Norwich: Raj of India

With a renaissance of Indian restaurants underway, SARAH BREALEY visits the Sex and the City of Indian restaurants — though don't let that put you off the food.

With a renaissance of Indian restaurants underway, SARAH BREALEY visits the Sex and the City of Indian restaurants — though don't let that put you off the food.

Norwich seems to be undergoing a renaissance of Indian restaurants: all smart, slick places where you are more likely to find leather chairs and chandeliers than flock wallpa-per.

One of the latest openings, Raj of India in Thorpe St Andrew, is very much of this type, with handsome chocolate brown wallpaper inter-spersed with cream, and shiny black and white toilets.

There is a chandelier, of course, as well as a cocktail bar — the Sex and the City of Indian restaurants, perhaps.

Poppadoms were much as usual, with the chutneys elegantly set out in black and white square dishes rather than the more traditional stainless steel type. The lime pickle alone was enough to dispel any threat of a winter cold.

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The Real Ale Drinker enjoyed a bottle or two of Spitfire, while I had Cobra. The menu advertised bottled Abbot Ale too, though this was not in stock. I had tried to order Becks Vier, which was also unavailable, leaving me to reflect on the high proportion of Indian restaurants which offer a standard lager on the menu, but in reality only have more expensive premium Indian lagers available. The Spitfire did come with a Becks glass, though.

The Real Ale Drinker had lamb pubali, one of the Raj of India spe-cialities, with lamb in a spinach, onion and chilli sauce. Eating all the whole green chillis in the sauce would have brought tears to the eyes of the most hardened curry-lover, but by judiciously leaving out some of the chillis a pleasing bal-ance of heat could be achieved.

I had another speciality, the bahari vegetables. It was a mixture of vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, carrots, peas and potato, with just a modest amount of sauce to moisten them. The cauliflower and cabbage still had a pleasing bite to them, and it was moderately spiced with cumin and cardamom amongst others.

For side dishes we shared sag pa-neer, which is spinach with curd cheese, and daal makhani - which literally trans-lates as buttery lentils. I thought it was a dish usually made with black lentils, though it was actually made with yellow lentils, but was in any case very tasty, with a rich, savoury flavour and soothing texture. The sag paneeer was mildly spiced with creamy cheese set off nicely by the spinach.

There was also a soft, light chapati and some plain rice.

At the next table they had chosen a somewhat bizarre subject of con-versation for the dinner table. 'My father is having a gastric bypass', she announced. Apparently this is a weight loss technique, after which he will never be able to eat a proper meal again. 'He will just have two spoonfuls of porridge and he will be full.'

Melancholy words indeed. At the next table they did not pause as they moved curry from fork to mouth.

Raj of India

Yarmouth Road

Thorpe St Andrew

01603 708181

Prices: Starters from �2.75; mains �6.50-�12.

Vegetarian options? Yes, plenty.

Gluten-free options? The menu doesn't offer many clues but proba-bly fine with many of the curries, as well as rice and vegetable side dishes.

Wheelchair access? Yes, including an accessible toilet.