I have been a devotee of Aziz since Katie and I first went to the restaurant on Cowley Road years ago.

I personally think it’s the best Indian restaurant in Oxford (though of course it’s at least half Bangladeshi).

However for some reason, after it went to the Chequers in Headington four years ago, we never ended up eating in.

Then, last year, Aziz moved again, to the Tree Hotel in Iffley.

So when current manager Kamal Rahman (son of its famous founder Aziz) emailed the paper asking if we’d like to come and try a new menu, I jumped on it.

Oxford Mail:

Actually, this is more than a new menu: this is a whole new kind of dining experience, aimed at enabling visitors to dine safely and bring the punters back in after lockdown.

I don’t particularly care about safe dining, but I love Aziz, and I am perfectly happy for the nearest diners to be at least two metres away from me.

Read also: The new socially-distanced dining at The Fish, Sutton Courtenay

The first thing I noticed as I arrived was a line of stickers on the floor leading inside.

I didn’t read them, but you know what they said.

Oxford Mail:

As soon as I stepped inside, I was invited to use the recently-installed hand sanitiser device, which dispensed an enormous glob of goo that I spent the next five minutes trying to rub away like Lady Macbeth.

When I sat down there was already a little slip of paper on the table asking for my name, address and phone number.

Then I was asked to stand up again to go and have my temperature checked using a device I was quite astonished by - a laser thermometer which they just point at your forehead, like a game of Russian roulette to determine whether you are cool enough to eat at their restaurant.

Thankfully, Katie and I were both cool enough.

Then we were able to sit down and start eating.

Oxford Mail:

Well almost - the next step was to have the new special Thali menu explained to us.

Essentially, the aim of this menu is that you chose a selection of starters, mains and sides, and they bring them to you all at once on a big platter so that they don’t have to keep coming back to the table, raising the risk of giving you coronavirus.

Now I am stupid, but I had to have the menu system explained to me twice and I’m still not sure I understand.

My recollection is that for £17.50 you can order one appetiser, two items from the chicken and lamb dishes section, one item from the vegetarian section and two items from the breads and rice section. Alternatively, for £15, you can order three dishes from the vegetarian section instead of two from the chicken and lamb section. Plus the appetiser and the sides. Or you can order from the tandoori dishes.

However I always have to be different so I didn’t do any of those combinations. Instead, when our waiter asked if I was a vegetarian, I explained I was pescatarian and he instantly asked (I stress that - he asked me) if I would like a fish curry.

I took absolutely no convincing and accepted his kind offer, so my final order was: one pot of onion bhajis, one saag paneer (spinach and Indian cheese), one Bombay aloo (spicy boiled potatoes), a pilau rice, a Peshwari naan and a fish curry.

For anyone thinking ‘do you want that on a silver platter?’ yes - and that is what it all arrived on, with a little pot of raita.

I’d never had saag paneer before and this was really good. It was all good. The fish curry was delicious - if you can persuade them to make it for you and they remember what they made the guy from the paper, get them to make it.

Oxford Mail:

One real treat that we were both delighted with was freshly-cooked naan, still crispy around the edges: so unlike the soggy thing you pull out of the bag when you get a bad takeaway.

The only problem was that, with six decent-sized portions of rich, sticky and sweet curry dishes, I got slightly less than halfway through each of them before I was stuffed.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that, while spending 15 minutes trying to understand the menu, I had ploughed through several curly, crinkly poppadoms piled high with tomato and mango chutney, raw onions and the yellow one you always get.

Oxford Mail:

Katie had tandoori paneer.

As a result, having come to review the substantial and broad range of dishes specially devised and chosen for this Thali menu, I got halfway through my platter and had to look sheepishly up at our generous hosts like a fat little pig and apologise.

Gracious as ever, our waiter instantly reassured me ‘don’t worry - it tastes even better the next day because the food has more time to marinade in the spices’, and he went into the kitchen and brought out a small tower of plastic takeaway tubs, lids, and an Aziz branded carrier bag.

No sooner has he carried out this gracious act then he quietly mumbled: “We did have a dessert planned for you.”

It’s a very specific type of gracious host who understandingly accepts you when you say that you are so stuffed you can’t finish the beautiful meal he cooked you, and then immediately guilts you into having another course. However, there are far worse hosts.

Also, the desserts (yeah, he didn’t just bring one) were not huge, and were worth it for the spectacle alone: one of them was a flaming creme brulee, large blue flames dancing on its surface as it arrived. I don’t much like creme brulee, but I enjoyed how light it was.

Oxford Mail:

The other dessert was a kind of Indian doughnut-like snack: balls of dough in extremely sweet caramel syrup in a Martini glass.

This, for me, was really the perfect dessert after an Indian meal - a tiny, light sweet refresher, and it had some kind of citrus running through it which also cuts through all that rich, fatty curry.

Oxford Mail:

The new Thali menu at Aziz was a great way to discover some new dishes at one of Oxford’s best restaurants.

Personally, I'm not fussed about the health and safety, but I can definitely reassure anyone worried about eating at Aziz right now - don’t be: these guys are using damn lasers to keep you safe.

Oh, and he was right by the way - when I ate the second half of my meal at home the following night it was outstanding.

Get up there, eat in or take away - it’s all good, and it’s all supporting a local business at a time when they need it most.