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REVIEW: Rajdoot | Albert Square

Lucy Tomlinson on an old city centre curry house unafraid to be a curry house

Written by . Published on November 27th 2014.

REVIEW: Rajdoot | Albert Square

IT WAS meant to be an alternative to the Christmas markets, which, as they are want to do in the cold, damp months, have spread like a peculiarly festive lichen over every nook and cranny Manchester has to offer.

If you want a curry house that really is a curry house, that doesn’t threaten the standard idea of what that means, that doesn’t do weird things like forgo gravy or serve meat on the bone, Raj Doot will tick all those boxes

So, slipping away from the crowds, we descended to the subterranean Raj Doot, for an unseasonable curry.

Instead of hot meat served in baps, it was to be hot curry served with naans. Instead of warm spiced wine, a cool refreshing pint. Unless someone has invented mulled lager yet? Because I swear every other kind of heated alcohol is being sipped in Albert Square as we speak.


While it may not be the season for it, it seems like it is the year of the curry. Indian food, if you’ll forgive the pun, is hot. An Indian restaurant (London’s Gymkhana) was named National Restaurant of the Year while closer to home there's accolades aplenty for Lily’s in Ashton or Chennai Dosa or the Indian Tiffin Rooms, while Akbars and Zouk are cornering the slicker end of the market.

So the Raj Doot is like a grand old Empress in its way, serene and unchanging. According to its website blurb ‘Rajdoot Manchester has been serving delicacies to customers for nearly 50 years and was the first Tandoori restaurant in Europe to open in 1966.’

And its age should give you a clue. The newer Indian places opening are very specific about their regional credentials. The Curry Mile aside (Curry Cul de Sac might be more appropriate), the state of Indian cuisine in Manchester has moved on. These days it’s either poshed-up curry or authentic street food - nothing in between will do. So what of the poor old curry house, flocked of wallpaper and beloved by those out on the lash?

Fish tikkaFish tikka

Veh shashlikVeg shashlik

At the moment it is sunlit, delicate spicing of Keralan cuisine that is all the rage, along with other Southern Indian cooking, with its idlis and dosas. Raj Doot feels a bit out of step with its self-proclaimed blend of Nepalese and Northern Indian food (though the Nepalese influence was a bit thin).

Actually, I do have a love for the old-school curry house (I’m talking purely about décor rather than cuisine). I’m just a little bit scared of those sleek white-surfaced neon-lit Indian restaurants that look like they are serving tiffin in space. Give me a potted palm and a goddess carving any day.

And so on to the food. For starters, we ordered Fish Tikka (£5.95), which consisted of fresh firm bites of cod all lovely and tikka’d up. Just straightforwardly yum. Vegetable Shashlik (£4.95), on the other hand, was four large chunks of paneer. I happen to like paneer a lot but it doesn’t exactly qualify as a vegetable - unless the Food Group Gods have listened to my prayers and reallocated cheese to the vegetable group, in which case all those daily sacrifices have paid off and I’m now going to make my five-a-day quota no problem.

Chicken Jhol (£10.95, described on the menu as ‘a Nepalese speciality’ although as far as I know ‘jhol’ is just another word for ‘curry’) was a pretty straightforward combo of chicken and potato flavoured with ginger, turmeric and cumin. Satisfyingly hearty is the best way of summing this dish up.

Duck Chilli Garlic (£13.95) was more disappointing. The powerful punch of the chilli was dampened by the heavy cream in the sauce, while the duck was tough and overcooked. My favourite dish was actually Pilau rice (£2.50), gently flavoured with cardamom seeds and a touch of cinnamon. The Roti (£1.80), on the other hand, was lacklustre – hard and dry.


JohlChicken Johl

A bright spot is the wine list. Before perusing, I had planned to just order lager. But there are some lovely, thoughtful wine options available that it would be rude not to try - my admittedly overeager eye spotted a few that looked worth sampling. I opted for a new-world Riesling (£21.50) to offset the spice.

As we finished up, our waiter so sweetly offered to box up our leftovers and even throw in extra rice I couldn’t say no. The service all evening had been very warm and friendly without being obtrusive.

In summary then, the food was the standard (if not the prices) of a reliable but not exceptional local takeaway. If you want a curry house that really is a curry house, that doesn’t threaten the standard idea of what that means, that doesn’t do weird things like forgo gravy or serve meat on the bone, Raj Doot will tick all those boxes and that’s absolutely fine. 

But maybe by staying still Raj Doot could get ahead of the curve. Think about it, in this world of fickle food fashion trends, the curry house is bound to come back in style. Raj Doot has many good points it could capitalise on. Keep the staff and the service. Keep the potted palms and the lighting and the music. Definitely keep the wine list. Just totally and utterly revamp the food and you are guaranteed the patronage of ironic hipsters unironically enjoying a smashing curry.

I hope Raj Doot considers my business plan. If not I suppose I’ve always got my mulled lager business to fall back on.


All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.

Rajdoot, Carlton House, 18 Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5PE. 0161 834 2176

Rating 10.5/20

Food: 4/10 (fish tikka 7, vegetable shashlik 3, chicken jhol 4, duck 1, rice 7)

Ambience: 3/5

Service: 3.5/5

Lucy recommends: Fish tikka, wine list, potted palms

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing, 14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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22 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousNovember 26th 2014.

£5.95 for a starter??...not saying this because I'm Asian and have Indian food every day (well..I guess I am)...I suggest you stick with Akbar's.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoNovember 26th 2014.

are byou the same anon that comes up first on every article on here about food and spits his/her tea out about any price whether it's £.50 or sixty quid; knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing springs to mind.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

No Gordo, that's me. BTW, you're last sentence is rather judgmental. Like most people sensible enough to live within their means, my income dictates what and where I spend and the priority in which I spend it. This in turn affect my perception of value. I'm sure most Mancon readers and posters are well off or, like you Gordo, make poor financial decisions in their lives, eh?

Ass HatNovember 27th 2014.

Any food that scores an average of 4/10 is of no value anyway. And the favourite dish was the rice. Behave! 3/10 for a £5 veg Shashlik is a disgrace. . . Never had a bad Akbars.

AnonymousDecember 1st 2014.

Been to Akbars once, it was terrible.

Calum McGNovember 26th 2014.

Been here a few times. Lovely, unhurried service and delicious food. Worth a visit and much more pleasant than the theme park feel you get at the newer more 'showy' places.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

this place is great!

pollolocoNovember 27th 2014.

Rosso wins Restaurant of the year at the Food Awards Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year went to Chaophraya (Leeds) Traditional British Restaurant went to The French (Manchester) You couldn't make it up...what a joke!!

AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

Been frequenting Rajdoot for 30 years since I was a nipper. I remember warmly the old venue tucked up Bootle Street, Quality traditional Indian food, quality services and warm surroundings. Highly recommended

Larry OgdenNovember 27th 2014.

Lucy is very lucky if her local take away produces food as good as the Raj Doot. I don't think it wants to be anything other than it is; offering very nice traditional food, nice ambience, good service all for the price of lower mid market food in trendier places.

Larry OgdenNovember 27th 2014.

Lucy is very lucky if her local take away produces food as good as the Raj Doot. I don't think it wants to be anything other than it is; offering very nice traditional food, nice ambience, good service all for the price of lower mid market food in trendier places.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

There are some very good Indian takeaways in Manchester, which surpass many a restaurant.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

I know. This & That is right up there.

ANDREANovember 27th 2014.

ANDREA & KENNETH MILLS We have been visiting Rajdoot for 30 years and the standard has never dropped. Presently owned by Sant Mali from Nepal who has over the years become a close friend. His attention to the customer is exemplary and professional. As for the menu, just try Makhan Chicken.... incredible flavour that I have never tasted at any other restaurant. Thank you Sant !

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

I agree, Andrea. Rajdoot is by far my favourite Indian restaurant in Manchester, and the Makhan chicken is uniquely delicious.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2014.

Have to say I've only been here once. I can't comment on the food as we didn't have any. The rudeness of one of the staff was so bad that we left. He wanted one of the party not to stay because he wasn't going to eat a full meal. So all three of us left. Manchester has plenty of choice these days.

David OlliverNovember 27th 2014.

Are there any Indian,as opposed to Pakistani or Bangaldeshi Restaurants in Manchester,which would serve non-halal food?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 28th 2014.

They are Pakistani or Bangladeshi. As an Indian, it's very misleading to the man on the street. I don't go to the local curry houses.

feastofsnakesNovember 27th 2014.

You'd probably have to go for Indian vegetarian dishes in somewhere like Lily's in Ashton - dozas, papri chaats, etc. All lovely and a short tram ride from the city centre.

PassengerNovember 28th 2014.

It is sad to see one of my favourite restaurants given a poor review (first visit 1975). Everyone has different tastes but my advice to your readers is to ignore this review. I have eaten in many Indian restaurants in the city and Rusholme and apart from East is East, in my opinion none has come near to the quality of Rajdoot. I am confused over your reviewers comment on the Duck Chili Garlic which I have chosen in the past. As far as I can remember it comes with a wine sauce with no cream whatsoever. If I am right then this will give an idea of the review.

David OlliverNovember 30th 2014.

The big problem is that how food tastes is very subjective:what one person might regard as pleasant,another might regard as being the opposite.Basically what one wants to know about a Restaurant is (1) are the staff pleasant and helpful: (2) are the surroundings comfortable (3) has the food on offer been reasonably well prepared,and is as described on the menu. Personal opinions of reviewers are just that,and can be taken with a pinch of salt.

Jennifer Bowers-CarlinJanuary 13th 2015.

My family and I love the Rajdoot . We are always very pleased with the service and the food .

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