Not our usual style of going out on a Wednesday for a curry.
This is where I would usually explain how the ever shrinking choices of places to go in Preston have forced me to adopt the admittedly excellent Shahzaad (elite level Tandoori Chicken) on Friargate as my local. But as our wonderful reporter Fatima has detailed over the past few weeks, what a disservice that would do RK Dining and Rana’s Spice.
King Karai was our family’s favorite for years before it closed. East Z East never really got your heart pumping and always feels like going to Frankie & Benny for spaghetti. The result is that we’re looking a little further afield, which is good because Lancashire as a county is full of options, even if Preston town center isn’t quite the home it once was. Mowgli, it will be worth a try.
More: Review: Barton Bangla Brewery, Preston
And so, to Sabza. My partner loves Garstang in just about every way imaginable other than house prices and wherever you read this I’ll tell you right away it’s probably going to be worth the trip for you. Here’s a restaurant that’s more modern in its approach to food and decor than your typical curry house, but still quite intimate. If you can accommodate more than 30 people here, I would be very surprised. As I was browsing the menu before my visit, because I’m that kind of heathen, I also note that you get 10% off if you order takeout. This little unintended nod to the fact that the cost of dining and serving means food delivered should cost less, not more, is taken by me like two fingers at Deliveroo and Ubereats and I’m here for it.
But while I shout into the wind at the price of my meal when I get a lukewarm downtown curry, one thing EastZEast nails at the restaurant is the poppadoms and the matching chutney it’s served with. This is one of two minor niggles for this meal on my part, but the platter doesn’t cut it here in the same way. What we presume should be raita, mango chutney and the like, served with little body rather than the reassuring crunch of cucumber or the bite of a piece of mango. We should never abolish the vital component that is the lime pickle, even if it is really a minority groan. It’s on the takeout menu, so it’s probably extra.
On to the good stuff then. Raj Rani Haweli (£5.90) is made with strips of marinated chicken tikka, curbs and green chillies. The chicken feels high quality where it can so often be fashioned and generic. The peppers taste fresh. The real star sits across from me and although my partner is awesome, I mean her starter on this occasion (Bhuna King Prawn Puri at £6.90). Meaty king prawns served in a sauce of yogurt and spices come with the lightest, flakiest puri. I love them with my starters. I even like them heavier than a winter duvet as part of a £3 starter from my local takeaway. But here they really are a better class of puri and as such the amount I am allowed to barter for “review purposes” is limited. There are a few different options that include them on the entry list, so take your pick. Maybe even have three and not bother with the sector.
Or ignore this point because the sector is excellent. I’ll tell you my second minor point first. I’m unreasonably annoyed that I feel like I don’t have enough rice to go with my main course. This is usually exacerbated by the fact that my partner doesn’t order rice, but happily walks off to my house, risking a breakup. For context, she was convinced to order hers here (pilau, £3.50) and I pretty much managed to get my portion (mushroom £3.90) to stretch through what was otherwise a fantastic dish and ended the meal suitably complete. Don’t be tempted to get a portion to share.
Masala Chilli Balti (£11.90) is again served with these strips of chicken tikka, fresh chillies and carries a unique yet familiar flavour. People who are chasing the heat dragon might be advised to try the Nepalese on the signature menu for more punch and that’s what I’ll do next time – but there will definitely be a next time. And so on. It has a wonderful freshness, which carries over to my partner’s main course Saag Paneer (£8.80), which tells us that special care has been taken in the food.
Oh, we also had a naan too. Naans come in different shapes, styles, and sizes in my experience and tend to fall into two traps that the Sabza team keenly avoid. You won’t find bread hanging on a hook like it’s just been fished out of the sea and weighed down to the gasps of a crowd. You also won’t find a naan better suited to help you survive a trip to the North Pole. Here it’s light, crispy, a vehicle to fill up on great food instead of something to give you that artificial feeling of being full and satisfied. The food at Sabza is generally very, very good – but this is the best naan (garlic, 3.90) my partner and I have ever tried. I’m half tempted to order more naan and shade around people’s tables mopping up their leftover sauce. I didn’t even take a picture of the naan, probably because I was too busy calling myself by her first name.
All this washed down with £12 in two mocktails and two diet cokes. If you are looking for pints I would suggest finding a local pub in Garstang first as they do not serve alcohol. This is not a problem. Sabza opened in December 2020 and it is a point that needs repeating that it has been a very difficult time for the industry. But despite these challenges, they managed to establish one of the best places to get Indian food I’ve tried in a long time. Come fill this lovely restaurant if, like me, you were looking for a new place to try. If so, and there is some weird guy threatening your curry sauce with a naan bread, please accept my sincere apologies.
All of our food reviews are anonymous unless otherwise stated and the restaurant did not know we were coming.