“ Address: 194A Duckworth Street / Darwen / Lancashire / England / BB3 1PX „
Let me start by saying that I absolutely love this restaurant and have been going there with my mum and dad for years and years without ever having cause for complaint. I do enjoy my curries and like to try different restaurants around the country but each time I find myself coming back to the Akash.
There isn't any one reason why the restaurant is so good, it's more of a case of them paying attention to the small things and doing everything well. In all the years we have been going to the Akash the staff have always been excellent and are consistently friendlier and better than those of their rival restaurants in the rest of Darwen's "curry mile".
Each of the waiters seems to be given the time to have a chat with the customers at the table but unlike other places I have been to the conversation never seems forced. In recent years I have started going there with my own small child and have found it such a nice change to be somewhere where they are happy to have children and the staff will both speak to them, and make a fuss of them (its also nice that you can order a half sized portion). I really find that I can relax and stop worrying about the odd bit of food dropped on the floor. In too many other places I have felt that while they accept children they don't really like the noise and mess they make and it is hard for parents to relax.
There are two main entrances - one from Blackburn road which enters in the bar area and one from the back near the main seating area. Near to the bar they have a few small tables that they just tend to use on weekdays - the waiter explained that because it is a quieter time they can see all the customers from the bar and serve them with less staff. This really does work well and waiting times are kept to a minimum.
Round the back the main seating area accommodates tables up to around 20 people. Even when they have a couple of large parties like this the other tables never struggle to find a waiter and the wait for food does not seem to be any longer.
Over the years they have improved the décor - it's still not exactly 5 star hotel standard but it is pleasant and inoffensive
Ten out of ten from me for the food. The only times I haven't enjoyed a meal have been because I chose something I didn't like rather than it being prepared badly. Most people will start off with the popadoms and you will not be disappointed. Other places have chutney, lime pickle and one or two other sauces. Here you have 6 to choose from.
We don't tend to bother with the starters as the mains are so filling but on the odd occasion that we try one they have been well cooked and presented. The next courses are rattled out quickly but the waiter will always check if you are ready or want to wait a few minutes. The result is that you never feel rushed.
The main courses are the real reason you will go there and the main reason you will keep coming back. There is a wide choice in the menu, portion sizes are generous and the staff are knowledgeable enough to suggest something to your liking. It is nice to be able to keep everyone happy - our four year happy with a mild dish while others can go for something much spicier
Post meal service
I have not seen this done as well elsewhere. When you are finished they will bring over slices of orange and some hot towels. A nice touch is that when you ask for the bill you are offered a complimentary drink. The bill itself is in the 'as expected' range - typically I guess around £45 for 4 of us with popadoms, mains, rice, breads and drinks. After you have paid comes my dads favourite part of the trip.....vimto lollies on the way out! :-)
Darwen has its very own equivalent of Manchester's curry mile on Blackburn Road. It's not as long (I don't think) and the Indian takeaways and restaurants aren't quite back to back, but for a town that has a population of only 31,000 it certainly has its fair share. It is here that you'll find the Akash Indian Restaurant and Takeaway. I have been going to the Akash for years; it's where my parents introduced us to the spicy world of Indian food; it's where I celebrated my 18th and 21st birthdays; and it's become somewhat of an institution to my family and all for good reason.
The restaurant has undergone many a face-lift over the years, but has maintained its image as a comfortable place to dine. The layout is perfect for large groups and couples to dine together harmoniously - there are little booths scattered around the edge of the restaurant that make for a lovely romantic meal, whilst the main floor can accommodate huge groups quite comfortably. There is also a large waiting area next to the even larger bar, which makes it a comfortable place to gather before heading to your table.
The staff are efficient and very friendly, they always have a smile and are happy to help in any way they can. Even at busy periods (and it does get busy) they have time for every customer individually and they are happy to help you choose what to eat.
The food of course is the most important part of a restaurant and the Akash doesn't let itself down here. I have to say it's the best I've ever eaten and it forms the benchmark for all other Indian restaurants that I visit. I started life as a young whipper-snapper eating only chicken Korma and the Akash's version is wonderfully creamy and has a nice hint of coconut. It is of course a very mild dish and is full of sauce which makes it perfect for dipping one of their deliciously fresh and garlicky naan breads into. My choice dish now is the lamb Biryani, which is a complete dish that comes with rice and a vegetable curry sauce and is topped with an omelette. The Biryani is very flavoursome and doesn't need the addition of the sauce as it is so moist. However that is not to say that the sauce isn't welcome - it is indeed delicious in its own right.
Other members of my family prefer the Rogan Josh which is a rather more dry curry and full of onions and tomatoes and, again, tastes very fresh and delicious. For those who prefer a bit more spice, the Madras is an excellent choice. At the Akash it is nice and spicy, but not so hot that it burns your taste buds. For those even more daring, the Akash has the old favourite the Vindaloo and the even hotter Phal, which doesn't appear on the menu but is available on request. All of the curries are made to order and the chefs have no problem adding more or less spice to any dish, depending on your own personal taste.
If you like a starter, the Akash has the full compliment of typical Indian starters and it does them all well. The popular onion bhaji is crispy and light and not at all stodgy like some I've had. The meat samosas are full of tasty mince and not padded out at all with vegetables. My personal favourite are the mushroom bhaji puris, which are a mix of mushrooms, onions and spices in a mild tomato sauce that are served on a puri bread - a deep fried pancake like thing that is delicious.
If you aren't sure what you like and fancy trying a bit of everything, the best option for you is the Sunday buffet. For a very reasonable £10.95 per person (or around £5.95) for children, you can sample a selection of dishes. The buffet is served to your table: you are served with a plate of starters (that you can request more of) and then each of the main and side dishes is brought to your table so that you can serve yourself. Each week, there are three of each different starter, main dish and side dish and the menu changes on a weekly basis. Each menu has a selection of different meats and levels of spice so there is something for everyone and the side dishes always include a form of rice, a form of naan bread and a vegetable dish.
In fact the only thing that the Akash doesn't do well is desserts, but then in fairness, I've yet to find an Indian restaurant that does. The staple fare is offered here - fruit (which is tinned) served with ice cream or coffee. There is also a rather colourful menu that features a mouth watering display of desserts, but don't get too excited as these are all frozen desserts and not nearly as exciting as they look.
Looking now at the practicalities of the Akash, it is as I said suitable for parties of all sizes and there is ample parking at the back of the restaurant in its own car park. The restaurant is located on the main road through Darwen and so is very easy to get to and it's only a five-minute walk from the central bus station. The restaurant is easily accessed by wheelchair users and is all on one level.
In terms of prices, it is about standard. The cheapest option is to go for the afternoon buffet on a Sunday. For the a la carte menu, the prices for main dishes are around £10 (with rice or chips included) and the starters are between £3 and £5. Drinks are the usual price. Overall, for a two-course meal for two with coffees and a bottle of wine, expect to pay around £50. The food in my opinion is well worth this amount.
If you are in the area (which I must admit, people seldom are!) I would highly recommend a trip to the Akash - it is comfortable, serves good food, offers good service and isn't bad price-wise.