On a freezing cold Wednesday night at the end of January, I discovered there is no better way to lift your spirits and warm yourself up than by paying a visit to the fabulous Indian restaurant Masala Hut.
Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Co Down village of Moira, Masala Hut has recently been taken over by new management and now boosts an extensive menu with both traditional and more unusual offerings, ensuring there is something to tickle every taste bud.
Now owned by Rashal Khan, who holds over 20 years’ experience in London’s thriving hospitality scene, Masala Hut prides itself on providing diners throughout Northern Ireland with a new perspective on traditional Indian cuisine, each dish being carefully crafted using local produce and global influences.
The eatery provides a range of traditional Indian dishes suited for all tastes, and also features some more unique offerings including local flavours like rabbit and venison entrees, which truly represent Rashal’s passion for marrying two cultures to create beautiful exotic dishes.
Rashal first found himself in Moira just last year whilst taking a short break from the hustle and bustle of City life to visit a friend. During the short journey from Belfast International Airport to Moira, he found himself falling in love with the place. He decided then that he would like to spend his time in Northern Ireland, and took steps to take over Masala Hut.
His head Chef Khaled Ahmed, who followed Rashal over from London, has trained in the most exclusive kitchens in Dubai and Gao in India and channels his wealth of experience into every dish.
The most difficult task of the night was narrowing down a selection from the huge menu on offer. While we mulled over our options, we enjoyed popadums accompanied by some gorgeous dips and for me the stand out and very moreish favourite was the mint sauce.
As something of a traditionalist, I started off with Chicken Pakora. The batter was light with just a slight kick and the chicken was tender. It was just enough to whet the appetite for the main course,
My dining companion decided to cover a few bases and opted for a mixed starter to sample a selection of tasty treats. The plater included a combination of chicken, lamb tikka, sheek kebab and mushrooms.
The chef also treated us to one of his speciality dishes, king prawn zoetry - battered king prawn covered with coconut and cooked with fresh mango, sultanas and finger beans. I admit that fish dishes are never my first choice, however, the king prawn zoetry was a delicious surprise and turned out to be one of the favourite dishes in the entire meal.
When it comes to Indian food, I am a korma girl at heart and although I ponder over other choices, I always go for my traditional favourite.
And so it was at Masala Hut but following advice from Rashal, I went for the royal korma rather than then Golden Oldie selection and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The chicken, which had been marinated for 24 hours, was juicy, tender and delicately spiced. As with a traditional korma, the chicken was coated with an almond, coconut cream sauce but the addition of mango in the chef’s own recipe took the dish to a whole new level,
My dining companion again decided to go for the tandoori mixed grill, which offered a selection of king prawns, lamb, chicken, and sheek kebab. The meats were marinated in homemade natural yoghurt, herbs and spices to maximise taste and tenderness and were then cooked in a traditional clay oven.
And of course, no Indian meal would be complete without the obligatory naan bread. We settled on garlic and peshwawri naan. The breads were light and the perfect accompaniment to the main meal.
As an aside to the food, the restaurant is beautifully decorated, feeling warm and homely, as well as chic and modern. And the service was attentive but unhurried.
The Masala Hut has some great offers and deals on throughout the week so that is a very good reason, in case you needed one, to visit Moira and find out why this is becoming a must visit spot for local foodies. Masala Hut offers a unique Indian dining experience with a local twist and it is without doubt well worth a visit.