The Indian restaurant problem is one that’s hung over Liverpool for a long time, a problem with many attempted solutions, all of which have failed to convince. Indian restaurants in the UK have reached the heights and plumbed the depths of the culinary arts; Liverpool has generally clung to the lower end of this spectrum – a great deal of the food coming from packets, jars and tins, a rudimentary formula crudely followed to produce very average food. Liverpool has always struggled to produce a really great Indian restaurant, but of late a new opening has offered food that’s well cooked if not particularly adventurous. The more long standing Maharaja has, for a number of years, been building an enviable reputation as a top notch curry house. Is this the best Indian in Liverpool? Is this the Indian restaurant we’ve been looking for?
At the bottom end of London Road, near the gaping hole that was once the Odeon, lies the Maharaja restaurant, serving food inspired by the South Indian region of Kerala. You won’t find any Madras, Jalfrezie etc, you will find Dosas, Beet Cheera Pachadi and Duck Olathu, the latter being a fragrant rich dish of duck with a gentle sweetness. There’s still the odd well known favourite, Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Rogan Josh for instance, but the real treats on the menu lie in the traditional South Indian dishes.
Lasooni Gobi (£3.95) was deep fried spiced cauliflower in batter, it was crisp, light and warm with spice, with a tang provided by the accompanying sauce. Poricha Meen (£3.95) was a marinated steak of king fish that was soft and tender with a gentle heat. Seafood soup (£4.50) was suitably heavy with crab and prawns, a delicious bowl of fragrant sweet loveliness. The menu had an excellent range of starters, and the many vegetarian dishes they had were offering choice without trying to cover all the bases.
Main courses provided an excess of food: I know for some that ordering and eating more food than is medically recommended can be the main aim of an Indian meal. However, the four of us could have ordered a bit less and still been perfectly well fed. We had two Dosas, Lamb Mappas, Malabar Paratha and some saffron rice. Dosa are a form of Indian pancake and they are massive, the light and crisp Masala Dosa (£6.95) came filled with potatoes along with lentil curry and coconut chutney. The Onion Rava Dosa (£7.95) was equally large but heavier, it came fried in oil with the same accompaniments. Both were delicious, I throughly enjoyed them but one could quite easily feed two people. The lamb Mappas (£8.95) was beautifully soft and tend lamb with a lingering warmth to the sauce. It was a great dish, especially when mopped up with the paratha (£2.20).
Does Liverpool still have a problem with Indian restaurants? Well, I still feel the majority are doing the same formulaic stuff, and some doing it really quite badly. If you’re a person who knows what they like, then EastZeast offers all the usual stuff cooked quite well. A cousin of mine once ordered a chicken byriani in 1973, decided he liked it and ordered the same thing in every Indian restaurant he’s been to over the last 39 years. For him The Maharaja wouldn’t be the best choice. Hwever, if you want to stray from the well trodden tracks for something a bit different, it’s the place for you. I feel Maharaja is quite easily the best Indian restaurant in Liverpool right now, and it’s perhaps the solution we’ve been looking for.