town’s favourite – it’s got a band of regular guests and the then-Mayor of Bridgnorth noted the contribution it had made to the town when it celebrated its 40th anniversary.
And so perhaps it’s not so surprising that my plans for a quick in-and-out dinner were laid to rest as a number of other guests had similar ideas and the kitchen found itself as busy as it might get on a Saturday night by 6.30pm on a workaday Tuesday.
I started with the obligatory poppadoms, which were hot, fresh and as crisp as a thin sheet of glass beneath a hammer.
The dips weren’t perfect.
A mango chutney was too sweet and too thin; it had the appearance and texture of diluted jam; not good.
The onion salad with raita was okay, nothing special; a chilli dip was decent. The starter was much better. A chicken tikka served on puri was delightful.
A small side salad featuring pomegranate seeds provided sweet, cool relief to the warming tikka while the puri was great. The chef avoided drowning the dish in oil, as so many restaurants do, and the flavours were well balanced. One dish down, one happy customer – and let’s forget about the dips.
The main was also decent, without quite scaling gastronomic heights.
Apricot badami featured pieces of chicken tikka that had been cooked in a mild sauce with a hint of chilli, apricot and cashew nuts.
The cashews were deliciously soft, having been cooked through in the sauce, though the apricots hadn’t properly rehydrated and were still a little dry.
Had the chef used fresh, rather than dried, the dish would have improved dramatically.
The chicken was okay, though not as moist as it might have been. The dish was served with a plate of basmati rice and decent naan bread, cut into quarters.
Service was decent throughout the evening. Two waiters were efficient between tables, taking orders and ferrying plates, while providing service with a smile.
And the bill was entirely reasonable. Unlike some restaurants which have delusions of grandeur and prices to match, my wallet remained intact and didn’t take too much of a beating.
Eurasia deserves considerable credit for maintaining high standards for so many years. While others have come and gone, it’s consistently punched above its weight, providing pleasant service and good food in convivial surrounds.
Running a decent neighbourhood restaurant is no easy task.
There’s inevitable competition from incomers who want to make their mark, regular customers get bored and head off in search of other thrills and there’s the constant battle to pay the rates, absorb increased costs of ingredients and make a profit in a tough economic climate.
Eurasia has been there, seen that and done it.
It’s thrived, rather than simply survived, during an impressive 40+ years and clearly has plenty of gas left in the tank.
I’ve eaten at the restaurant on many occasions down the years and it’s never let me down, unlike too many others that flatter to deceive or, more accurately, fail to get the basics right.
There’s still room for improvement, of course.
The chef could make better dips to go with the poppadoms, for a start.
But there are few issues that cause substantial grumbles and Eurasia is a restaurant that we ought to celebrate and enjoy.
It has achieved longevity and continues to operate at a high level.