Monday, 7 January 2013
Indian food isn't exactly synonymous with a light lunch. In Soho, it's the artisan bakeries and Wasabi restaurants that have queues of suits onto the street, not the curry houses.
When I worked in the office, a big indulgent lunch was saved for the hangover days when I needed a surge of calories to keep me going but now that I'm freelance I can happily gorge myself on piles of food any time of the day and no-one can stop me, mores the pity as I've gone up a dress size since working for myself.
There is something that feels a little seedy about going into an Indian restaurant in the middle of the day. A bit like walking past a nightclub in daylight, when the doors are firmly locked and the grotty outside decor can't hide behind the veil of darkness.
My friend and I opted for the Maharani for lunch, still in the over-indulgent mood of Christmas.
Once seated we were passed a very weighty menu.
I like having choices, I really do. Set menus with only three options for each course make me twitchy, stroppy and have a bit of a bottom-lip-out moment but you can give too many options in a restaurant. If there's too much to choose from you end up just doing a bit of a closemyeyesandpokemyfingeratsomething decision.
Maharani's menu is six large pages long. There's every type of curry and then some, sometimes the same kind of thing just slightly different and even an option to tailor make your own, picking the meat, sauce, vegetable etc you want.
This is the difference between giving someone a choice and begging someone to like you. It comes off as needy and desperate. In terms of catering it certainly doesn't give off a confidence in what your best dishes are but suggests you do a lot of things, rather than a few things well.
Drowned with options we chose to put their incredibly affordable lunch time offer to the test. It boasted £6.99 for a chicken, prawn, lamb or vegetable curry, served with nan, poppadoms, a vegetable side and rice.
First out was our poppadoms.
Instead of the usual fermented clumps of dry chutney we were presented with three pungent, fresh sauces. Pumpkin chutney (in place of the usual mango) alongside a beetroot and a coriander chutney.
The beautiful jewel-like colours were matched perfectly with the light and crunchy poppadom. Each chutney perfectly complimented the other, refreshing and packed full of flavour.
Things were going well.......then came our meals.
The curries themselves were both quite bland, a thick gravy that although had murmurings of some spices was completely forgettable.
The curry was served with deep fried potatoes which could be dunked in the extra sauce served in a bowl, a lovely comforting food experience that outweighed the wishy-washy curry itself.
Maharani clearly has some fantastic ideas, their chutneys were possibly the best I've ever had and their unusual presentation made the experience special. At 6.99 it wasn't ever going to be the best curry in a one mile radius, let alone the whole of London. However, if you find yourself drunk in Soho before 5pm and in need of cheap sustenance this is the place to come. Perhaps their main menu is better, if you can be bothered to read through it.....