359 Holloway Rd, London N7 0RN www.rajofislington.comThis review was made before lockdown. Please note the restaurant’s food is still available on takeaway apps
A great selection of traditional regional Indian dishes with a few modern twists place Raj of Islington on the map for great value Indian dining in the capital.
Like many Indian restaurants in London, Raj of Islington does not excel in its interior decor.
Guests are welcomed to dine under the fluorescent blue rays which mimic something from a neon rave.
Although this may sound like criticism, it’s not. I found the lighting somewhat comforting as it’s a feature I know well from many of my favourite Indian restaurants in the city.
My guest and I usually drink beer with Indian food, so I was pleasantly surprised to be handed a cocktail menu along with the drinks menu.
Cocktails and Indian food aren’t the obvious pairing, but it doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. A refreshing selection of carefully crafted cocktails featured on the menu with fitting names such as the Maharaja-tini and Last Days of the Raj.
I decided on the Rangpur Tonic as an aperitif, which is Raj of Islington’s answer to a gin and tonic.
Although my sight was set on a crisp lager with food, I browsed the wine list to feed my curiosity. I saw a good handful of European wines alongside other popular wine countries, but what really caught my eye was the RosÃƒÂ© Fratelli 2017, from the Indian state Maharashtra.
I’d never come across any Indian RosÃƒÂ© in my frequent visits to India, so I jumped at the chance to try it. The beer could definitely wait.
I was very happy to spot the word’bhajia’ alongside’onion’ on the menu. Whilst bhaji isn’t incorrect, I trust it a lot more when it is spelled with the’a’ at the end as it’s how I grew up recognising it.
I ordered our starters, of course putting emphasis on Bhaji-ahhhh, then sat back with my Indian rosÃƒÂ©. My first sip was crisp, cold and inoffensive. My guest was staring at me waiting for a comment so I nodded after taking a second sip.’You hate it’, he remarked.
I couldn’t bring myself to disparage a product of my beloved India so the pretense went on. No doubt, any other wine would have been a wiser choice, but a cold glass of rosÃƒÂ© is a fine pursuit for any evening, and a glass of the Fratelli 2017 provides a wonderful wine anecdote.
In the meantime, our appetisers arrived looking appealing and artistic. Two onion bhajias, two punjabi samosas and two sweet potato and goat cheese tikkis were put in front of us, and it dawned on me that I had chosen the heaviest possible starters.
The punjabi samosas lived up to their famous thick crust, filled with a brilliant creamy medley of vegetables.
My guest didn’t enjoy the sweet potato tikki, but I on the other hand enjoyed it with no strong opinions. A tikki usually uses regular potatoes, so I could/can see how some might be purists when it comes to experimenting with potatoes.
The onion bhajias were generous and indulgent, perhaps due to a little too much frying, but delicious nevertheless.
The main menu is split into three main sections: clay oven specialities, regional dishes and market fresh vegetables.
With our stomachs suitably lined, we ordered the dhaba palak paneer and the sabzi panchratni from their regional dishes along with a personal favourite, the dal makhani.
The Rajasthani sabzi dish was by far the most colourful dish on the table. A concoction of baby corn, broccoli, courgette, mange tout, mushrooms, onions and peppers were all tossed in spices in a wok.
The dish had a good flavour and crunch, but it was given a lot less attention compared to the palak paneer and dal.
Many restaurants have a habit of excessively creaming their dal makhani for flavour, but this wasn’t the case at all here.
The dal was rich and dark brown in colour with a visible white drizzle of cream on the top, allowing us to see the cream instead of concealing it within the dish.
I scooped up mouthfuls of dal with my naan with my hands, alternating between butter naan and garlic naan for some variety. The naan was perfectly crisp and bubbly from the oven, which meant it could withhold the moisture from both the paneer and dal without collapsing.
The palak paneer was served in a traditional steel balti, and came garnished with raw slices of onion and half a tomato. The tomato seemed a bit unnecessary so we put it to one side, only to then fight over the large cubes of paneer which were soft and creamy, whilst full of flavour having soaked up the masala flavours from the spinach.
Both baltis were mopped clean with remaining bits of naan and the sabzi was left half eaten.
Perhaps if we’d have ordered one less starter, we may have been able to finish it, but there’s no time for regrets when you are happy and full.
Those who live in Holloway Road and surrounding areas will be happy to have The Raj of Islington near them as the restaurant is a popular takeaway option on delivery apps.
With reasonable prices, great cocktails and beautifully presented food the sit in experience is definitely worth while.