Dinertec @ Masala Twist, James Street, Helensburgh

The Moll, as you all must know by now, is a sucker for a smiley face.

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Don't get me wrong, she won't fall for any smarmy snake oil salesman with a mouth full of shiny pearly whites.

No, sirree. Our Moll is too classy for that. She likes her smiles natural, like God intended.

She got an eyeful of big happy faces last week when we made an emergency curry stop on the Costa Clyde, at a joint called Masala Twist in Helensburgh.

And the first she saw was the new restaurant's host.

Now we'd fired up the Buick to go doon the watter for a big of out-of-season R&R. Big mistake. Helensburgh may look lovely in the summer, but is it a dreich place in December.

Lashed by horizontal rain off the Firth and freezing, we stepped off the esplanade for shelter, to a James Street to be exact. Here, dripping wet, we saw a big picture window light up in the Scottish permagrey. Through it, among an explosion of colour, was that rarest of things on a dismal Scottish winter night: a big smile.

Within minutes we somehow found a seat among the scores of pakora-chomping burghers and discovered that the smile belonged to a gent named DK, one of the owners of Masala Twist. The big picture window, apparently, was left over from the days when this restaurant was a furniture showroom.

DK - he and his business partners own other Masala Twists in Glasgow and East Kilbride - seems to base their business on big smiles, good chat and even better food.

The Moll - charmed by our host - needed heat. But the starters she ordered up for us both to share wasn't the overspiced mouthburner you normally get in seaside curry houses. OK, poppadoms with spicey onions and mango chutney was fairly routine. But the chicken pakora was superb. You could taste the meat, which came in generous chunks, and the spices were delicate and flavoursome.

This was to set the trend for the rest of the meal. The Moll went for a chicken bhoona. Now this is no diet dish, of course. But on what the locals call a dreich night, there is nothing wrong with spices and meat swimming in oil. Bhoonas can be overspiced and overcooked. This one certainly wasn't.

Me? I went for a tandoori chicken. Yes, more poultry. But this was the best thing we ordered. Not the usual gawdy red, this roasted meat was dressed in a delicious sauce and served with a salad.

The salad. How many tired, droopy salads have I eaten in curry shops? But this was crisp and crunchy and an ideal accompaniment.

OK, the Moll and I were greedy. Freezing and starving we ordered two nans, that turned out to be a foot-long, and two portions of saffron rice.

There was no way we were ever going to get through that much carbohydrate - however cold it was outside.

DK and his team, slightly amused by our greed, kept asking us how we liked their spices.

The boss is very proud of sourcing these direct from India.

He got his decor in India too. Masala Twist - still a square box of a room that you would expect from a furniture showroom - is decked out with pictures of Punjabi women gossiping around a well as they fetch water. But it also has snazzy, multi-coloured wall hangings featuring thumbnail-size mirrors that look typically Rajistani - until you spot the shells that reveal they are really from coastal Gujurat.

The crowds weren't coming for the decor, though. This is a place for familiar Indian treats - but of very high quality. Me? I'd say this was the best curry to be had northwest of Glasgow. And, believe me, I have tried a few.

DK's beams aside, there is only one smile that counts for this Tec, and that is the one on the Moll's puss. And it stretched from ear to ear as we left Masala Twist with our doggy bags.

Food and drink

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