THE world is changing fast, even as we eat.

The Bombay Gate is in a cavernous building on Skinnergate which, on a normal Saturday night, would be full of diners and excited chatter. On the evening of “Super Saturday”, the day that the lockdown was eased, there were just four occupied tables scattered safely to the four corners and the jangly Indian background music was very much in the foreground.

Although my colleague, Malcolm Warne, wrote last week how he was desperate to get back to eating out, others may be hoping that eating in can continue for a little longer. While it doesn’t have the style or sense of occasion of a visit to a restaurant, the price, with a takeaway discount and not having to buy expensive drinks, has become more affordable and it is more convenient for families for whom organising babysitters is one pfaff too far at the end of a working week.

The Bombay Gate has made its ordering system dead simple. You don’t have to go through the palaver of phoning up and reading out your choices in the hope that the person on the other end of the line will write them down properly; you just download their app onto your phone and you place your order direct into the kitchen.

The app is very easy to use, with nearly every dish having an explanatory sentence.

Nearly every dish – the vegetarian options are without any explanation, and so for Petra, my wife, it was ordering blind: what is a Zeera Mix Bazi, other than a very good score at Scrabble?

The app also allows the kitchen to communicate direct with the diner. I’d ordered to collect at 7.15pm but soon got a message saying it wouldn’t be ready until 7.35pm. Not a problem – I’d rather wait at home watching Pointless for a few more minutes than wait frustratedly on a chair just inside the takeaway door, listening to the jangly background music.

Even so, there was still a further 12 minute wait, but they generously compensated us by throwing in a bottle of white wine.

The food was served in traditional takeaway style in tinfoil containers with coated cardboard lids – the tinfoil is certainly recyclable.

We started with popodums (64p each) plus a pickles tray, which considered of a pot of runny mango chutney and a pot of solid lime pickle. Good fresh pops and soft, sweet and bright red onions – a classic Indian start, especially as we only ordered two pops but, in that time honoured way, ended up with six.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

As an additional starter, I’d ordered Aloo Bhorta Fish (£4.72) simply because the sentence description intrigued me. It was a pan fried fillet of white fish served on a bed of mashed potato with shallots topped with charred red chilli. Despite its Indian name, it could have come from a Mediterranean tapas menu: it was a lovely white piece of lightly battered fish lying on golden potatoes. I’ve had the same dish at a beachfront restaurant in Mallorca. The only concession here to the sub-continent was the dash of heat from the chillis.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

I liked it, and it set the tone for the rest of the food: this was the most European, even English, Indian meal I’ve ever had.

For the main courses, there were “traditional dishes” on the app which consisted of those exotic Indian names that we’ve come to recognise over the years: jalfrezi, dopiaza, madras etc. Theo, our son, had a chicken masala (£6.80) which was all he could have wished for: that vivid orange-pink sweetly spiced sauce full of plump pieces of breast. With rice and a naan, it was what we English consider to be a classic Indian curry.

Petra had gambled from the vegetarian list and chosen three dishes.

The roasted cauliflower and roasted almonds (£4) was exactly what it set out to be: crunchy cauliflower and almonds, in which you could really taste the natural ingredients without a shroud of spices. Aubergine Bazi (£3.66) turned out to be aubergine and peppers in what might have been a ratatouille had it been in a tomato sauce, and Palak Paneer (£4) was a creamy concoction of cheese and spinach. She thought it too creamy, whereas I thought it just about right – together, we licked the tinfoil plate clean.

Normally at an Indian, I wouldn’t venture away from chicken, but the Bombay Gate’s lamb dishes sounded deeply tempting. I nearly went for the Nawab’s Shank, which was cooked in a mustard and mango sauce, but instead plumped for the Lamb Shank (£11.12), described as “chef’s special dish cooked until meat is soft with red chillies, garlic and chef’s grounded secret spices, topped with fried onions and potatoes”.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

It was an Indian take on an English Sunday lunch. The large piece of lamb was cooked nicely and fell from the bone, and it came in a thick tomato, onion and garlic sauce. With several large pieces of golden potato, it felt alien to add rice and naan to it, but, whichever part of the planet it came from, it made an interesting and tasty dish.

Food is a melting pot. The Bombay Gate appears to do the traditional Indian dishes well, smothering meat with sauces and spices, but it also has its own modern take on multicultural Indian cooking, which is as successful as its modern ordering system (once they add the descriptions to the vegetarian dishes).

The bill for three came to just under £50, and because we were not eating out, we had the great benefit of putting the leftovers in our own fridge and without any embarrassment went back to them the following day.

Bombay Gate, 10 Skinnergate, Darlington DL3 7NJ


Phone: 01325 468709

Food quality: 7

Social distancing: 8

Logistics: 9

Value for money: 7