GILL HARRIS and pals leave their crampons and ropes at home to discover why a new Gurkha restaurant is causing such a stir

AT 8pm the weather looked perfect and the view superb. Sherpa Stephen pointed out the menu. We commenced ordering drinks and food and cooling ourselves down near the window. I took a bottle of beer from the table and tested it out.

Such is the atmosphere of Yak The Himilayan Kitchen in Swindon’s Devizes Road, I could easily imagine myself hanging out with Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing as they cooked up some early morning food and tested their oxygen ahead of their final ascent of Everest on May 29, 1953.

However, back in the real world, it was 8pm on a balmy July evening and I was accompanied by two very hungry pals from work.

Yak may not have been open all that long but word has already got out. Numerous friends have raved about it and when we arrived the restaurant was brimming with chatty customers, creating a pleasant, welcoming buzz.

Seated upstairs by an open window, a relief on a hot, sticky night, we set about examining the menu and swiftly decided we would order a dish each to share so we could all have a go at as many dishes as possible.

The service isn’t the swiftest in the world – two courses and coffees took us three hours, but, you know what, sometimes that’s exactly what you need. We’d arrived feeling tense and tired from a week at work and left feeling relaxed and unhurried, as though we’d taken part in some sort of Buddhist meditation exercise: focus on what is on your plate now, do not worry about when the next course will arrive.

Anyway, to kick things off we ordered aloo dum (£4.50), deliciously soft, fluffy, spiced potatoes with ground sesame; lamb bhaktapur choila (£5.50), a spicy little dish with green chilli, red onion spring onion, coriander, crushed ginger and garlic and a hint of lime; and aloo chat (£4.50), green chickpeas with chat masala, cumin, coriander and potato with yoghurt, onion and tamarind, topped with nuts and sultanas.

All three were utterly delicious, although I have to say the potatoes (which I would never have ordered for myself) were a surprise winner. They were sublime.

Our Gurkha Beers (not cheap at £5.50 a bottle, but a perfect accompaniment to the food) kept us entertained while we awaited our mains and I did a spot more day dreaming that I was in the foothills of the Himilayas, aided by the fact that we were surrounded by many of Swindon’s Gurkha population, which must be a sure sign that the cuisine served up at Yak is the real deal.

Again with the mains, we dabbled in each other’s to get the full experience. Chris ordered the sherpa chicken (£7.90), which had been slow cooked with white radish (a very popular vegetable in Nepal, the menu informed us). It was wonderfully spiced and tasty and the chicken was tender.

Stephen ordered the pork belly (£8), which I have to say was my least favourite because the meat was a little on the tough side in my opinion. It had been dry cooked with choi sum, tomato, onion and spices and again packed plenty of flavour.

My choice was the lamb tama (£8), which had been slow cooked with black eye peas, bamboo shoots and potatoes in an onion and tomato gravy. This dish too ticked the flavoursome box perfectly. Yak really knows its spices and how to balance them perfectly without taking off the roof of your mouth.

Having got comfortable by this point and enjoying the buzzy atmosphere of the restaurant, we decided to linger a little longer and ordered some authentic Nepalese drinks to round off.

Two of us went for the jhai khatte (£4.20), an intriguing combination of coffee, booze, honey, spices and toasted rice. It was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, incredibly hot and sweet and quite heady. Think sake on stilts. It certainly packed a punch, especially as I ended up drinking both, Chris having declared his ‘disgusting’. Philistine.

Meanwhile, Stephen went for the hot spicy tea (£2.50) and both chaps ordered the not very authentic chocolate fudge cake (£4.90), which went down a storm.

I can see why everyone is raving about Yak. The staff are beaming with friendliness, the dishes are delicious and make a change from the usual curry or Thai we’re so saturated with and the atmosphere of the restaurant, down to the dishes arriving in gleaming little gold bowls, transports you to more exotic climes. And on a sensible note, the menu is helpfully annotated with heat warnings and allergen information.

Our bill came in at £79.70, worth every penny considering the mountain of food and drink we’d tackled.

Yak The Himilayan Kitchen

6 Devizes Road, Swindon


Tel: 01793 522368

Parking: no

Disabled access: Downstairs only

Adver ratings:

Food: 8/10

Choice: 8/10

Decor: 8/10

Customer Service: 8/10

Main course prices: £6.50-£8.95

TripAdvisor: 4.5/5