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Restaurant review: Blowing hot and cold

Angie Sammons finds out if Aigburth's Gulshan really is "the only curry house in Liverpool worth mentioning"

Written by . Published on September 28th 2010.

Restaurant review: Blowing hot and cold

I WON'T bore you with the details of my stinking cold. The one that every chap I know has had in the last fortnight. The thing that they call "flu".

Instead, I will tell you how I propose to get rid of it. By flushing it out of the head tubes with a blasting hot curry, the sort that breaks a sweat and spits and sparks, like a loose 5,000-volt cable.

A dhal puri could easily be mistaken,
on first glance, for a Cornish pastie, and the puri dough is as dense as Sayers' finest

In these circumstances, you aren't going to mess about with the tried and trusted Pataks jar. You are not well, for God's sake. You need the best. And the Gulshan IS the best.

How do I know? Well everyone knows that. Don't they?

“That Gulshan in Aigburth is good,” taxi drivers offer.
“Oh, have you been?”
“No, but people say it is,” they say.

This may or may not have something to do with the Gulshan's boast that it is “The Only Curry House in Liverpool Worth Mentioning”.

Now while it is one thing to claim you are the best, it is quite another to dismiss every other Indian restaurant in the city.

So doing helpful taxi drivers a great disservice, and the Gate of India on South Road, Waterloo (ha ha! I've mentioned another curry house already), I take a car, a train and a bus up to Aigburth. The Gulshan will take care of what no amount of Lemsip can.

“This surely is Liverpool's most hidden 'foodie' hangout and will soon be sieged by all who want to impress partners and friends,” their website insists.

“The Gulshan is...one of the best Liverpool restaurants you are likely to find. Indeed, one of only a handful of Liverpool restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide.” Blimey. If they do say so themselves.

In 2000, the place was deemed "The best Indian Restaurant in the North" by the Good Curry Guide. Since then, it's had a refurb and where there were once red velvet chairs and traditional curry house formality, now there exist swishy stencils of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. The Marx Brothers play silently in the plasma screen over the upstairs dark marble bar where they install you while you order, and where they also serve Indian tapas to those discerning drinkers not wishing to avail themselves of the full hit in the restaurant.

For you, dear reader, I would normally order a couple of wildly imaginative dishes (or at least mention them}, to give you an idea of the scope. However there is not much in the way of that on this menu, extensive though it is, and which, according to staff, has changed little in the 20 years the Gulshan has been here. It's all massalas and tandoori special this and that. All the usual stuff to tikka your fancy.

But I'm not knocking it. I am, after all, here on my own bug-ridden agenda, although there is nothing wrong with the old tastebuds.

We ask for poppadoms and chutney and get a small one each (£2.40) plus a small dish of nondescript sweet, red mango sauce, rather than chunky chutney, and same of chopped onion. The poppadoms are perfectly fine: no grease, just crisp n dry.

Things bode well with the arrival of a Telapia Massala (£6.30), a tasty and tender filleted fish, garish tikka red mind, but look beyond that - and the very visible separating oil slick - and the telapia is gently cooked and flavoured, with the spices not hot enough to do any damage and making quite an affable combination.

A dhal puri (£4.55) could easily be mistaken, on first glance, for a Cornish pastie, and the puri dough, which you would normally expect to be puffed up with more hot air than this restaurant's PR, is as dense as Sayers' finest. The texture of the lentil filling is thick and pulped to smoothness, but neither the salad leaf, the tomato wedge, or the creamy yellow sauce can alleviate the blandness.

Wine wise, an Argentinian Santa Isabel Mendoza Torrontes (£15.50) is the nearest grape as damn it, on a list of 11, to go with spicy food, so we get one, and it proves a good match. Cobra is, however, on plentiful tap supply.

Sag Gosht (£7.95), pieces of lamb with spinach and “well spiced”, is notched up, by request, to Dyno Rod strength for that lurgy (actually only to Madras, anything else would be foolhardy). The sauce, with its plentiful flecks of spinach, is deep, dark and rich; the meat, I am afraid, has been cooked too quickly for the cut, and certainly provides plenty to chew over. Steamed white rice is perfection, as is a mushroom pilau (£3,50), while Nantera, described as "tender sliced chicken tikka cooked with green peppers, onions and tomato with a touch of wine and fresh herbs" (£8.30) ticks all the boxes.

I make no apologies for there being little of note to add to to this. That's because rather than being “The Only Curry House Worth Mentioning in Liverpool”, the Gulshan, on this performance, scrapes in as not bad. Only that.

And after a dessert card is briefly flashed, consisting of the usual “Funky Pie” and its friends, bought in and announced on the same, familiar, laminate menu that you'll find in every bog-standard, so to speak, Indian in the land, the bill is proffered out of the blue.

The lights go off at 11pm, just in time for us and the staff to all catch the 82C back into town together. Next time I bother to take a car, train and bus to a curry house with such allure, I vow to stay the distance and make the final destination Rusholme or London's Brick Lane.

Or, if it's just the curry itch, I'll do South Road a service and walk up the road.

Rating: 12.5/20
Breakdown: 6.5/10 Food
3/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Gulshan
544/548 Aigburth Road
L19 3QG

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

gingermopJuly 25th 2008.

Agree that Gulshan is over-rated. If you want a good Indian, try the Maharaja on London Road; food is based on the South Indian style scrittipolitti advocates. The other one I wouldn't recommend is the Spice Lounge n Alberrt Dock -- seriously over-priced and poor service when I went.

AndrewJuly 25th 2008.

Just at the end of Victoria street. Its good.

PhilJuly 25th 2008.

Phil says.."Having eaten curry all over the country my favourite is Bollywood Lounge in Birhenhead, great food, service and value-and their open for lunch 6 days Saturday through to Thursday-give it a try and you will keep going back

margaretJuly 25th 2008.

I had an ok meal for my birthday, but the restaurant was loud, overcrowded and very noisy. They tried to seat us crushed by the window trapped in by a table of about 25 until I kicked up a fuss, the service was appalling including spilt coffee and the waiter ordering my boyfriend to pass the meals across the table to me, the next table were in hysterics watching the antics - I will not be going back to the gulshan. i think the review you give is very fair and realistic.

MurphJuly 25th 2008.

Couldn't sgree more - very overpriced and very over-rated (by themselves obviously!!) Try the Ayesha, Barnham Drive Childwall. Fabulous food and great staff - not up their own arses and always have a smile on their faces!

Mr D Connoly: BusinessmanJuly 25th 2008.

For the best Indian curry in the city of Liverpool, you folks cannot fault the spotless Sultan's Palace and I urge you all to go as this reader reccommends! The Sultan's Palace. Number one for bhuna!

Scouse_LadJuly 25th 2008.

I definately agree the Maharaja on London Road is one of the best. I was sceptical at first as I didn't recognise most of the menu - not your typical curry house fare. Their food is Southern Indian - Kerala and each time I've ate there it has been a new experience. Give it a try - you might be suprised.

Mr RaviJuly 25th 2008.

where is this sultans palace?, perhaps they should promote themself to your fine readers like me, who love a curry...my personal favourite is the Spice Lounge on Albert Docks, Mrs Ravi loves their lamb biryani and the attention to detail in their cooking. They also boast fine open views from their windows. Mr Ravi of Liverpool L8

Doctor NookieJuly 25th 2008.

What does the kingsman have to say about that?

IDEALA2July 25th 2008.

Oh and just to let you know, i'm not paid to advertise them, even if i do like the after dinner mints... its just know not easy finding a good restaurant this far north. Any other recommendations?

AlexJuly 25th 2008.

I have only been to the Gulshan once because it was a massive let down after all the build-up it had been given. The popadums were soggy in the middle and the nan bread was flat and lifeless rather than warm and 'puffed up'. It now seems that curry lovers everywhere are saying to go elsewhere.My favourites are; Indian Delight in the city centre, The Palace in St. Helens, The Taj Mahal in Southport and, a new one, Vindaloo in Prenton.

Philip SmithJuly 25th 2008.

Sultan's Palace is finest Indian cuisine. My colleagues all regularly enjoy its air conditioned atmosphere and splendid service in newly modernised ambience for your curry pleasure. This is my review of Liverpool Indian curry restaurant worth dining at all the time

Geoff from CressingtonJuly 25th 2008.

I agree. The Madhari next door is my best after a long day in the Kingsman.

IDEALA2July 25th 2008.

I would also recommend sultans palace. Service has sometimes been an issue, but the food and ambience is near infallible. we've even come all the way from manchester for it. While it caters mostly for the meat eating 'western' thrill seeker, there's a brilliant selection for vegetarians and traditionalists. It's a shame liverpool is lacking the light snack variety of an indian, which offers a true treat for the tastebuds, never bland, but not designed to burn off your ta either. And for those of you who don't like the madras etc, try a korma. it actually has a taste. sweet, and cool come to mind. still a proper curry though.

SiobhanJuly 25th 2008.

The Mayur on Duke Street. It's a little pricey by my word you get what you pay for.

scrittipolittiJuly 25th 2008.

The problem with all the Indian restaurants in Liverpool and especially the massively overrated Gulshan, is that it's made up of the same Western translation of fatty, hot, meaty, Bangladeshi or North Indian food. REAL Indian food barely exists and there is none of the more subtle healthy tastes of South India. Instead the tradition of the "Indian" appeals to the fat, windy, scouser who abuses waiters and orders the hottest thing on the menu with a gallon of lager to temper those sensitive tastebuds. If you want a good Indian, go to Birmingham or Nottingham but stay clear of all of the above and Manchester's scary mile of inedible curry houses. Get some tastebuds to go with your witticisms!... Come on Liverpool, find out about Indian culture.

NickJuly 25th 2008.

The best Indian gaff on Merseyside is to be found in Formby (would you believe) both Zyka and Shaanti are ace - well worth a trip. Check them out if you can.

JennyJuly 25th 2008.

Although the Gulshan is good, The Raj Restaurant in Woolton is the best I have ever been to.I would urge anyone who loves Indian food to try it.

Rusty SpikeJuly 25th 2008.

In an earlier incarnation I lived in one of those Toffs' parks off Grassendale with views of the Welsh hills and the rolling river, blah, blah. The Gulshan was literally just around the corner. I went once. I thought the service obsequious enough but the menu, as other pundits have noted above, comprised the usual run of indifferent fayre aimed at the British palate - either bland or like molten lava for the foolhardy. The Gulshan has always believed its own PR spin. And sure enough its reasonable and fair enough as it stands. But no gentle, delicate and tasteful Bengali dishes here, matey. Frankly, though, I am baffled at the UK obsession with 'Indian' food. Its largely mush with a variety of sauces, all turned into a kind of savoury trifle from almost the same ingredients, used to doll up the meat dish. Flavoured Conplan would do just as well after 15 pints of lager. And, hey, there was a chippie on Aigburth Road just a spit, if you'll excuse the analogy, from the Gulshan, where they churned out the best curried grub for those gagging after a night on the lash. And as Angie Sammons indicates there is the tricky matter of geographical logistics if'n you don't live in south Liverpool. Buses or taxis - or even a Mersey rail train as Grassendale station is around the corner too - but driving is not an option if boozing is part of yer mission on this kind of adventure, or unless one of the crowd wants to stay dry to drive while the mates all get bladdered, which is no fun believe me. And belay all that Nottingham, Birmingham malarkey - there is a Bengali restaurant in Llangollen called The Rose that serves up some of the finest cuisine within a helicopter ride of Liverpool, and your can take your own Nan, if you like. Ho, ho.

DigJuly 25th 2008.

A friend of mine booked a table weeks in advance for her birthday night out. When her hungry group arrived The Gulshan was closed without a member of staff in sight. Considering the group aren't from that part of the city and had a fair journey to get there, well, all I can say is nobody we know will ever be going there again.

I love curryJuly 25th 2008.

I do now beleive that the Gulshan has gone down the nick - as they say. Madhari next door is a fine contender also Light of Bengal, The uni is great as is the Modern Tandoori in Wavertree. I could go on forever Gulshan used to b good but has let itself slip - too expensive and over rated.

Tikka MasalaJuly 25th 2008.

The review is more than fair, since the refurbishment the quality of the Gulshan has deteriorated massively. Recently, despite booking a table, my wife and I waited nearly an hour to be seated.

DigsyJuly 25th 2008.

I would recommend a short hop up to Aigburth Vale and the Light of Bengal. A rather more traditional (perhaps "earthy") ambience but great food and good service. Cheaper too. :)

Professor ChakrabatiJuly 25th 2008.

Dear Scribbli, can I interest you in a case of finest deep-mined Vintage Bombay Chutney from our Condemned range?The normal retail price was One shilling and fourpence halfpenny a jar but you can have the lot for a fifteen quid. it will help you develop your tastebuds to adapt to Scouse Byuooner, Dansakhhhhhh and Kormerrrrr.

Dehlia SmithJuly 25th 2008.

I always say you can't beat a vesta beef curry and it saves having to go out and putting your trousers on. I just wish I could still find somewhere that sells Harvey's Duo cans. The rice in the bottom and the curry in the top brillant concept brilliant taste Mmmm.

Darth FormbyMay 25th 2011.

The Gulshan is not very good at all, ponced right up it's own colon, and the waiters are creepy crawly with women. I really don't like the surgical instrument cutlery either. Light of bengal is better idea. So is the Bollywood lounge in Birkenhead.

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