Johney Gurkha, Aldershot
The first time I went to Johney Gurkha was many years ago after a recommendation from a Gurkha friend of mine who lives in Aldershot, home of the British army and now home to many thousands from the Nepalese community.
“Straight up Victoria Road,” he advised. “It’s not called Johney Gurkha anymore, it’s called, er, er, something else. But just ask anyone, that’s what everyone still calls it.”
So my first visit to the famous Johney Gurkha was actually to Gurkha Raj Doot. But nobody ever called it that – even the legendary curry man Pat Chapman queried the strange name change a few years back in his Good Curry Guide – so I’m delighted that the owners have seen sense and reverted the name back.
Frankly, though, the name is about the only thing that has changed in this legendary place for years. It’s stuck in time – and all the better for it.
The restaurant is downstairs and apart from a few bits and pieces in the upstairs area as you enter – notably an imposing kukri on the wall – you could be forgiven for wondering where the welcome is. I’m sure that more than a few people have wandered out at this stage without even venturing downstairs. Not those in the know.
The decor is basic, the service functional and the portions are large and tasty. It’s always packed.
You might have to wait for a table at busy times (although the turnaround is usually pretty quick) and you might have to wait a bit for your food sometimes. But, then, that’s what Gurkha beer (from West Sussex) is for.
Now, I know Chicken Tikka Masala is popular but I have never seen three versions on the menu: a classic version (£7.25), a Kathmandu Style version (£7.95) and a Johney Gurkha version (£7.95). Well, after all this stuff about the name it had to be the latter, which tasted, well, like Chicken Tikka Masala. Sticking with the name theme we added a Gurkhali Lamb Chilli (£7.95), and the darker, thick sauce was a good addition to the table to go with the creamy masala. Sadly there was no rice with a Johney or Gurkha prefix so it was a good old pilau rice (£2.35) and an extremely large raita (£2.90) to complete the line-up.
The food was as hearty and tasty as it always is and it certainly looked like everyone around us agreed in what was clearly just another successful night downstairs in Victoria Road. Some things should never change. And certainly not the name.
Johney Gurkha, 186 Victoria Road, Aldershot, GU11 1JZ. Tel: 01252 328773. Open: Mon to Sun 5.30pm – 11pm.
Scores on the tandoors
Vibe (Saturday night) 9