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Aftab Tandoori & Balti, Ironbridge

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Star rating: ***** Not many restaurants fail to catch my eye in Ironbridge, but I must admit the Aftab Tandoori & Balti restaurant did, writes Kirsty Smallman. But after walking past, followed a recommendation from a friend, we visited on a Friday night with my parents.

Inside Aftab Tandoori & Balti, IronbridgeStar rating: ***** Not many restaurants fail to catch my eye in Ironbridge, but I must admit the Aftab Tandoori & Balti restaurant did, writes Kirsty Smallman. But after walking past, followed a recommendation from a friend, we visited on a Friday night with my parents.

The restaurant had recently opened after a full revamp - perhaps that's why it caught my attention! - and despite not booking a table we were given a warm welcome by a friendly member of staff.

We were seated on the ground-floor part of the restaurant, in the window. The tables were generously spaced with plenty of room for the waiters to move around with their big trays while serving what looked like banquets of food.

We started off with the must-have poppadoms and a selection of chutneys and salads while we perused the menu, which was extensive in choice. One pickle was deemed lovely, and within seconds we were asking for glasses of water - nice, but hot.

The water was of course joined by wine for me, fruit juice for mum the driver and a couple of pints of Indian beer for the men.

I ordered my favourite starter, chicken chat on puree, which was served as a huge portion on the light, perfectly cooked bread. I could see the jealousy in the other diners' eyes. The spice of the chicken was perfect.

John went for onion bhaji and it soon disappeared from sight.

For the mains Mum usually orders a balti, Dad never knows what to order and usually relies on one of our recommendations for something which won't blow his head off! But this time the responsibility was put on the waiter, when Dad asked what he recommended.

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After asking Dad the type of dishes he liked, he promised to make something special which wasn't on the menu but would be perfect for him. Dad was clearly impressed by this special treatment.

I had the chicken sag, which was also special because it wasn't actually on the menu - but again, it wasn't a problem.

Husband John ordered chef special "tandoori murghi masala balti" - again a recommendation from the waiter who said it was amazing.

Mum went for her usual - chicken balti. But, I must admit, the forks were soon flying from one dish to another and everyone (this is unusual) liked each other's dish.

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Mine was much more creamy than any other chicken sag I've had anywhere else and served in a balti dish. Something I hadn't seen before with a sag, but I found out why on our next visit - it was in fact a chicken "balti" sag - obvious! The waiter explained it was much tastier and complemented the flavour of the spinach better - agreed.

Aftab Tandoori & Balti, IronbridgeDad's plate was soon nearly spotless - in fact I'm not sure Mum had the chance to even get a taste. And it (whatever it was - because it didn't have A name) was given the thumbs-up.

John's "chef's special" also disappeared in no time at all. It must have been good because very rarely does he finish a curry. It was served with a hard-boiled egg on the top and as the name suggested it was a mix of about four different curries.

We ordered a variety of pilau and fried rice and a couple of naan breads. The naan breads were served in generous portions and cooked perfectly - not overcooked and not too pale either!

We were obviously too full for desserts but were offered a selection of ice-cream-based desserts. Ice- ream sweets can often provide a refreshing finishing touch after a curry but this time, with the generous portions, we were too full.

The Aftab also offers a takeaway service with free delivery within three miles. When we asked if Horsehay was in the delivery area, the waiter told us it reached as far away as Shawbirch, near Wellington. We're not sure he's got his distances right but we got the impression if someone wanted to order they were willing to deliver.

The restaurant was spotless, food exceptional and served with a smile. Since our first visit we have since learned the family-run restaurant has been in the town for more than 20 years and also has a second floor to cater for demand.

During our visits since, we have seen why they need it - diners pack in there at the weekend, so it's definitely worth booking in advance. But the two friendly waiters - sons of the owners - will do their utmost to accommodate every diner who walks through the door.

It was an enjoyable visit and we left feeling pleased about everything - and it has now won our vote to become our regular Saturday night curry house - and our takeaway choice too.

Mum and Dad were also very pleased with our latest choice - just a shame they live in Oswestry, a little too far to become regular visitors.

I really cannot believe we had never noticed the restaurant before, despite walking down the street many times - it is surprising what a new sign and a good refurb can do!

ADDRESS:

The Aftab Tandoori & Balti, Ironbridge.

Tel: 01952 432055

MENU SAMPLE

Starters

Kachoori kebab (£2.75); Chicken or prawn puree (£3.75); Shami kebab (£2.75)

Main courses

Mixed masala balti (£8.95); Persian chicken or lamb biryani (£8.50); Aloo matat paneer curry - vegetarian (£4.95)

Sides

Stuffed paratha (£2.25); Mushroom pilau rice (£2.25)

Desserts

Selection of ice-cream-based desserts including sundaes

ATMOSPHERE

A lively indian restaurant run by the most welcoming family

SERVICE

Superb - very friendly but not too intrusive

DISABLED FACILITIES

No disabled toilet but staff more than willing to help

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