I NEVER thought I’d being writing about the Tandoori Wars of Bedale.

To be fair, to call it a war is perhaps over egging the pudding but I know you’ll always forgive a little journalistic licence here.

Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible fact that that this small market town (population 4,600 at the last Census) supports no fewer than three Indian restaurants.

Granted, Bedale, along with its near neighbours Aiskew and Leeming/Leeming Bar, are rapidly growing communities but you have to wonder about the extent of the local appetite for chicken tikka marsala and rogan josh.

Northallerton, for example, also has three Indian restaurants but together with neighbouring Romanby it has a population of 22,000 to satisfy. Little ol’ Leyburn (population 2,1813) makes do with one.

The other fascinating thing about Bedale’s three Indians is that they are concentrated at the south end of the Market Place – all them within a chappati throw of White Bear Corner - and each other.

We think the Taste of India has been established the longest. We ate there in 2015 and it was good if a bit shabby. We noted the Spice of Bengal two doors away and thought we would have to try it sometime.

But then Spice opened up directly across the road in what was the old Vasey’s newsagents and declared war.

The “most authentic Indian cuisine in Bedale and surrounding areas” and “the finest Indian restaurant in Bedale” its website boldly claims, adding for good measure that it provides a “truly genuine Indian and Bangladeshi experience”.

That sounded like a bit of challenge so we thought we would have to try it. The Spice of Bengal will have to wait.

The first thing that struck us about Spice is that this is a big restaurant, on two levels with perhaps 80 or so covers. And, on a Friday night, it was almost empty with just one other table occupied by a party of four with two new-born babies.

We looked across the road. The Taste of India looked busy, the Spice of Bengal less so. In this nightly skirmish in the Bedale Tandoori Wars it looked like there was only going to be one winner.

Lawrence, the perky manager in Spice, was putting on a brave face, bolstered by a busy takeaway trade.

We liked his style, formally introducing himself and apologising for the wide open spaces all around us.

Over poppadoms (50p each), a prodigious pickle tray (two chutneys, raita, mint sauce, onion salad - £2) and Cobra draught lager, we perused an equally prodigious, if rather dog-eared, menu. Every conceivable dish seemed to be there plus a few we’d never come across and some novelty items – ostrich and venison.

We shared a starter – the mixed platter (£6.50) – which was phenomenal value. Two pieces of chicken tikka, two lamb tikka, onions bhajis, seekh kebabs and lamb chops were served with salad on a sizzler with sliced onion and mint sauce on the side.

The meat and kebabs were super tender. The chops less so but it nevertheless this platter was a pretty splendid spread. Two of them would have made a meal.

We didn’t do very well with our main courses as a result, taking more than half of Sylvia’s chicken karahi (£6.50) and my naga takari (£7.50) home with us for the following day.

First time or reprised 24 hours later, they both hit the spot for us.

Sylvia’s karahi was heavy on the onions and the coriander but she likes that. The heat was gentle – medium I think it would be described – but the dish was intensely aromatic.

I’d expressed interest in the “staff curry – ask staff for more info” listed among the house specialities but Lawrence reeled off a list of ingredients in two dishes that I couldn’t quite keep track of so I settled for the naga takari for the principal reason that it was one of the few dishes on the menu billed as officially ‘hot’. I do like it hot.

I didn’t initially twig that naga curry paste is hotter than vindaloo but I soon cottoned on. Marinated chicken tikka and minced steak was barely identifiable through the heat of the sauce but it gave me that sinus-clearing ‘high’ that only strong chilli heat can deliver. Lovely.

We also soaked up the curry sauces with some humming garlic rice (£2.10) and a big, fluffy naan (£1.95).

With few customers we were very well looked after. Lawrence made for an engaging host and he happily had our substantial leftovers carefully parcelled up for us.

The bill was £38.80 and £10 of that was lager.

We left Spice, crossed the Market Place to see just a few folk in the Taste of India and the Spice of Bengal almost completely empty. That’s an awful lot of empty restaurant seats. Something’s gotta give methinks.


Spice, 41 Market Place, Bedale, DL8 1ED

Tel: 01677 988188/988080

Web: spicebedale.co.uk

Open: Sunday to Thursday 6-11pm; Friday and Saturday 6pm-midnight.

Loads of veggie options.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8, Service 9, Surroundings 7, Value 8