Jalsa

7 Pitt Street, Barnsley, Tel 0114 275 8374

Visited: Saturday, 28th October, 2000, 8.15pm

Review by Phil Coates

Category Marks
Food 6/10
Service 4/10
Value 4/10

Whatever else you say about this tiny establishment in the centre of Barnsley, it is extremely popular. A lot of people seem to like it.

The accountant who designed this place made a crucial decision - to omit three or four extra tables in favour of a spacious waiting area or foyer. Here the guest is plied with complementary Bombay mix (salty!) in a transparent attempt to get him to buy as much over-priced lager as possible. But they weren't fooling us. We just ate the Bombay mix. After a decent interval of say half an hour you are squeezed into your chair between the table and the wall. You might get your starter fifteen minutes later. And your main course 45 minutes after that. Just enough time to enjoy two or three more ...

They told me I was fool, but I just wouldn't listen. I, who normally drink only water with a curry. In my defense I have to say, it looked like an ethnic drink in a rather attractive bottle. Other people seemed to be enjoying it. How bad could it be? Well, Cobra Indian Lager isn't ethnic at all. It's brewed and bottled in the UK. It's probably the worst lager in the world, and probably the most expensive too. But it just keeps on getting madder here in Barnsley. All you need do is step across town to JD Wetherspoon's Court House to drink proper beer at £1.29 a pint!

However, I get ahead of myself.

The grossly over-priced chicken pakora starter came with a withered and derisory portion of salad, not much bigger in fact than the portion of chicken. The taste was uninspiring, not particularly fresh, while the accompanying yoghurt sauce contained far too much sugar. Overall, a very poor dish.

Matters improved considerably once the breads and main dishes arrived. (The yoghurt sauce had been unceremoniously whipped away by this time.) All the breads were of decent quality. Be advised, however, avoid peshwari nan unless you have an exceptionally sweet tooth. The curries were all of a good standard (see marks below), with the balti vegetable jalfrezi showing some effort at real ingenuity. However, not everyone would cope well with the anaesthetizing effect of a liberal garnish of sliced fresh green-finger chillies, seeds and all.

If you knew your way around the menu I dare say there are some delights to be found here. Perhaps this restaurant was once very good but has lost its edge due to lack of competition or complacency on the part of its regulars. Perhaps the problems with the service and the lack of any soap or towel in the toilets can be forgiven on the grounds of Saturday-night business. But there is much one cannot forgive. In the end one has to ask if it worth the effort and expense. The Jalsa is yet another example of the kind of ersatz anglicized Indian restaurant that abounds in South Yorkshire. It is not by any means the worst. But that isn't saying much.

Dish Price (£) Marks Consumer
chicken lazeez 4.90 7/10 Phil C
chicken madras 4.80 6/10 Jeff D
balti vegetable jalfrezi 4.95 7/10 CL

chicken pakora £2.90, chapatti 60p, plain nan £1.60, peshwari nan £1.95, tandoori roti £1.50, Cobra lager (33ml) £2.00.