MAXINE GORDON checks out a curry house with a new name

THERE were only two other tables occupied when we arrived at Atithi in Fishergate.

Granted, it was a Sunday night at 7pm. We'd just missed the early-bird offer of a main and a starter for £9.95, so were given the full menu to browse.

As we read through, one diner settled up and began heaping praise on the meal, saying it was delicious and he would write a great review on Trip Advisor.

Minutes later, the other table began berating the waiter for his disappointing meal and said that he had been mistakenly overcharged for an extra beer. As the waiter corrected the tab, the man complained: "everything tasted the same, everything looks the same colour, everything is bland".

Talk about chalk and cheese. As we placed our order, we wondered which side of the fence we would come down on: the happy diner or the grumpy complainer?

Our waiter – yes just one – was nice and friendly, but we suspected he might be a bit inexperienced. We were left waiting at the entrance on arrival for what seemed like ages while he was in the kitchen liaising with the chef.

However, he did cope with the unhappy customer with courtesy and patience, which is always a tricky test.

The restaurant, he explained, has had a bit of a rebranding. It used to be called Masala Craft, however, the same chef is at the helm: Amar Singh Rajput. Atithi, by the way, means "guest" in ancient Sanskrit.

The menu, we were told, had been changed with the addition of some more contemporary dishes. Besides the usual suspects, there were plenty of unusual offerings too.

Beetroot-paneer cutlet was a new one for me, listed as potato patties with beetroot and spiced cheese. Also on the starters menu was the spicy patra, made from colocasia leaves and stuffed with rice flour, hot spices, tamarind and jaggery (an Indian dark sugar).

The mains selection offered an interesting culinary voyage of discovery too with novel-sounding dishes such as baingan bharta (smoked aubergine cooked with traditional Indian spices); choley atithi (chickpeas marinated in Yorkshire and cooked with Atithi's house spices) and for those who like their Indian dishes hot, hot, hot, the chicken chettinad was recommended as the "spiciest dish on the menu".

We enjoyed reading all about the unusual dishes over our drinks: a gin and tonic for me (£5.90), a large Cobra beer for my husband (£6.10) and an Appletiser for our teenage daughter (£2.50).

When our starters arrived, we had the place to ourselves – and no other diners came in during our visit. The interior has all the flavours of an Indian restaurant with ornate tables and chairs, bright red cushions and patterned wallpaper, which I liked.

To begin, I plumped for the zhingri chingari, prawns marinated with red peppers and spices and deep fried (£4.95). This was like an Indian scampi; the prawns were quite succulent but I would have liked more spice, a lighter batter and a dipping sauce. Our daughter had the veggie samosa (£3.65), deep fried triangles stuffed with a mix of vegetables and spices. The stuffing was good, but again the exterior was too heavy, more like a shortcrust pastry than the light filo described on the menu. My husband hit the jackpot however with his chicken pakora (£3.85), which featured large chunks of tender and spicy chicken in a light, crispy coating that did not dominate the dish.

My dining partners had good fortune too with their mains: a tangy chicken bhuna with more of those lovely tender chicken pieces (£7.80) and a veggie curry with Indian cheese: paneer tikka karahi masala (£7.65), which our daughter said was the best paneer curry she'd had.

My main dish was a let-down, however. Feeling adventurous, I gambled on the kerala duck curry from the chef's special menu (at a whopping special price of £12.95). This was billed as tender duck breast traditionally cooked with black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, black and green cardamom pods, cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. It sounded amazing but was anything but. The "tender" duck was as tough as old leather and resembled a cheap cut of beef rather than duck, while the sauce was disappointingly bland and looked unappetising too – a sea of grey-brown mush.

We also ordered two portions of boiled rice to share at £2.90 each.

So, it was a meal of mixed results, and I left feeling disappointed. I really wanted to like Atithi, but the search for the perfect York Indian meal continues.

Atithi, 26 Fishergate, York YO10 4AB

T: 01904 655205


Food: Mixed 3/5

Service: Inexperienced 3/5

Ambience: Exotic 3/5

Value: OK 3/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press