There really is very little going on commercially as you come out of Westcombe Park Station – and yet two spice restaurants have continued to operate in this little parade for years. And the reason is quite simple: they are both rather good. Coriander (that’s the one on the right as you exit the station) is well known but make no mistake, the Royal Nepalese, which has been operating since 2004, has plenty of its own fans.
The restaurant was packed on the night the Curry Club visited and with good reason because the food is excellent. So much so that one member declared that his choice was the best curry he had for years (he had the Langtang Lamb, £8.50, by the way). And considering this particular member would be described by Blackadder as the grumpiest Mr Grumpy from Grumpy Street in Grumpy Town this is some compliment.Needless to say, a range of Nepalese dishes dominate to chef’s recommendations such as the well-known green herb lamb dish Nepalese Khutta (£8.50) and the Royal Mismass Karahi (£8.50), an interesting combination of barbequed chicken, lamb, sheek kebab and prawns.
Other thumbs up go must to the large Prawn Puri starter (£5.95) which could be enough for a dinner for some people and the tender Squid starter, while the Chicken Chilli Dry Fry (£8.50) was delicious. As the name suggest, it’s not for those who like their meat smothered in sauce but with a beautiful coating of marinade the chicken is delicious and set off beautifully with chunks of pepper and onion. Needlesss to say it had friends on my table reaching across for a taste of something just a little bit different to the old-school favourites.
Royal Nepalese, 2–4 Station Cres, Blackheath, SE3 7EQ. Tel: 020 8269 0505. E-mail: email@example.com. Open: daily 5.30pm – 11pm.
Scores on the tandoors Food 8.5 Service and friendliness 9 Decor 8 Vibe 8 (Tuesday night) Value 8.5
The residents of Blackheath are, of course, blessed with plenty of good restaurants, and it’s always nice to visit the classy Everest Inn. Beautiful décor and smooth service underpin the excellent food.
It’s hard to resist the Lamb Momos (£5.95) when there’s a Nepalese kitchen. So I didn’t. They were as tasty as ever and complemented by the Beetroot Paneer Parcels (£5.95) – a superb pairing, with the beetroot’s slight crunch and the pastry really adding something extra to the cheese, as well as adding a glorious dash of colour to the plate.
But that’s enough veg he cries, we are in a Nepalese after all. Good, hearty meat is called for from this hilly, cold region (Blackheath). Lasun Khursani (£9.95) and Lamb Gurkhali (£10.95) are certainly hearty and both are popular Nepalese dishes.
The Lasun Khursani is a home-style curry cooked with chillies and onions and is up there with a Madras when it comes to heat the menu said, although I’d say the dial was turned down when I tried it. Tasty nonetheless. The Lamb Gurkhali is a similar strength in the hot stakes and also uses chillies. The latter, I’ve noticed is becoming a bit of a favourite as people become more familiar with Nepalese food.
Not only does this Blackheath restaurant have one of the coolest names in the curry world, it also has a superb selection of seafood dishes. Sparking my interest was the Punjabi Fish and Chips (£8.95), a twist on the British classic, with Ajwain seeds used with the gram flour for the batter and served with a yoghurt dip. There’s even peas. Spicy I wonder? The waiter did admit that the dish was pretty much standard fish and chips with a hint of spice but then that’s not such a bad thing in my book anyway.
Other tempting fishy delights on the menu are the Mixed Seafood Curry (£13.95) with tiger prawns, salmon, fish and mussels in a Goan sauce and Bulsari Salmon (£11.95), a brochette of fresh salmon with onions and peppers. There are also four different prawn dishes (from £12.95) and Tandoori Trout Fish (£10.95) served with a stir fried aubergine and tomatoes.
To say there’s a fair bit of competition in the restaurant stakes in Blackheath is an understatement but Saffron Club has certainly put its marker down when it comes to fish.
But as this is a Nepalese restaurant specialities such as Chicken or Lamb Hariyali (£8.95) and Himalayan Chicken (£8.95) are also to be recommended. The latter is cooked with Jimbu, a popular spice from the hill regions of Nepal apparently. Not your usual ingredient that’s for sure. And, as can be seen from the photo below, there are some excellent, fresh vegetable side dishes too.
A superb special menu was set up by the Gurkha’s Inn as the Greenwich Curry Club and friends gathered to be part of Britain’s Biggest Curry Party to raise money for the James Whale Kidney Cancer Fund.
Ideal for grazers who like to try a bit of everything, the menu included a lot of Nepalese specialities. The Lamb Momos, tasty balls of mince wrapped in dough, are a favourite of diners at the Gurkha’s, but with succulent Grilled Salmon and Chicken Tikka, there was a feast in the starters alone.
Welcome surprises on the menu were the Achari Paneer Tikka and the Dal Makhani, both dishes that are often overlooked but incredibly tasty. The Dal Makhani has already been ordered in subsequent curry visits and looks set to be a new favourite. The Lemon Rice, with tiny zesty pieces of the fruit, is delicious, and the tang works particularly well with the spicier dishes such as Chicken Chilly Dry Fry.
Eyes up for the Mongoose beers
And eyes down for the food
Gurkha’s King Prawn, with prawns that were worthy of the name, Hariyo Lamb, Kukhura Bhutuwa, and supper soft spinach in the Saag Harabara completed the line-up along with garlic naan and rice.
Mongoose kindly supplied the beer for the evening, although there was still time to sample the Nepalese Khukuri beer, naturally.
The total cost for the food and beer was £20 a head, which included a contribution to the charity. This was topped up by a generous donation from the Gurkha’s Inn itself and some of the regulars at the nearby Plume of Feathers pub.
Any chance of another popadom? And below from left… Gurkha's Inn is named Restaurant of the year… Never get between a man and his curry… Happy curry fans
Thank goodness for Joanna Lumley, that’s all I says. If it wasn’t for her our wicked government (or was it the last government?) would have packed off the Gurkhas to their home in the hills and this restaurant might not be here.
Truth is, there have been a large number of Gurkhas living in Aldershot (as you’d expect from the Home of the British Army) long before all the publicity. And this restaurant is testament to that.
While all the usual Indian dishes are on offer at very reasonable prices (Chicken Kurma £5.95, Lamb Madras £5.45, Prawn Vindalu* £5.95) there’s also a chance to try some Nepalese dishes (which for the geographically challenged is where our fighting force is recruited from). Gurkhali Chicken Chilli (£5.95) has the usual tomato-based hot sauce but unusually comes with green olives. Or there’s the hot pork dish, Gurkha Pork Buhtuwa (£5.95) not a million miles from a vindaloo.
This very casual place (all tables are downstairs from a large, empty entrance upstairs) and seems to be a bit of an institution in the town. The canteen-style appearance of the place attracts people looking for a quick bite as well as those out for the night. And while it may be officially called Gurkha Raj Doot, if you’re looking for the place just ask for Johny Gurkha’s, which is what all the locals call it.
* Please see notes about spelling in About us.
Gurkha Raj Doot, 186 Victoria Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 1JZ. Tel: 01252 328773. Open: daily noon–2.30pm and 6pm–11.30pm.