We visited an Indian restaurant in Birmingham and it was one of the best we’ve ever had
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It was a busy Friday evening when we decided to make Raja Monkey, in Stratford Road, our next date night destination. As we pulled up outside, we could see many others – from families and groups of friends, to other couples – had made the same decision as us and it was a promising start.
As we all know, first impressions matter and we were welcomed in by the team with warm smiles. We confirmed our reservation and were taken to our seats in the middle of the buzzing restaurant, where you could already see the staff members exchanging conversation with other visitors and laughter could be heard throughout the venue.
There were flowers and a candle on the table and this attention to detail made for a great setting for a date. You could immediately tell the finer details mattered to this team, as we continued to find out for the rest of our time there.
The attentive staff members showed us our menus and were quick to ask if we had any questions about what we saw in front of us. Though we were both disappointed to see no chicken tikka masala on the menu, there were plenty of alternatives and we were recommended dishes based on what we told the staff members we liked – something rich and creamy but somewhat spicy.
As a glass of Pinot Grigio and a bottle of Cobra were brought promptly over to our table, our food order was taken and we eagerly awaited the dishes to arrive – after seeing and smelling the food being presented to the many tables around us.
You cannot go wrong with a basket of poppadoms to begin, which were accompanied by a mint sauce, mango chutney, and fresh onion. These went down a treat, though it would have been nice to be presented with a wider variety of dips as you might be at other Indian restaurants.
Soon came along our starter to share, pau bhaji. This was a Mumbai vegetable street curry with toasted pau buns, which neither of us had tried before but were excited to devour. The toasted buns were fluffy and melted in your mouth, in a way that a buttery piece of toast would. We both dolloped a generous portion of the curry on top, which was not overly spicy but packed with flavour.
We would highly recommend this starter to share between two as the portion size was generous and we were able to keep the remaining curry as a dip to accompany our main courses.
As the drinks were flowing and we’d been given a chance for our starters to settle, it was time for the main event. For Katie it was the house chicken korma with steamed basmati rice, and for Charlie it was the chicken curry with egg fried rice. These were accompanied by a side of garlic and coriander naan, to share.
The korma was strongly recommended by the staff member, who said it was a popular choice among customers and suited to someone who wanted a kick but not an overpowering level of spice. Though Katie was tempted by a spicier alternative, namely the paneer jalfrezi, she decided to play it safe.
For Charlie, it was the fact that the chicken curry is the base of every dish at Raja Monkey that drew him in. What better way to test a restaurant than by trying the staple dish from the menu? The presentation was second to none and we both really enjoyed our mains, especially as the chicken was extremely tender.
The korma was rich, creamy and sweet – yet we were told that there was no sugar in the meal and the sweetness comes from the chicken juice alone. Taking the time to tell us about what we were eating was something we both really appreciated.
The chicken curry displayed some similarities to a tikka masala, in the consistency and colour. It had a slight kick to it but was not overwhelmingly spicy – perfect for what we had described we liked in a curry. Both choices of rice were fluffy and complimented the dishes we had picked, as well as the side of naan.
We both finished our mains feeling full to the brim because of the generous portion sizes, which we considered value for money. Though, the prices rise considerably – by as much as an extra £10 – if you were to pick a signature curry.
Despite the fact we were both full and could have left satisfied at that point in the evening, it would have been rude not to try a dessert. Between the two of us, we devoured the chocolate fondant with mascarpone and honeycomb pieces. We were disappointed to learn there was no cheesecake left, so opted for our second choice.
The dessert portion was deceivingly small, but it turned out to be the perfect size to share at the end of our meal. The hot, rich dark chocolate fondant was complimented well by the mascarpone – which we both thoroughly enjoyed and would have liked more of. The honeycomb added the sweetness and, again, the presentation was faultless.
This was a lovely end to our evening meal, at a restaurant we would highly recommend to anyone looking to try a new Indian in Birmingham. Between the two of us, we thought around £65 for all we ordered was good value for money – though we can see how it could land on the pricier side if you were to order any of the signature curries.
Overall, the attentiveness of the team, standard of the food, and buzzing atmosphere in the restaurant made for an enjoyable Friday evening – and we will definitely be back.