MAXINE GORDON finds a taste of Nepal in York

NESTLING at the summit of Fossgate, the Everest Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant is as unpretentious as it comes.

Spelling errors on the menu are corrected in Biro and the simple furnishings inside are a world away from the sleek, modern interiors of the restaurant's previous incarnations: J Baker's Bistro Moderne and, previously to that, Rish.

My husband and I have fond memories of the place, we dined at J Baker's many times (and still believe York's food scene is all the poorer for its departure); and we had our wedding lunch at Rish, in the upstairs dining room.

The Everest Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant (I'd call it EGNR but it sounds like a train company), has been open for a few years now, and this was our first visit.

Some friends had spoken highly of it, so we were keen to see how it shaped up.

We'd been at the lively Fossgate Festival, which might have accounted for the restaurant being almost full on a Sunday night at 8pm. We were politely told they could fit us in, but there would be a bit of wait, because the kitchen was full of orders.

We didn't mind: it gave us time to study the menu and enjoy a Gurkha lager (£5.99). It was a whopper, served in a 600ml bottle, with a handsome design on the front: a nostalgic drawing of a Gurkha with what I guessed were the Himalayas in the background. It was very drinkable, sweet and aromatic, and thirst-quenching on what had been an unseasonally hot, spring evening.

There is a good selection of dishes on the menu, some more familiar sounding than others. Nepal nestles between China and India, so expect to see both these nation's culinary influences in the food. If anything, the Indian component seemed more prominent, with the likes of cumin, coriander and chilli featuring throughout the menu.

To start, we ordered a mixed vegetable pakora with tomato chutney (£4.90) and some momo - a traditional Nepalese dumpling which is fragrantly spiced and steamed. Momos come in a choice of vegetable, pork or lamb, either plain or in a chilli variety. After checking with the waitress that the chilli dumplings wouldn't be too hot, we plumped for the lamb version (£6.99), reckoning they would have the most flavour. And we were right! They arrived on a gold-coloured plate (as did all the food), six in total, covered in a heap of stir-fried peppers, onions and chilli, in a sweet and spicy sauce. The momo itself was like a mini pasty, its outer shell almost hot-water-pastry-like in texture and taste. The soft, lamb filling was good, but I would have liked more of it.

Surprisingly, the pakora were similar to the momo - but not as dark in colour and not as tasty. They were described on the menu as "a delicious deep-fried snack with fresh coriander, chilli, ground cumin". The inside seemed to contain mashed potato and perhaps some onion, but I couldn't detect any of the herbs and spices promised, which was a shame because they were rather bland.

And I'm afraid the same word applied to my main dish, the exotic sounding sagarmatha chicken (£8.49) billed as "fresh chicken with onions, garlic, fresh Nepali spices, chilli and coriander". By this point, I was wondering whether the kitchen had actually run out of all of the above and I was just unlucky. Reviews on Trip Adviser spoke highly of the restaurant, so I had expected better. On top of that, the chicken, said to be "slow cooked for that authentic flavour" was tough rather than tender. Disappointing.

I would have passed these comments on to the staff had anyone come over to inquire. That's not to say the service was poor; our waiter and waitress were polite and helpful, but didn't think to ask if we were enjoying our meal!

Happily, my husband's curry was tastier, although he also found the chicken tough. His dish of chicken ra moola ko tarkari (£8.39) featured another Nepalese favourite, moola - white radish. This had been slow-cooked alongside the meat and looked like potato but tasted more like turnip. The sauce was slightly spiced but lovely and tangy. Better.

The curry dishes were quite small, so if you have a large appetite you might wish to pick a vegetable dish too.

We ordered bhat (£2), boiled basmati rice, which was plentiful and nicely cooked.

Our bill came to £44.75.

Plenty of people seem to love the Everest Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant, but I didn't feel it scaled the culinary heights of my expectations.

Everest Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant

7 Fossgate, York

T: 01904 622688


Food: Bit bland 2.5/5

Service: Friendly 3/5

Ambience: No frills 3/5

Value: OK 3/5

Reviews are independent and paid for by The Press