This Midlothian restaurant is home to 'best curry chef' in UK - and after tasting his food I can see why

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How did a restaurateur in Midlothian earn the title of ‘best curry chef’ in the whole of the UK? Well, there was only one way to find out – and that was to pay Dalkeith restaurant Itihaas a visit.

Having taken the 30-minute drive from Edinburgh on a Tuesday night – wife and 11-year-old daughter in tow – we arrived to find plenty of free parking nearby. That was obviously a big bonus, but for those who don't fancy driving, the restaurant is on good bus routes from the Capital.From the moment we stepped in the door, we could smell the spices emanating from the kitchen and were warmly welcomed by our host as he took our coats and showed us to our table. Scanning the room, I couldn't help thinking it looked much like every other Indian restaurant I've been to – but then I reminded myself that Itihaas has built its reputation on its food, not its decor.

And what a reputation it is. Since chef Matin Khan opened the 80-seat eaterie in 2007, the accolades and honours have just kept on coming. Its titles have included Scotland’s Curry Chef of the Year (twice), Best Restaurant in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Bangladeshi Caterers’ Association Awards, and Best South Asian Restaurant. And perhaps most impressively, Matin was named UK Curry Chef of the Year last October by trade magazine Curry Life.

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As appetizers, we had freshly made crisp poppadoms served with mango and mixed pickles, chutneys and onion salad. For the main course, I opted for the chicken tikka kebab. The spices and fresh herbs complimented each other beautifully, while the fresh lena chicken, which has been skewered and roasted in a clay oven, was a delight. My wife had one of Itihaas' specialties – the lamb Pasanda. She enjoyed the mild creamy almond sauce and remarked that the lamb was deliciously melt in the mouth. It was perfectly complemented by basmati rice stir-fried with egg and peas. As a side we had saag aloo, which is spinach with spiced potatoes. This was another delicious dish with just the right amount of heat. My daughter, meanwhile, opted for omelette and chips, as she doesn't really do spicy food. No matter, she wolfed it down, saying the omelette was as good as she's ever tasted.

By the end of the meal, we were pretty stuffed, but my daughter and I were still able to find space for ice-cream desserts. Bellies full to bursting, we all agreed on the drive back to Edinburgh that we must return again to Itihaas at the first opportunity. With wonderfully attentive staff, great food and a warm atmosphere, this place is all you could want from an Indian. Everything about the place felt authentic, and it's not hard to see why they are serial award winners.

Itihaas, 17 -19 Eskbank Road, Dalkeith, EH22 1HD, Telephone: 0131 663 9800, www.itihaasrestaurant.com

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