It’s a sleepy late summer Tuesday and we’re in the middle of the recession. Blackheath’s Taste of Raj, sitting in the shadow of the village’s iconic All Saints’ Church on the heath, is packed. And this in a village (please, please, always refer to SE3 as a ‘village’ or you’ll upset the genteel locals) where there are “17 other restaurants” I am told by a man in the know. There have been good advance reports. “Best curry place in the area,” curry lover Tina announces when she hears we are off for a visit. She could just be right.
The menu’s a cracker, with a selection of special dishes including Lamb Dubby (£7.50) which uses plenty of Kashmiri chilli and petals from the cockscomb flower and Chicken Dhandar (£7.50) a sort of creamy dhansak with a late spice kick. There are also rarities like the super fresh tasting Tandoori Scallops (£5.95), Courgettes (£4.50) stuffed with potato, onion and coriander and vegetable side dish Broccoli Bhajee (£3.50).
Unusually all the main dishes appear looking exactly the same colour (although they certainly don’t taste the same) so I think it’s safe to say there’s none of the usual colouring used to electrify the look of the dishes here. And hip hip hooray, here’s an Indian chef who knows to keep his chicken moist and tender rather than relying on the sauces to cover up his over-cooking.
The restaurant layout is two sections joined by a little pinch point where you’ll find the bar and one table (where we sit) and this design successfully creates a good buzz while keeping the intimate feel of a small restaurant.
And as always, it’s the little extras. A complimentary soup and ‘magic mushroom’ (that’s a tasty fungi not something you’ll find in Amsterdam) to start, as well as the increasingly common ‘drink on the house’ as we pay the bill, following the less-than-usual orange slices after the main meals.
There’s a little sign in the window declaring ‘Open all Day’. This place would probably even be busy at 4.30.
• Taste of Raj, 9 Royal Parade, Blackheath Village, London, SE3 0TL. Tel: 020 8244 2823 or 020 8244 2822. Open: Daily noon – midnight.