The Simla, Oswestry

Reviewer's rating *** Sue Austin returns to an old favourite with fond memories and is delighted it has not changed.

The Simla, Oswestry

However much a pub or restaurant has a place in the tradition of a town it will not survive if it does not move with the times, writes Sue Austin.

The Simla Restaurant in Oswestry, has been part of the town's social scene for more than three decades and it would have been easy for it to become stuck in a comfortable rut.

But on a recent visit it was good to see that the eatery has managed to combine the best of the old and the new.

It was a favourite place of mine to eat as a teenager growing up in Oswestry.

And so I was delighted when son Joe chose it when asked where he wanted to go on his sixteenth birthday, some days after his official and somewhat manic party.

In this belt-tightening climate I wondered if the restaurant was going to be too quiet on Tuesday night.

But when we arrived there were diners at several tables, showing the strength of its reputation.

Despite not dining out much these days, Mel and I were greeted like friends by the Simla's owner, George Miah. He and his wife Julie brought Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine to Oswestry in the mid-seventies.

The couple stayed in the town to raise a family and become a much respected part of the community.

They were recently honoured for their charity work, holding fundraising events in the restaurant and each year giving a class at their local primary school the chance to sample some of their culture, dressing in authentic dress and trying some of their food.

Joe and his friend Rob, both now turned sixteen, were chuffed to be able to order a beer or cider with their meal.

It was strange to see the lads having a drink while designated driver mum stuck to her boring jug of water with ice and lemon.

The obligatory popadoms were soon on the table with the usual arrays of pickles and chutneys and while we ate I noticed there were other families with teenagers enjoying a relaxed evening out.

Knowing the portion sizes are generous at the Simla we had agreed to share two starters between the four of us and soon our mixed tandoori starters £4.25 arrived.

George neatly divided them at the table and then left us to share them out, a nice mix of chicken, lamb, king prawns and kebab.

It was interesting to see the lads choosing their main courses, both veterans of the restaurant thanks to birthday meals and cricket club dinners they already knew what they liked.

Joe plumped for chicken tikka masala (£8.95) including rice while Rob went for chicken sagwala (£6.95) and I sighed, knowing that my lifetime battle to get my "little boy" to eat any cooked vegetable had failed miserably.

Hubby as usual was still perplexed by the wide and varied menu. As a teenager I was ashamed when on our first date there he plumped for steak and chips.

But over the years he graduated to tandoori, then a mild korma and now enjoys most of what's on offer.

This time he went for a lamb balti (£8.95) with naan while I chose the hot and sour prawn pathia (£5.95).

When the main courses arrived I was delighted to find that, like the starters, the meals were presented on beautiful white china.

The stainless steel balti bowl has been something I have had to endure over the years in many an Indian restaurant but thankfully no longer at the Simla.

I was soon bartering with the three men to get spoonfuls of the different dishes on my plate and we attacked the tasty food trying each others nan and rice with gusto.

But even with the healthy appetites of the lads the dishes were just too much for us.

It was too nice to be wasted and when the waiter took my plate away they immediately agreed to let me have a doggy bag.

We certainly could not manage a sweet.

But embarrassing mum had brought a birthday cake and the staff arrived with cake and candle, gathering around to help with a rendition of Happy Birthday to Joe. Other diners joined in even offering to take a group photo.

It had been a really relaxing evening with good food and I left happy in the knowledge that the Simla has definitely found the recipe for success that has lasted more than 30 years.

ADDRESS

The Simla, 42 Beatrice Street, Oswestry SY11 1QG

Tel: 01691 653818

MENU SAMPLE

STARTERS

Chicken Tikka, £3.95; Aloo Char, £2.95; King Prawn Bhuna on Puree, £4.95

MANI COURSES

Pasanda lamb fillet marinated in spices and yoghurt, cooked with herbs, served with rice, £8.95; Bengal Fish, £9.95; Chicken Madras, £5.75; Simla Special Biriyani, £9.95

SIDES

Pilau rice, £2.80; Keema Nan, £2.50; Bombay Potato, £2.95

DESSERTS

Indian ice creams, £2.95

ATMOSPHERE

Relaxed and friendly

SERVICE

Polite and attentive

DISABLED FACILITIES

No disabled access

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