A warm glow emanates from Bengal Sage set back in a parade of shops in St George’s Street, Winchester.

It’s an enticing start to a cold evening as we are ushered inside.

The restaurant occupies the site of its sister Thai restaurant, Bangkok Brasserie, which moved to Jewry Street a few months ago. Though very different in style, it retains that mark of classic elegance combined with homeliness.

Thoughtfully decorated in muted tones of cream and olive (or you could say sage) with smart high-backed chairs, crisp white table linen and soft lighting, it has something of a colonial feel.

This latest venture by owner Miff Kayum is a return to what he knows best in an area he is familiar with. After a successful run at The Tiffin Club in Southampton’s Oxford Street, he felt the pull to sell up and return to his home city of Winchester.

But the aim was the same – to recreate high quality Asian cuisine using authentic recipes picked up on his travels, working with food group Hampshire Fare to find the best local suppliers.

“It’s a saturated market,” he tells me. “There are so many Indian restaurants we had to stand out and be different. At Bengal Sage we specialise in recipes from many different regions in India, not just one specific region, and therefore we can afford to be much more diverse with our spicing and flavours.”

A scan down the menu confirms this.

Interesting starters such as grilled prawns with pineapple or baby squid stuffed with chilli, coriander and prawns are tempting eye-catchers. But my partner and I try the crab cakes – meaty little roundalls infused with saffron, a hint of chilli and a touch of coconut, elegantly presented.

Prawns served in a spicy sauce on a little pancake were hot, sour and moreish and the onion bhajis made with a hint of green chilli tasted fresh, light and crisp.

The mains again are a real surprise. Here you’ll find water buffalo sourced from nearby Broughton Farm, which tastes rich and dark – almost gamey – in a deep, cardamom-spiced sauce. In contrast, the Keralan monkfish is served in a delicately spiced tomato and coconut broth, similar to a masala but somehow lighter and frothier. Packing a punch was the beef malabar - tender chunks of organic Aberdeen Angus beef gently stewed and seasoned with mustard seeds, cloves and complex south Indian spices. But, for me, the lamb suruchi stole the show. Highlighted as a favourite of the Indian cricket team, mouth-watering pieces of farm-assured lamb came in a hot, tomato based sauce, tempered with finely chopped mint.

Also on the menu you’ll find venison, sourced from a supplier in the New Forest, an array of fish including sea bass, rainbow trout and bream plus plenty of free-range chicken cooked all kinds of ways.

Fluffy rice and a wide variety of bread make the perfect accompaniment and I can vouch for homemade mango chutney. If all that is not enough, and you really can’t live without your plain old korma it can be freshly made on request.

But that would be a shame, because leaving your comfort zone behind at Bengal Sage is a journey of discovery that really is worth taking.

Bengal Sage. 72-74 St George’s Street, Winchester.

Tel: 01962 862173. Web: thebengalsage.co.uk