De Baga – Bringing Goan food to Headingley

De Baga is located in the heart of Headingley, just a 5 minute walk from Headingley stadium. The intimate restaurant serves Goan food – an eclectic cuisine boasting a fusion of flavours from India and Portugal.

On a Tuesday evening in March, before we were due to go to The Original Oak for a new material comedy event, we decided to give De Baga a try.

We booked a table for 6pm and arrived at the restaurant just a few minutes before. We were the only diners at that time, and it felt like the restaurant team weren’t quite ready for us. The music wasn’t on and some of the staff were eating. But, within a few minutes, we were sitting at our table, the atmospheric music was on, and we were perusing the menu.

The menu is large but not ridiculously so. It offers 9 starters, 10 main dishes and 2 tandoori platters. There is also a range of small plates and several side dishes, including a variety of naan breads. We had a hard time deciding what to pick, as several of the dishes sounded great, but many of them were also unfamiliar to us.

In the end, we decided to share two starters, both under £8 – the paneer masakali, which is a dish of homemade cottage cheese with roasted peppers and a spicy vibrant green pesto; and the ‘Aamchi Mumbai’ sev puri, which are crispy puffed pastry hollow balls, which are then filled with sweet potato, chutneys and a Bombay style rice vermicelli mix topped with pomegranate seeds.

For the mains, we opted to share a meat platter, priced at £14, which included lamb chops, chicken tikka pieces, and spicy chingaari lamb kebabs. The platter came with pilau rice and a refreshing fruity slaw. We also ordered the De Baga chicken house curry, which was a rich but not creamy curry, flavoured with roasted spices and finished off with coriander and mint.

Alongside our meal, we also ordered a sweet naan and a caramelized onion and coriander naan. We had to wait a while for our naan as there’s a new chef in post, and so by way of apology, we were given a garlic and cheese naan to try, on the house.

The restaurant became busier just as our food arrived. It was nice to see lots of people enjoying each other’s company.

In terms of the food, both the starters were great. The paneer was served in huge chunks, but the marinade ensured that it was full flavoured throughout and was cooked perfectly, with delicious crispy bits on the outside. The green sauce it was served with had a kick, but it went really well with the creamy cheese. The sev puri were also delicious, with pastry that was super crispy, and the fillings were well balanced. We all loved the mix of chutneys inside the crispy balls and the sweet gems of pomegranate served on top.

Unfortunately, the main dishes weren’t as great as the starters. Despite being served in a cool copper pan, the house chicken curry didn’t live up to expectations. In terms of flavour, the chicken was well cooked, although the dish lacked depth and came without the kick we were all looking forward to. The meat platter was served as a generous portion, with two pieces of each kind of meat, rice and slaw. I really enjoyed the tandoori chicken, which was packed with flavour and moist, and the fruity slaw helped cut through the meat-heavy dish. We found the lamb kebabs over spiced and struggled to eat all of them. The lamb chops were on the dry side and didn’t have a distinct flavour, which was disappointing.

The naan breads were worth the wait. The dough was fresh, soft and puffy, just how a naan shoud be. I liked the sweet coconut naan the best as I always enjoy how it contrasts with spice. But my friends most enjoyed the rich garlic and cheese version, which tasted like a garlic bread, but without the thick layer of garlic butter that you’d expect. We were less impressed by the coriander and onion naan.

Despite the drawbacks, we all had a lovely evening at De Baga. We agreed that if we go back to the restaurant, we will order several starters to share as we all loved them and felt they set a high standard for De Baga diners.

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