BACK on takeaway patrol again, we have faced a number of challenges this time round.

Firstly, we had almost exhausted almost all our pubs and restaurants doing takeaway within reasonable travelling distance of home during the first version of lockdown.

It seems a bit unfair to assess the quality of a takeaway meal if it’s been sitting in its containers and thrown around on the back seat of a car for half an hour and reheated before being eaten.

And secondly, it’s really hard to illustrate these articles armed with a smartphone and domestic lighting. In the summer, dining alfresco, there was a fighting chance of getting something on the plate that looked vaguely appealing – even appetising. But now in the depths of winter, in a discreetly-lit domestic dining room – well you can judge for yourself.

It is a proper job, of course, being a food stylist. The art of making food look as good as it tastes is not easy.

How many times have you decided to prepare a dish that looks absolutely delicious in the cook book and you follow the recipe to the letter only to find the finished dish looks like a cowpat or something the dog has thrown up. The difference is the art of the food stylist and a professional studio photographer.

After spending five minutes trying to make a Chicken Tikki Jalfrezi with Bombay Aloo look like something somebody would want to eat, all I can say about the art of the food stylist is: Respect.

Our curry night-in came to us courtesy of Red Chilli in Northallerton. I took a picture of the exterior when collecting our meal but that didn’t work very well either. On a misty November evening with people queuing at the doorway the scene was positively dystopian. Which Is why I went back the following day and captured the place in all its daylight glory.

We’d ordered online – a simple, easy to navigate website – for a timed collection. I arrived bang-on the allotted time but was told it would be ten minutes. As what would normally be the bar area for the closed restaurant was pretty busy with other people waiting to collect meals – all masked up, you’ll be pleased to hear – I thought it best to hang around outside.

The delay was shorter than ten minutes and I was swiftly on my way home – apart from the obligatory wait at the Low Gates level crossing of course – where warmed plates awaited the bagged-up set meal for two.

I can’t remember the last time I ordered a set meal anywhere. It’s just a bit of a cop-out really, isn’t it? But we were feeling super-lazy and at £29.95 with a ten per cent online discount making it £26.96 it did seem very good value.

For that we received four poppadoms with pickles, chicken tikka and vegetable pakora starters, lamb bhuna and chicken tikka jalfrezi main dishes with sides of Bombay aloo, pilau rice and a plain naan.

The Northern Echo:

We’d better deal with the pakora first. It was disaster – overcooked and dried out to the point of being mostly inedible. It was a deep-fried, mummified bird’s nest.

But the chicken tikka was a lot better. Beautifully tender marinated chicken pieces came with mixed salad.

That moist chicken tikka was also at the heart of the jalfrezi which was not as hot as I would like it – but fine for Sylvia and most palates I would suggest. There was also a lot of onion – big chunks of it – and one solitary chilli pepper plopped on top which certainly whacked up the heat a bit.

But the spicing was good – with a cardamom hit in there somewhere.

The lamb bhuna was not as tender, the heat about the same as the jalfrezi, but again the spice mix was excellent. Intensely aromatic and earthy, it made the Bombay aloo side dish taste positively anaemic in comparison.

The pilau rise was fine but the naan suffered a bit from the time delay. It would have benefited from a warm-through in the oven before we ate.

A word about the poppadoms and pickles. Our package included four rather than the two advertised on the website menu description which was a nice little bonus. The pickles included mango chutney, lime pickle and no fewer four pots of cucumber/mint raita which again was very welcome but sadly most of it was discarded. I did try using some of it to revive the pakora but that was a terminally lost cause.

That damned pakora and characterless aloo aside, this was otherwise a fine meal and good value.

Red Chilli

297 High Street, Northallerton DL7 8DW

Tel: 01609-775552 Web:

Open: 5-11pm seven days a week

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7 Covid-19 security 6 Logistics 7 Value 8