It's so sad when something or someone you have cherished for years suddenly disappears. That's how I feel right now about the sudden closure of "The Kashmir Curry Centre" on Sheffield's Spital Hill, just before you reach Burngreave, a racially mixed and vibrant community heading north from the city centre.
Aesthetically, The Kashmir would not have won any awards. No flock wallpaper here or gilt-framed pictures of the Taj Mahal, no fawning waiters in uniform or piped mood music. It was clean and basic, rather like an old transport cafe with formica-topped tables and a lino floor. The place could comfortably accommodate only about fifty diners and another nice thing about it was that it didn't serve any alcohol. However, you were welcome to nip across the road to "The East House" pub and bring back pints or jugs of local beer. Sometimes it could be a challenge not to spill your pint as a Number 45 bus roared up the hill towards you.
However, it was the quality of the food that made The Kashmir so wonderful. The freshest ingredients cooked on the premises by a couple of chefs who were born and raised in the hills of Kashmir itself. No jars of bought-in sauces or shortcuts. The famous "mixed starter" included potato and mushroom bhajis as well as delicious curried lamb chops, choice pieces of chicken and fresh but mild chilli peppers. It was a meal in itself so you shared it.
The nan breads were legendary, so light and then lightly brushed with a little ghee butter. Beautiful. But my favourite dish was the Kashmiri Lamb with toasted almonds: succulent pieces of tender lamb in a dark gravy which only partially disguised the herbs and spices added to enhance this dish's delicate flavours. To think that I'll never eat it again brings a tear to my eye.
Whenever we visited, the curry house was always presided over by the eloquent and intelligent owner - Bsharath Hussain - sometimes known as "Paul" (above). He had worked there for the full thirty six years of its existence. In an interview with "The Star", he cited the recession, cost of produce and competition for his decision to close down.
We were going to visit The Kashmir again on Thursday night before Frances returned to university in Birmingham but the bad news broke on Wednesday. Instead, we went to The Mumtaz on Chesterfield Road and couldn't really complain about the quality of the fare but it was similar to so many little curry houses. Predictable. The Kashmir was different and put the letter "a" into "authentic". I am sure I won't be the only Sheffield curry fan who is currently mourning its untimely disappearance.