This is beginning to be a bit of a habit. Ducking down dark alleyways and shadowy passages, through small door openings and up steep, narrow stairs.

No, I’m not engaged in some illicit or, heaven forbid, illegal pastime. Just seeking out places to eat that you might not find because they are hidden from street-level view.

After the recent successful discovery of tucked-away Rafael’o in Richmond, this week we found ourselves above the Lakeland Leather shop in Northallerton High Street.

In truth, it’s not that hard to find. Those of you who remember Tejanos, the Tex-Mex place that occupied the premises for many a year, will know exactly where it is, accessed by the alleyway which runs down the side of the Tickle Toby pub.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at the Green Apple Tree in Northallerton

And as passageways go this is spacious and well-lit. Certainly compared to the one you have to use to get to the other above-a-shop eating establishment in the High Street, the old-as-time Lion of Asia Indian restaurant, which is above a betting shop and adjacent to the Bargain Booze store near the Town Hall. The darkness and metal fire escape-style stairs really do make you feel like you might stumble across a crime scene en-route to your prawn jalfrezi or a chicken tikka marsala.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at the Green Apple Tree in Northallerton

You won’t find either of those dishes on the menu at the Green Apple Tree, an Indian restaurant which opened in the old Tejanos a couple of months ago.

Indeed it goes out of its way to be not your typical British Indian restaurant. You will not find long lists of madras, jalfrezi, rogan josh, vindaloo, pathia and balti dishes. The décor is subdued compared with the blingy style favoured by many of its rivals and the background music is not Bollywood’s greatest hits.

In fact, the music is really quite something – a sort of lounge soundtrack as one might imagine being played by a lonely pianist in a poorly-attended gentleman’s club in Calcutta in the dying days of the British Raj. Bizarrely, it featured a plodding version of Auld Lang Syne which we heard at least twice. I had to check in case we had entered a time-warp, had somehow missed all of Christmas and found ourselves again on New Year’s Eve.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at the Green Apple Tree in Northallerton

A good deal of effort is put in to presentation. Good quality cutlery, attractive serving bowls and charger plates and large sprigs of rosemary and pea shoots are used to make the food look like something other than curry which is, let’s face it, being soft, various shades of brown and of indeterminate shape, never very appealing to the eye.

The modestly-sized menu features just ten starters, 12 main dishes and three biriyanis, plus a few sides.

Billed as Nibbles on the menu, the Keecha Papad Basket (£5.50) is the Green Apple Tree alternative to poppadoms. This is Indian flatbread made of rice and black bean gram flour which had the consistency of Chinese restaurant prawn crackers but without the saltiness. There were pots of raita, tomato and onion salad and a magnificent mango chutney which had a spicy kick to it and no cloying sweetness.

Skipping starters, we ordered two mains, a side dish, and shared a naan and rice.

My choice, the Green Tree’s “signature dish” was Laal Maas lamb shank (£22.95), the shank very slowly braised in a gravy/sauce which was delicately and exquisitely spiced and livened up with some red chillies and crispy fried onion. The lamb, while not quite falling off the bone, was meltingly tender.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at the Green Apple Tree in Northallerton

Sylvia’s choice also featured lamb, a Mutton Handi (£15.95), the meat cooked tandoori-style in a clay pot and then simmered in a hot marsala sauce with ginger, mint and cream. It was surprisingly hot but again the spicing was fragrantly delicate.

The jeera rice (£4.95) was aromatic from the addition of cumin seeds, the naan nicely charred from the tandoori oven and the Baigan Bharta side dish of roasted aubergine mash (£6.95) looked like a pile of slop with a sprig of rosemary sticking out of it like a feather in a swamp but tasted beautifully smoky and creamy all at the same time.

Service was courteous and helpful, the manager/lead waiter being extremely diligent in explaining elements of the menu.

The bill was high – just over £70 when four halves of Cobra lager were included – which is considerably more than one might expect to pay for an Indian meal in a typical curry house. But the Green Apple Tree isn’t typical and probably worth it.

Green Apple Tree

182 High Street, Northallerton DL7 8JZ

Tel: 01609 777770 Web:

Open: Tuesday-Thursday 5-9.30pm, Friday and Saturday 5-10pm. Closed Sunday and Monday

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