I can understand people sticking to their favourite Indian restaurant, where they probably get good food,
good value and also get to know the staff.
But India, Bangladesh and the
various regions constitute a huge area and variety of food, and often the preparation of a similar dish in two establishments, can be
I have found a selection of wonderful chefs around the West Country, and each has his speciality and gets away from the day-to-day dishes. Although I don't visit restaurants by request, I do listen to people who tell me they have either had a good or bad meal somewhere, and I launch myself into the fray to discover what I can find.
Over a pint in the local, I heard a lady enthusing about a tandoori restaurant in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire - the Maharaja. Son-in-law Stewart was celebrating his 40th birthday, so I decided a spot of combining business with pleasure might be in order. Hopefully, I could enjoy a good meal, and also remind him that only a mere 192 months separate us - and what's that between friends?
Bradford-on-Avon is an interesting place. It has some lovely little shops, quaint streets, and, of course, a marvellous view of the Kennetand Avon Canal,-which runs through it.
Even though world heavyweight boxing -champion Lennox Lewis had decided to quit the ring on the day of our foray into Wiltshire, Stewart, who is the coach at the local Frome boxing club, swore he would carry on, despite his great age. He also informed me he was very. hungry, which is a bad sign when I am picking up the bill. He can manage a box full of sandwiches, several pieces of cake, and then start ona 2lb rump steak and chips, without any problem.
The Maharaja, despite its grand name, is rather small inside, which ensures the staff can give every
customer their full attention. I like to study the menu carefully, and was delighted to see the chef was not only boasting about his freshly-prepared dishes on a daily basis, but that they were all marinated for 24 hours before serving. That is very important for Indian food, where the flavours of the meat, fish and vegetables, are enhanced by the many spices and herbs involved in their preparation. The menu also said little fat and the minimum of colouring would be in the food.
The shish kebab (minced lamb), chingry kebab (king prawn) and tandoori chicken all arrived on an iron skillet, which sizzled while the dishes were being served, and filled the room with a magnificent aroma.
Oh! I forgot to mention that daughter Sharon and wife Sue were also on hand to help celebrate the big day. I didn't mention Sue's starter, because regular readers won't be surprised to fmd out it was her mandatory prawn cocktail. Not only were the starters excellent, but also I thought the best value for money I had encountered for some time. They are also offered on a takeaway menu, where a discount of 10 per cent is given for orders over £15.
Stewart ate his tandoori starter in record time,
and polished off the remains of the other dishes.
Makhan chicken, which he ordered for his main
course, was a new one on me. It turned out to be diced chicken, cooked with coconut, bannasand sultanas, which was mild, sweet and delicious. My own chicken sag (meat cooked with chopped spinach) was also very good, and the other offerings of king prawn korai (cooked with green peppers and tomatoes), and chicken dhansak, with lentils, were also well-cooked and presented.
The dhansak is a classic example of how dishes can differ in various restaurants. Normally it is cooked with quite fiery spices, but in this case it was a medium taste and with just the right hint of sweetness. One plate of rice, some popadoms, a keema nan and a couple of chapatis completed an excellent main course. I do suggest that, when you visit an Indian restaurant, you order a mixture of mild and hotter dishes: try to ensure they are all cooked with different vegetables and spices, and then share. Stewart left room for a pineapple shell filled with ice cream, while Sharron and I went for the Cointreau flavoured ices. I was impressed with the Maharaja and its attantive staff. The food was piping hot, the service excellent, and the flavours among the best I have encountered. The place is a credit to one of Wiltshire's prettiest towns.
Mervyn Hancock and his party paid £22 each for a three course Indian meal, including wine, drinks from the bar and coffee. The Maharaja is in Frome Road, Bradford on Avon. Call 01225 866 424