Simla Indian, Newcastle Quayside

Simla Indian (http://simlarestaurant.net) was an absolutely great find for Richard and I while we were staying in Newcastle; the Indian food felt very authentic and the menu ranged from classic Indian dishes that you often see in the UK to more modern twists and dishes that I hadn’t seen or tried before. Beyond the amazing food, the whole restaurant was very accessible so I would absolutely recommend a visit if you’re a wheelchair user of have mobility problems. The decor was refreshingly modern and made the compact restaurant seem spacious and open. Do make sure to book ahead though as this spot is a favourite with locals and  tourists alike and spaces get filled quickly. 

The restaurant itself is a short wheel from the accessible Monument Metro station, however, it is worth noting that there is a very very steep hill to descend down to the Quayside river area where Simla is located so please be aware of this if you are a wheelchair user. We wheeled down to the restaurant and then caught a taxi back to our apartment as Richard couldn’t face the ascent with his happy belly full of delicious Indian dishes! A taxi rank is directly outside of the restaurant which is very handy and the cars all had boots that were big enough to store a folded wheelchair in easily. Obviously the hill isn’t the restaurant’s fault at all but just be aware of this when you visit. You enter the restaurant through a door that is the perfect width to fit a chair through easily and it is all level-access apart from a slight lip in the doorway. The whole restaurant from that point is   completely level-access and you can easily wheel your chair throughout. 

Simla do a popular set menu on Sunday to Thursday early evenings (5.30pm-7pm) where you can choose two courses for £14 or three courses for £17 which is a real bargain when you consider the high quality food you get! There is also a set menu option for over four people dining where you can choose 4 courses for £21.50 – perfect for larger groups! The restaurant itself, as mentioned previously, has modern decor with beaded chandeliers giving the room a lovely ambience and tables dotted between large mirrors to give the area a spacious feel. The restaurant has an intimate size but the table sizes catered brilliantly to both large groups celebrating occasions and smaller tables for a couple having a romantic date night. The paintings are original art from Pakistan and these give the restaurant a sophisticated feel so it feels like a place to visit on a special occasion or the “trump card” to pull out to impress your significant other! The aisle between the tables was wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through easily without disturbing other diners to move them out of their chairs. The tables were also spaced out enough to give each table a comfortable space surrounding them and also make sitting at each table achievable with a wheelchair. I would recommend booking if you have dietary requirements, mobility problems or a disability where special considerations need to be made, not only so the friendly staff can accommodate you but also because the restaurant is so popular that it gets booked up quickly! The staff members were really friendly when we booked our table; they seated us at the back of the restaurant which was lovely as we could see the whole restaurant and full effect of the decor. Helpfully, we were also seated by the bar for a cheeky tipple or two (more on the drinks menu below). Our particular thanks go to a gentleman called Love who was the evening’s host and seated us with a jovial, chatty manner. Also, Abdul who served us was brilliant at giving food recommendations and was very attentive – he had worked at Simla for over 30 years! You could  tell that the staff were like family to the lovely owner, Shelly, and were al very happy in their roles .

 The bar area was integrated very well into the historic sweeping brick arched ceiling and other original features. The bar included an extensive wine list with an accompanying specialist gin menu with some of the sophisticated cocktails even containing rose petals! Additionally, there were draft and bottled beers and ciders and plentiful spirits and soft drinks. The full drinks menu is online at  http://simlarestaurant.net/drinks/ if you’d like to choose your tipple before you visit. You can also check out the food at http://simlarestaurant.net/food-menu/The whole Simla experience was lovely but, personally, the thing I would praise highest was the food! The dishes were spiced and cooked to perfection and included ingredients that were clearly of a very high quality. The menu is slightly more complex than your standard Indian restaurant since it included the classic dishes we’re all familiar with alongside plentiful more modern options that I would fully urge you to try out! The spice level of each dish is helpfully laid out with a chilli symbol to rank these but if you have any questions about the dishes then the staff members were very helpful and clearly knew the menu inside out. I also liked that the vegetarian dishes were clearly marked under the Vegetarian heading. We had a ‘pre-starter’ of poppadoms which were freshly cooked to order. These came alongside a tray of dips and chutneys. Joining the classic mint and yoghurt dip was a mango chutney and a wonderfully unique chutney including spiced onion and pineapple. This mixture of the dishes I knew well with different “twists” meant that throughout our dining experience, Richard and I tried new dishes and were constantly pleasantly surprised. As a starter I ordered what the menu called a Fish Chop. These were subtly spiced fishcakes which contained beautifully cooked chunks of fish. These were served with a fruity sauce garnish and a small deep-fried spiced potato sphere. I’m not usually a massive seafood eater but the fish was mild and soft so it made this a delicious choice. Richard opted for the Sea King Scallops which were seared gently so they melted in your mouth rather than having the chewy plasticity that scallops sometimes have. These again were slightly spiced.  Throughout the meal, every dish was presented beautifully and garnished well. Despite the wonderful aesthetic arrangement, all of the dishes had very generous portions so every diner would leave the restaurant very full!

For the main course, I ordered the Lamb Shank Kashmiri Rogan Josh. The shank was absolutely huge (it would have serviced for four meals if Richard and I were cooking at home) and the rogan josh sauce was delicious. The meat had obviously been carefully slow-cooked since it fell off the bone and any fat just melted away. I would absolutely recommend this dish to any visitor.  Richard had the Chingri Malai King Prawn Curry which was slightly spicier and included lots of very sizeable king prawns within the sauce. Richard was very pleased as he hadn’t tasted this spice combination before and felt it was a well-cooked, unique dish. 

 To compliment the main course dishes, we ordered some side dishes. Alongside the pilau rice dish, the peshwari naan we ordered was large and included lots of creamy coconut filling and the chapati was lovely too. A personal favourite of mine was the Crispy Bhindi Dopiaza which was a dish I had never tasted before. This contained deep-fried, crispy okra in a mild spiced masala. I would really recommend this too as something a little different from the Indian dishes you see   commonly.  

We ordered so much beautiful savoury food that we didn’t leave room for dessert unfortunately but I’m sure these would have been of the same high quality as the dishes were throughout our dining experience.Of course, I couldn’t possibly write a disabled travel review without adding to my growing collection of photographs of toilets!  The disabled toilet was within an easy push of the tables and was large and very clean. I liked that they had included minimal decorations within it since that made it much easier to get a full turning circle with my wheelchair. The hand rails were placed nicely and there was even a long horizontal hand rail across the door so those with dexterity problems would have found it easier to open rather than fiddling with a smaller handle. I also liked the inclusion of a large mirror as, surprisingly, the exclusion of mirrors is often glaringly obvious in disabled toilets (we need to check we don’t have lipstick on our teeth too!). The only concern I had is that the red emergency pull-cord didn’t reach fully to the floor but the owner, Shelly, mentioned that there have been lots of incidents of people accidentally or drunkenly pulling the cord and setting off a loud alarm throughout the restaurant. She usually releases the cord fully to the floor when a disabled guest visits. If you have an invisible illness and feel that the pull cord might be necessary to you then please just have a word with a member of staff and they’ll make  sure it reaches the floor. I would also have liked the inclusion of a spray air freshener as visitors    with GI problems feel reassured by this.

 Overall, our Simla experience was absolutely wonderful! Richard and I particularly loved the food quality and the inclusion of dishes that we might have not sampled before. The restaurant had a lively atmosphere with plenty of diners seated throughout and the staff were very attentive and helpful. The set menus gave diners the ability to sample generous portions of delicious food for a very reasonable price. We loved the spacious, modern feel to the decor and the large disabled toilet. The entrance and doorway were very wheelchair friendly and the spacing of the tables made it easy to wheel throughout the restaurant and be seated comfortably at a table no matter your group size. Make sure to book if you’re attending in peak times as the restaurant is very popular and thriving! Thank you to Shelly, Love and Abdul in particular for making our Simla experience run smoothly whilst being very tasty and enjoyable! We will certainly be visiting again when we’re next in the area.