The Taj Mahal, or "Taj" as it is known locally, is an Indian restaurant in Mount Charles. It has been there for nearly two decades, and in those two decades myself and many others I know have eaten there. The consensus has always been, its a good Indian. You don't really hear bad things about it, whereas over a restaurant close by you often hear bad vibes being spoken.
Its Not Cricket
We booked a table for 8.30, and accounting for the time difference we arrived at three in the afternoon. This was a mistake; Indian restaurants all use the same time zone as England. Returning at the 8.30pm GMT we were met by a real energy as we walked in. The restaurant was packed. People were leaving with takeouts. And the waiters were instantly and genuinely, friendly.
The decor of The Taj is the Anglgo-Asian kitsch that's so authentic for British Indian restaurants. The rattan screens and the hand painted murals are right off the cover of a Bollywood Mills and Boon. Class or cack, its the real deal.
With Kingfisher on tap at a restaurant-reasonable £3.20 a pint, the beer side of the evening was covered. My domestic assistant also joined me with the aforementioned ale. To start the ball rolling we took in some popadom and pickles. These can range from really uninspired to so tasty that they make you not want your starter. Last night the popdoms were good. And for those who don't know: the POLITE way to break the popodoms is for the woman who first sat down to do it, using the back knuckle of her right hand.
The Onion Router
The onion bhaji at the Taj stands out as kings among bhaji. They were light and golden with crispy tendrils of batter that seemed more like tempura than the normal onion stodge in batter that we were expecting. Probably the best bhaji I, or my domestic assistant, have ever had.
The Phall of Man
I make no bones about it, I will challenge anyone to a curry eating contest. If there was an Olympic event for it, I'd try for the English team. I have beaten the entire country of Sri Lanka in terms of curry challenges - they are pussies - and I have eaten the world's hottest curry. It is the only achievement I can say I am proud of (thinking about it, that might be my only achievement). So when I order a Phall in an Indian restaurant I generally feel that I will be operating merely in Bombay Bad Boy/ lower-Vindaloo territory.
I told the waiter I wanted a Phall extra hot:
"Make you sweat?"
"Make me cry."
I think the best way to capture the experiences is with this scan of my notebook:
Goodness Gracious Proper Job
This is a romper stomping Indian that, like a good sound system, delivers at the low and high end of the frequency scale. The Phall was godly in taste and fire and we really enjoyed all else too. The buzz in the place lasted all night and we left with real smiles at the end.
We got a taxi home from a man who claimed to be called Paul. I cannot guarantee that that really was his name, but I can guarantee that he enthused with us about how good the Taj is, as do, so he claims, many of his passengers. Can we trust him on this? I'm not sure but I am sure that the Taj is a quality Indian. And its opposite my old school...
Telephone: 01726 73716