CARLSBERG don’t do curries — but if they did, they wouldn’t be a patch on those
CARLSBERG don’t do curries — but if they did, they wouldn’t be a patch on those served at Café Le Raj in Henley.
The Indian restaurant at 17 Reading Road, which was founded by Abdus Salam in 2004, has now fully reopened after undergoing an extensive refurbishment.
The premises have been expanded to make space for an extra 20 covers, bringing the total to 60, while the decor has been overhauled to embrace a modern yet warm and welcoming vibe.
It now also has a disabled toilet and cloakroom, while new kitchen equipment and air conditioning have been installed.
When my partner and I arrived on Thursday night, a traditionally quiet time of the week, we were pleased to note that we weren’t the only customers.
We also heard Mr Salam’s unfalteringly polite, relaxed and friendly service team receive numerous takeaway orders during our visit — another surefire sign of Café Le Raj’s popularity.
First impressions count — and in this regard even our poppadum appetiser didn’t disappoint.
As well as the usual side dips of chopped onions, raita and lime pickle, it came with a deliciously smokey barbecue-style chutney that neither of us — and we speak as die-hard curry lovers — had sampled before. But the first big “wow moment” arrived in the form of our starter — a chef’s special for two that ticked all the boxes.
Not only was it delicious and generously-sized, it was so beautifully presented that tucking in felt like an act of vandalism.
The miniature onion bhajis, sheek kebabs, curried king prawns and pakoras were all superb but our favourite item was the bite-sized nuggets of curried spinach and firm, salty paneer cheese.
Among the main courses we sampled, it would be hard to pick a favourite between the tandoori sea bass and the kosha lamb chops. The former arrived fresh from the oven, perfectly seared and ever so slightly blackened without being overdone.
A solitary chilli protruded teasingly from its mouth but neither of us felt brave enough to take a bite.
The latter, meanwhile, was suitably tender and complemented by a mild and subtly hot sauce.
Our sides of king prawn rampuri and Le Raj vegetables — a colourful medley including tomato, aubergine, peppers and onions — were of a similar standard.
My meal was accompanied by the tried-and-tested pint of Cobra but I noted that my partner’s house white wine, so often a let-down in curry houses, was fresh and floral without a hint of sharpness.
All considered, it was as close to curry heaven as I’ve tasted and will definitely be getting a repeat visit.
• Café Le Raj offers a 10 per cent discount on collection orders over £15 and free delivery within a three-mile radius.
It can provide a buffet or sit-down meal for parties and offers a Sunday buffet from midday until 2.30pm.
For more information, call (01491) 573337 or visit www.cafeleraj.co.uk