As dedicated worshipper of Indian food, I would normally make a weekly weekday visit to a curry house to ensure I can enjoy my curry in peace. I do this to be able to enjoy the serious hot spicy favours, free from the potential large and rowdy dinner party groups surrounding you. Choosing this weekly dinner timeslot has worked quite well for me over the years and I have managed to enjoy many fine Indian dinners. It also more reassuring to have a bit more privacy when I tackle my favourite Vindaloo and Phall dishes as when I might be streaming tears of joy from the enjoyment of such a fiery experience.
For the past few years in my daily commute to work, I would pass the Raj Bari in Hotwells and I had subsequently become quite curious to try it at some point. It was not until last month I visited this much anticipated restaurant. The staffs are very polite and keen to tend to your needs. This was especially the case when I ordered a glass of cola and when it arrived; it was incredibly flat and depleted of any fizz. Upon informing our waiter, he was happy to replace it with another glass but when the second glass came, it was also flat. Our kind and resourceful waiter then offered a small bottle of diet cola as a substitute drink and was free of charge.
For our starters, we ordered a Sheek Kabab (£3.95) which was spiced minced lamb grilled in the tandoori oven. We also had a Chicken Tandoori (£3.95) and an Onion Bhaji (£3.95) all of which were all quite well cooked and not too overcooked or oily. In terms of taste and presentation, they were as good as you would expect from a good standard restaurant, but since these menu item are so popular anyway, I have found that it is not so easy to find a more spectacular variety.
For main courses, we ordered a few curries of different strengths with the the medium hot Paneer Chicken Tikka Bhuna (£8.45) cooked with cottage cheese in a thick sauce as our mildest pick. The rich and spicy character of this dish was well balanced and very delicious. Moving up in strength, we had a Lamb Madras (£6.95), which was supposed to be fairly hot but was not a huge difference from the medium hot variety. At the top end of the spice scale, we had a Chicken Vindaloo (£6.95) which was again not as hot as it can be and tasted a little sour from its tomato base. Both curries were above average and of good quality which would surely impress those who want to challenge themselves on the next level of chilli tolerance. However for those who are familiar with very hot and spicy dishes, both dishes fail to reach the fine balance of flavour and hot sensation. The Vegetable Biryani (£8.95) was generously portioned and full of flavour with a delicate aroma.
Over the years, I have visited a large number of Indian restaurants and I believe there are three main categories which they all fall in. The overwhelming majority of Indian restaurants tend to fall into the category of specialising English tastes. As such, milder and smoother spiced dishes are usually done to a good standard. However when you go for the hotter dishes, sometimes there is a tendency to find there is hardly any difference in dishes between the medium hot and very hot sections. Over the years since I had my first curry, I had progressively graduated and moved on from mild to hot dishes. Now that I am able to sample the full spectrum, anything that is short of a punch of spice seems bland by comparison. In this majority of English Indian restaurants, there are some who are very good on delivering a good quality curry that anyone can enjoy. Raj Bari is a good example of this with attentive service to impress. If you are an occasional visitor of Indian restaurants, this is a good restaurant to visit and might even ignite a fuse in you to become a regular curry eater.
The remaining Indian restaurants fall into two smaller minority groups. There is a group that should be avoided at all costs for their achievement of zero stars in food hygiene. However, there are some restaurants which are quite spectacular in offering amazingly authentic dishes with spice blends and flavours to enlighten your entire sense of taste, but that will not be revealed until my next curry review.
183 Hotwell Road
Bristol, BS8 4SA
Telephone: 0117 922 7617