Let’s go for a curry eh? Everyone loves a curry. And there are several good curry houses in Liverpool. The Gulshan, Lights of Bengal, Chaophraya, UNI and many others. Siam Garden on Smithdown used to be great, but we haven’t been for ages. Sekander further south gets good write-ups. Everyone loves a curry; everyone has their favourite, their local.

Often, though, a curry is a bit of a letdown, even from some of the places mentioned. Most Indians seems to have off-days. Some just seem permanently off.

A recent curry from a place on Smithdown Road redefined the word ‘inedible’, someone had obviously mistaken a jar of sauce for a jar of mango chutney. A whole jar.

And a meal at a lauded restaurant on London Road reintroduced the old ‘mystery meat’ debate (what meat would be best described as ‘crunchy’?). There are some maverick restaurants that could play a blinder, or a stinker, but there are some that always tend to do a decent job.

The Red Fort on Lark Lane is one that seems to win plaudits, and it’s been a local of SevenStreets for quite some time. The Red Fort seems to have been going downhill somewhat for a while. It’s never bad, its just never… good.

Still, there was a time when it was very good; it was our regular Indian eaterie. So we gave it another go recently, because we all like a curry. Decor in the Fort is subdued and tasteful; it eschews the chintzy, overlit vibe that some Indian restaurants go for, but there’s something a tad anonymous about it all too. There are waiters everywhere here. When we arrive they outnumber customers two-to-one, though by the time we leave the place is heaving and seems to be doing a good trade in takeaways.

There’s a tasty chicken pakora starter for us and an onion bhaji to start. Not the most imaginative, perhaps, but the pakora is tasty and crisp – it seems much more impressive than the takeaway version we’d last had. Things are looking up.

If there’s a complaint to be made about the Red Fort’s mains it’s that they’re sometimes lacking in flavour. By that we don’t mean they’re delicately spiced. We mean they don’t seem to taste of much at all, which seems bizarre for such a food. So we go for a Goan fish curry, should be plenty of tastes to tackle there: acid, sweetness, pungency.

You’d expect to taste the sweetness of the coconut in a goan fish curry. And the pungency of the chillies and the fragrance of ginger and spices. And the fish, of course. This one has monkfish in it and it’s dry as a bone, all flavour zapped out of it by overcooking.

And the flavours are totally overwhelmed by a thick tomato sauce that just doesn’t taste of anything apart from tomato. We’d go further and suggest that there wasn’t any coconut anywhere near it – or chillies, ginger or garlic. It’s not even seasoned.

This is like the last couple of curries we’ve had from the Red Fort, and they were radically different dishes each time. It’s not easy to make a curry that doesn’t taste of anything, but the Red Fort seems to manage it regularly. The vegetable bhuna our dining partner chose was similarly anaemic.

The service is attentive, but seems distracted and almost aloof. It’s not impolite, it’s just not… polite. And frankly while the prices aren’t actually expensive, they’re not… well, you can see where that was going.

We don’t like having to carp about places and we don’t go just so we can write a poor review. We just can’t quite work out what’s going on with the Red Fort.

Sometimes it’s fine, and it’s never genuinely bad. But we’ve had one too many insipid curries here to risk another. The hunt is on for another regular. After all, everyone loves a curry don’t they?

• Have you got a suggestion for our next regular Indian eaterie? Let us know below.

6 Responses to “Review: The Red Fort”

  1. I’d love to know where the inedible curry came from so I can be sure to avoid it. There is such varying quality on Smithdown Road; one restaurant we used to frequent left me with an upset stomach the next day so we’ve not been back. We tend to stick to Kitchen (near Dafna’s) for takeaway; it’s reliable and almost always pretty good. Another friend rates Saffron, a bit closer to town.

    Talking Thai, what do you think of Chili Banana? If you haven’t already been, I definitely suggest trying Chaba Chaba on Allerton Road by the library; in fact I’ve got a review kicking around I need to send you.

  2. Liverpool just isn’t an Indian restaurant city. My home town of Nantwich of a mere 15,000 population seems to have more decent Indian restaurants than I can think of in Liverpool. Mayur on Duke Street is excellent although quite pricey.

    Sabai on North John Street is an excellent Thai restaurant.

  3. Ronnie de Ramper

    Mayur is, although indeed more expensive, several quality notches up on The Red Fort. But we eat at the latter far more frequently: it’s nearer for a start.

    I can’t say I agree with the review from my experience, even though it is nicely observed for the most part. Yes, The Red Fort is neither outstanding nor dreadful; yes, the table service does seem aloof; and yes, the dishes have a sameness about them after a few visits. But I’ve never, in many visits, had anything as dire as that described in the review.

    I do think the question: what’s going on? is the right one to ask though. The Red Fort used to be very good indeed. Now it’s merely OK. Change of management? Change of head chef? My guess is that they’re cutting corners now in order to cut costs. The boom promised beyond 2008 hasn’t materialised; the market has shrunk; margins and profits are squeezed. The Red Fort isn’t alone in finding it hard to maintain high standards. Other restaurants are struggling too – or hiking prices if they can

  4. correction: guys.. take me along and I shall take some slightly better photos for you, no worries about the bill, I an not sure I trust many places to feed me safely. (genuine offer) x

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