Friday, November 20, 2015

The Taj Tandoori.

I recently swung by one of my favourite Indian restaurants in Cambridge for a well overdue visit. 

I used to eat here all the time last year when I was in the area more, but now I have moved to Ely I  have struggled to find the time to come say hello. So I was really excited to come back here after so long and pay my respects. 


The Taj Tandoori is sat on Cherry Hinton Road, opposite the cinema complex and sandwiched between numerous shops and pubs, the establishment claims to be one of the oldest Indian restaurants in the city. I could be forgiven for saying that The Taj even looks a little tatty and uninspiring from the outside. This does add to its charm however as it feels like a bit of a hidden gem once you discover the food and service within the establishment.

Upon entering we were seated in the waiting area near the bar while they prepared our table. We were eventually greeted and shown to our table by Amin, one of the waiters in the restaurant. I am always very happy with the friendly, relaxed and warm service I get at The Taj Tandoori, and today was no exception. Everyone feels like a close friend here and its something a lot of places in the city could learn from (cough cough The Maharajah cough cough). 



The interior decorating is very similar to the outside of the restaurant, basic and uninspiring, but by no means horrible. The place just feels a little bare, but as you get to know the place well you will find out that its a place which focuses on substance over style so it is easily forgiven.
The artwork on the walls is nice enough and good to look at while sitting at the table though isn't going to compete with any of the stylish artwork in Zara.  




There is a great selection of food on the menu, from classic curries to chef specials, to tandoori grill to vegetarian dishes. There is also a selection of good fish cuisine on the menu and even some English food incase grandma decides to tag along. The menu is laid out well and is incredibly easy to read and understand. Everybody should be able to find someone on the menu they like. 

There is no alcohol on the menu as it is BYOB (Bring your own beer). This is quite common in London but not something I see in Cambridge much. Its a fantastic idea as it free's ourselves from the shackles of extortionate beer and wine prices and gives us much more freedom on what to drink. This also saves heavily on the final bill. There is a Sainsbury's and a Tesco across the street so even if you forget this you can still pop across the road and pick something up. This will mean however that you will not be able to enjoy your favourite Indian beers on draft. 


Amin and the gang made us feel right at home. He was chatty, friendly and made us feel right at home. We ordered some papadums while we looked at the menus and had a chat amongst ourselves. The papadums were thick and crispy, just how they should be. 
They came out with the 4 classic side sauces, mango chutney, yoghurt, lime pickle and onion salad. All served in a spinnable metal container which made sharing easy. These, in my opinion, are the best four sauces to go with papadums and they were all serves and prepared perfectly. The yoghurt was a little light but the lime pickle and mango chutney especially were spot on. The onion salad was cut thinly though in to quite large bits which made it easy to put on top of the papadums while eating.


Paneer

Amin was kind enough to show us some stuff from their up and coming menu. There was some exciting stuff here which really interested me. This has only made me want to come back and investigate again once the new menu is out. The paneer especially was very good. 

Once we tried the tasters we decided to order our main meal. Since I was with my family we ended up having quite a selection of dishes compared to what I would normally order. Everything was brought out in good time and presented in attractive metal bowls on a hot plate. 

 Johns Jalfrezi - Excellently prepared and presented with a lot of exciting colours.

 Our dishes all lined up on the hot plates.

 My girlfriends lamb cutlets.

Saag Aloo main.

Everything hit the nail on the head. Johns jalfrezi was incredibly well presented, full of colour and served up with chillies on top which made the dish look quite exciting.  Despite it being a little hotter than what he is used too he still ended up eating the entire dish, which speaks volumes in itself.

My girlfriends lamb cutlets were brought out on a hot plate with onions. Something she would often struggle to eat on her own but she managed to finish off. This again, speaks for itself. I tried a little myself and was impressed with the quality of the lamb. 

The Saag Aloo was on top form also. The potatoes were full of colour and rich in flavour. They were very slightly crispy on the outside and very soft and fluffy on the inside, a perfect addition to a curry. 

The dreaded Bengal Tiger.

I went for the same dish I have every time I am at The Taj Tandoori - The Bengal Tiger. Slow cooked mutton in a masala sauce cooked with the dreaded naga chilli. The slow cooked mutton, as usual, blew me away and I highly recommend anyone who can handle their spicy food to give it a go. It was a little milder than I remember, maybe my spice tolerance is getting higher, but it didn't have the same kick as before. Either way it went down well. I ordered a mango lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink) just incase but I didn't end up needing it.


I was introduced to some of The Taj Tandooris infamous chilli chips. Another thing to be expected on their up and coming menu. I was really excited to try this after being blown away by the chilli chips at The Regency Club a few months ago. I was a little disappointed with it in all honesty as they seemed to be oven chips with some spice sprinkled on top. They came across a little lazy and dry. Maybe I was judging them by the impossible standards of The Regency Club but I couldn't help feel a little let down considering the standard The Taj Tandoori has set itself with everything else. 

Once we had finished our plates were taken away and the table was tidied. Again, there was lots of friendly chit chat and banter with the staff, something which I noticed was not exclusive to us, this was a pattern I was seeing on every table in the restaurant. The place had a really bustling and positive atmosphere throughout. I really love the warm atmosphere here, it just makes me want to keep coming back, but also makes me feel bad for not finding the time to do so!



We were given hot towels (and rightly so after eating a Bengal Tiger!) and the bill was presented with chocolates in a leather book. The bill came to a surprisingly reasonable amount thanks to the BYOB policy and the competitive prices. We were all left feeling very satisfied and content all round. 

Amin and I

Once we decided to leave we were shown out by Amin. We all left feeling full, satisfied and happy with ourselves, I look forward to coming back again soon, and this time not leaving it so long! I might have to arrange a Curry Crew event here in the future. 

There are many popular phrases which spring to mind when thinking about The Taj Tandoori. "You cant judge a book by its cover" being the best one. The place looks very uninspiring and heck, even a little run down from the outside. Entering your opinions aren't changed that much, either but you soon forget about all that when you are greeted like one of the family and dining on their fine selection of quality dishes. The meat especially is good here and I recommend anyone who enjoyed Indian food to go out their way and come down to Cherry Hinton Road, you shall not regret it. The BYOB is the icing on the cake and will cut your bill down horrendously.

8/10