This well established eatery is rather tucked away in a somewhat less than salubrious setting. A sign out the front warns skateboarders to keep away and informed us that “This area is prone to high winds” which doesn’t fill you with confidence about the curry. Not a good start then, but the neon sign said “OPEN” in red on blue and looked welcoming enough. The first thing to strike me was a worrying sight at the bar – Kingfisher Lager…on draft!! If you know great lager, you know it isn’t Kingfisher!! (see the Kingfisher/Cobra challenge in the Bengal Reef review). However, behind the bar was a picture of one of Britain’s best loved pantomime dames and pugilists, the great Frank Bruno. Bonus box ticked for the boxer.
The restaurant is decked out with Indian memorabilia set into ornate recesses in the painted walls. Despite this, the place has a very retro 70’s curry house ambiance - you can strip away the wallpaper but you cant remove the flock feel!
The restaurant is built on the reputation of Zahoor Raja, or just Raj. He was there, reading the paper at first but then mucking in. Didn’t say much though. Still, I quite like the owner to be unobtrusive, and there were plenty of newspaper cuttings around to tell us all we needed to know about him.
On to beer. We were asked what we would like to drink promptly on sitting down (good quality service that). Hurrah and hassar but the Gulshan doesn’t just do Kingfisher on tap (eek!! What a concept) but also bottles of Cobra and Bangla (“Stronger brewed for stronger food”). Another bonus box ticked. Popadums came soon after the beer and were up to scratch. Particularly nice onions in the dip quartet I thought.
We ordered as per usual from the well laid out wipe clean menu .The tandoori chicken turned up minus a sizzler but was definitely one of the tastiest and most well balanced we’ve ever tried. The onion bhaji’s were served flat, were a little soggy and probably the low point of the whole meal. We were pleased to see the traditional lettuce based salad accompaniment jazzed up with a ‘sprig’ of red cabbage. Good tasty lamb rogan too, perhaps erring on the slightly spicy side. The chicken biryani was up to the mark and served with a flavoursome vegetable side. For some reason (probably because it was cheap) we pushed the boat out and ordered a Bombay aloo which didn’t disappoint. Excellent roti and good value for money and so probably didn’t really need to have two. A copious choice of desert, complete with Kulfi in packing cone, rounded things off rather well.
Of all the places we have visited, this is the Indian restaurant you are most likely to see a fight – but it would be outside and you could view it from the comfort of your ring side seat whilst popping a popadum and quaffing on a bottle of Bangla (which is possibly why big Frank came to eat here).
This is certainly not the most ‘contemporary’ of Indian eateries and the final score did benefit from all those bonus points…but Bangla beer is Bangla beer and the other basics all just fell into place. The web site claims this as “Reading's premiere Indian restaurant for the last sixteen years”, and based on this display we are perhaps surprised but minded to agree.
Randdy Dogoe gave this restaurant 73
Bret Myri scored this establishment 83