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Rajdoot, Manchester

Jonathan Schofield finds it a right curry carry-on at one of the city’s oldest sub-continental restaurants

Written by . Published on November 20th 2008.

Rajdoot, Manchester

“Table for two please.”

“Could you please sit here?”

Our waitress, a lady in a whole symphony of red, pointed to some comfortable looking fixtures and fittings in the reception area.

“Actually can we dine straightaway, we’re in a hurry.”

“You don’t want to sit here?”

“No, could we go straight to a table.”

Pause. Look. Almost imperceptible shake of the head.

“Yes, as you wish,” Her Royal Redness said huffily.

We’d clearly done something wrong, made a Rajdoot faux pas. It was as though at the Ambassador’s soirée in the Ferrero Rocher advert I’d clumsily stood on the guest of honour’s foot.

For the rest of the meal she hovered in the near distance, glancing over at us as a giant young man in a blue shirt took charge. He was a lovely lad, very attentive, and nice in an engagingly untrained way. He kept knocking things over.

The whole experience began to take on a dreamlike character. The napkin had holes in it as though people had sneakily been breaking the smoking ban and hiding fags in their laps. The flower on the table had drooped.

As we talked and tried to keep a straight face, our lad got into a full on wrestling match with a bottle of house white. He pulled at the cork like a tug-of-war contestant, turning away and sighing before triumphing as the cork popped out with the noise of a small bomb exploding half a mile away.

I found it unsettling that the theme of Laurel and Hardy wasn’t playing.

As for the food, it was fine. Very confusing. In fact it was occasionally very good. None of the dishes sampled on the two occasions I visited were the stodgy affairs beloved of the lager drinking classes after midnight: a time when suddenly nothing matters except more lager and the need to avoid going home. The dishes were subtle and nuanced, delicate in execution and shot through with flavour – almost sophisticated.

The lamb jalfrezi (£7.95) was a good example of this, with the meat tender, its taste not overwhelmed by a gently spiced sauce of green pepper together with tomatoes. In fact I wanted to lick the dish it came in. Then again I was hungry.

Best of all though was a lamb pasanda (£8.95). I normally can’t stand dishes cooked with cream. This is down to a disturbing experience with a carbonara in an Italian restaurant during my formative years. Too obvious a presence of cream in savoury dishes drags my tastebuds down into the doldrums. They start to sulk like a lady in red who’s been told by guests they want to go straight through to the dining section.

But here the sauce was splendid, finger tip balanced, with the cream an element but paying due deference to that special pasander flavour of almond enlivened with cardamom and cinnamon.

Other dishes enjoyed over the visits included bhuna gosht (£7.75), lamb with mushrooms, capsicums, spring onions and fenugreek and a rogan josh (£7.50) with spiced garlic, tomatoes and cashew nuts.

The rice was always cooked well and never lumpy, clumpy or heavy. A side of tarka dal (£4.50), lentils cooked with tomatoes, ginger and garlic, softened by roast cumin seeds was a total success, as was the bengan aloo (£4.50), aubergines and potatoes with tomatoes and cumin again. The only real no-no was the functional and uninspiring chutney entrée.

Strange place, the Rajdoot.

The food is good British Indian while the service is authentic Carry On Up the Khyber. If Hattie Jacques could play the lady in red, and Bernard Bresslaw our waiter in blue, it’d be spot on. In Carry On Up the Khyber, Bresslaw plays Bungdit Din, a Burpa Chief who fits the bill beautifully.

Rajdoot, Manchester, is part of a chain. There are others in Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin and Fuengirola. Having a restaurant in Fuengirola is somehow depressing: it paints a picture of baked Brits who’ve never learned Spanish nostalgic ‘for an Indian’ in a restaurant the local Spanish avoid. It’s a layer of remove too far: ex-pat Pakistanis serving ex-pat Britons in a third party country. But I digress.

People tell me that the Rajdoot in Manchester was the Indian restaurant of choice 20 years ago. Not sure it’s that now, but with that decent food and an attractive decor it’s worth a visit if you’re passing and have a passion for a pasanda. As long as you don’t mind odd service standards.

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, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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

RobNovember 20th 2008.

Been a few times and the food is nearly always very good, much better than most places in Rusholme.

Michael WestNovember 20th 2008.

Rajdoot and Gaylord were this ranters first experience of Indian cookery (apart from a recipe my father had picked up during National Service in the Catering Corps). They were far removed from the rather scary variety in what we now call curry mile, I think Shere Khan had led the way a few years afterwards. Rajdoot itself has always prided itself on its cookery. Service I have always found to be amiable. Tuesday nights are not the best time to visit me thinks.

NickNovember 20th 2008.

I've always enjoyed the food there and I like the fact its a bit of an "old school" curry house inside. Its also good to have the Rajdoot slap bang in the middle of town for those times when a lunchtime curry is a necessity ...

Katrina ThomasNovember 20th 2008.

Best line this week in a food review 'I found it unsettling that the theme of Laurel and Hardy wasn’t playing.' As a Laural and Hardy fan though I can't remember the curry movie. Still I might dance along and see if the food is as good as described.

MotorsportsfanNovember 20th 2008.

I started my relationship with curry around 30 years ago, buying curry sauce and fat, brown crinkle cut chips at my local in Droylsden (affectionately known as “Rabies” due to one of the owners succumbing to the virus in the upstairs flat). The Rajdoot (and Gaylord) were the places visited on special occasions because they WERE “special”. Unfortunately the last two visits I made were spoiled by the sheer incompetence of the staff. To be fair one was an office party with around 20 people attending so I’ll let that one slide but the other…. My friend visited on a Friday night and entered at around 6pm. We spent around 20 minutes in the holding area and following the third request to be seated were shown to a table. I don’t recall what we ordered but do remember that out of 2x starters, 2x main and 2x side dishes 50% were incorrect. Side dishes arrived followed by a 10 minute wait for mains and rice and umpteen requests for glasses to be refilled went ignored. As my friend and I are not fussy eaters we consumed everything that was delivered. Mainly for fear of how long we would be forced to wait for the errors to be corrected. All of this occurred with the restaurant at one third of capacity. The final straw came when, having waited half an hour and asked three times for the bill, we decided that if we stood up and started to walk out someone must surely give us some attention. By now you may not be surprised to hear that our exit was also ignored. This is the only time in my life that I have left a restaurant without paying and I still feel guilty because the food was unquestionably good. However it seem from the review that the service at the Rajdoot is still well below par and as that is part of the contract between diner and restaurant I’ll not be handing myself over to the cops just yet.

redroosterNovember 20th 2008.

my last visit to the Rajdoot will be my last visit , it was terrible , both sevice and food . may have been an off day but even the dreaded curry mile was much better. there are much better curry houses than this in Manchester .

AvoNovember 20th 2008.

A very timely review Schofield seeing as though National Curry Week starts this weekend!

emma graceNovember 20th 2008.

Dave, the last I heard from the owner was feb/march...

StevoNovember 20th 2008.

Best curry in Manchester? On Burton Rd, West Dids - The Gurkha Grill. Shame the curry mile is such a shabby affair - it really has gone down the pan in the last 5 years :-(

Janie MorrisonNovember 20th 2008.

Brilliant review. Had me in stitches. Especially the clumsy lad. Bless him. But I still like it in here it seems tucked away and the food as the article points out is v good.

cpingNovember 20th 2008.

I do agree about Gaylord and Rajdoot being the place to go 25 years ago and would add the 'Nepalese' place in West Didsbury. But I was spoilt for Indian food long ago when the wives of my Bangla colleagues at Uni organised a potlatch supper. Every thing beautifully fresh and delicately spiced, each dish with distinctive flavour. But their husbands having got thier PhD's, they went back to run Bangladesh, Maybe we could borrow their chefs for next year's Food Festival

dave51November 20th 2008.

Ah memories, my father used to take me for my christmas lunch to the Rajdoot, this was in the previous location in the building opposite to san rocco. it used to be great the hesd waiter was called Sant, is he still there? I think i saw him in wings the other night (eating not working) when it moved to its current location it was never as good. Does anybodt know when Shimla pink is moving, again I fear the worst for it when it moves, its very expensive , but quite good.

AnonymousNovember 20th 2008.

I have been eating here for years, really good restaurant, and even though the service is quirky, they have always looked after me, and my family and guests, and delivered consistently great food, no prentiousness...

IntafoodNovember 20th 2008.

Whilst British Indian food obviously satisfies the masses here, you can't beat the authentic tastes of India. When eating international food, I always try and find the authentic flavours! I reckon I could make more authentic tasting food than some of these so called international restaurants!!

knowallOctober 12th 2011.

wine with curry???????

GoodfoodfolkApril 23rd 2012.

Rude, over priced, never again!

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