After years of being on my to-do list, I finally got round to going to Liverpool's only true South Indian restaurant. I had previously avoided going here due to London Rd not looking like one of the most inviting locales and there didn't seem to be the opportunity to incorporate a curry into a coffee/pub crawl itinerary. However, London Rd seems to be improving slowly but surely, plus my new workmates who live in the area had arranged a big night out there so it'd be rude to refuse! When I lived in Dubai, South Indian eateries were commonplace so I had an idea what to expect; put it this was, if you're expecting stag parties eating ringburners and predictable samosa/bhaji/rogan josh combos, you've come to the wrong place.
The meal started in the usual way with popadoms, however the pickle tray had a whopping 6 choices and some new unfamiliar faces! The three on the right are self-explanatory but check out the other 3 bad boys- the one at the top is another variation on lime pickle, this one in its purest form unlike the rubbish in the jars, next one down is a tomato based one which reminds me of thick Gazpacho soup and the other was a mint yogurt with a fiery aftertaste.
On to the starter. I ordered idli which are traditional steamed rice dumplings, served with a coconut chutney and a delicious vegetable curry for dunking the dumplings in. What a generous sized starter for only £3.95!
The curry was seasoned with lemongrass, coriander and aniseed and contained carrots, sweet potato and green beans. For those who are unsure whether they would like idli, I'd recommend them to fans of Gnocchi, dumplings and pasta.
After a nice gap between courses for us all to discuss what we'd eaten so far (it was a new experience for most of us) it was time for the main event. I ordered Aubergine Pal- an aubergine curry with a cashew based sauce. I ordered this thinking it would be blow-your-head-off strong like Phaal but this was a more sedate affair. At first, I thought I wouldn't stomach it due to my hatred of cream and Korma but it wasn't too overpowering and the aubergines provided enough padding to overpower the cream base. I ate this with Tamarind rice, a more vibrant alternative to basmati or pilau. Curry was approx. £7, rice £2.50 so average curry house price but for fresh ingredients that you could tell weren't mass produced curries but a labour of love, an artwork of a meal.
We were offered complimentary chai at the end which smelt wonderful but due to me liking neither milk nor tea, I opted for a mango lassi instead. Fruity and only £1.95.
Maharaja is quite possibly the only Indian in Liverpool which is neither pretentious nor screams Big Night Out, but instead takes you on a cultural journey of the regional variations of Indian food through your tastebuds. Staff are friendly and are willing to advise and tell you a bit of the food's history too.
The good: A refreshing alternative to the curry house experience with generous portions
The bad: Only bad point was the glasses of soft drinks were a bit small and rather flat