SALINA PATEL eats at the Raj of India, 46 Shepherd's Bush Road, London, W6 7PJ, telephone 020 7602 9930
HIDDEN away on the Shepherd's Bush Road is a treasure trove of tasty Indian delights which has been serving local people and tourists since 1996.
Buzzing with diners on a Friday night, the Raj of India restaurant has all the makings of a palace-like touch to it, from its spotless white exterior to its vibrant and plush interior.
On entering, we were immediately greeted by a waiter and shown to our table by the window, after which we ordered our drinks before looking at the menu.
The good thing about Indian restaurants is they cater very well for both vegetarians and meat eaters, which is always a plus point for me.
While we decided on a starter, the waiter brought over poppadoms with an array of chutneys, six to be precise, including the popular yoghurt mint and mango relish.
Browsing through the starters, I noticed there were only three vegetarian options which I found rather unusual for an Indian.
And, seeing as neither of us were a fan of dahl soup (made with lentils) or onion bhaji, we had to opt for the aloo chat masala (thinly sliced potatoes cooked with herbs, served with small Indian bread at £3.25).
It turned out this generously sized dish, which I hadn't tried before, was flavoursome and mild, and definitely worth a try.
Looking around, the pristine eatery had a modern feel to it and its bright red and blue wooden chairs matched up well with the yellow walls, which were mounted with traditional paintings - a very nice touch.
Having had a generous starter, I was already feeling pretty full, even before the main course had arrived shortly afterwards.
Specialising in balti and tandoori cuisine, it seemed right to try the balti vegetable masala served with naan bread at £6.95.
It was a perfect mix of vegetables blended with fresh herbs and spices, prepared in a mild curry sauce to suit my taste buds, ticking all the right boxes. My mum on the other hand picked the saag paneer (spinach with cheese), which you can choose as either a side (£3.50) or main (£6.50) dish.
She found it very tasty and flavoursome, along with the stuffed paratha (£2.50) which was filled with potatoes and very filling.
To complete the meal we ordered vegetable biryani, which came with a vegetable curry sauce, a concoction I had not seen or tasted before.
While the rice was delicious, the curry sauce it was served with was questionable, and after having tried a spoonful of it, I didn't think it complemented the dish well. I had to leave it mostly untouched.
Meaty starters on the menu included tandoori chicken, chicken or lamb tikka, chicken chat masalla priced at £3.50 each, plus other more pricey selections.
And for the mains there were tandoori speciality dishes (chicken, lamb, sheek kebab and king prawn) ranging from £5.95 to £12.95, house specialities including butter chicken, karai goast (lamb), fish masala and more from between £7.50 and £11.95, and a range of other chicken, lamb and seafood choices from £5.95 to £11.95.
Once all the food was cleared away, a dessert menu landed on our table and even though we were both full, there was somehow still room for dessert. We shared the flute hazel (£3.50), a vanilla ice-cream lined with chocolate sauce and topped with hazelnuts served in an cone-shaped glass, the perfect choice.
And with every mouthful we were delighted with the taste of hazelnut and chocolate.
The meal was delicious and very reasonably priced.
Being able to dine in a very relaxed atmosphere, with subtle sounds of Indian music in the background and looked after by polite and friendly staff, it had all the ingredients for a perfect evening meal.