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The Food and drink round-up

Raj micro-review, Marco Pierre White heads here, Liverpool "a Curry Week free zone" and beer at the Ship

Published on January 14th 2010.


The Food and drink round-up

Micro review: The Raj, Woolton

THEY could have told us no. It's late. Go home. In fact we encouraged them to.

After taking one look at the deserted restaurant, and another at the watch, we twice asked, “are you sure?” when we turned up late and hungry at the fountain outside the Raj.

But no. The baseball capped chap on the door was having none of our sudden change of heart, so we ventured forth.

Then an affable waiter, a shining light. Helpful, and welcoming, he smiled and brought us beer.

Our apologies for no exact prices. We were not allowed to keep the itemised bill (£38 in all) and the online menu is currently not.

But starters are in the £5 bracket and mains (without accompaniments) are around the £7.50-£8.50 mark, with a takeaway discount.

Poppadoms were as cold, crisp and dry as the November night, the pickle trays were perfectly unremarkable.

Large lumps of chicken, stirred into a light sauce and then all wedged into a not-too-greasy puri, the chicken chat was by far the best thing of the visit, despite the garnish of lettuce being typically flaccid and therefore redundant, and the silver lemon squeezer, the kind that never works, not working.

Chicken maricha, described as a highly flavoured dish with green chillies, onions, capsicum and coriander, was let down largely by the fact that, on arrival, it turned out to be lamb chunks, and lamb chunks that were the consistency of rubber bullets. Our waiter, contrite at the error, offered to rectify it. But we stuck.

It was accompanied to the table by its equally ammunition-laden friend, another lamb curry, this time intentionally ordered - a sondia.

Both proved real conversation stoppers: talk is rendered impossible when serious chewing like this is required.

The Rambo-lambos, each in oily variations on the same basic sauce, were soon abandoned and we slacked our shocked jaws on the good mushroom pilau rice which would have made a decent supper in itself.

We had heard many good things about the Raj down the years. It is still owned by the people responsible for the Spice Lounge, nine miles away and nine miles better, on the food front and on the waterfront at Albert Dock.

But back in Woolton, some might argue this is only a village curry house so one shouldn't judge it too harshly. Or that it was late. Nonsense. Ignoring, for a moment, its motto - “ food fit for royalty”, - if any restaurant sees fit to bargain even a fiver of anyone's money, at any time of day or night, it has to see fit that it's all good and well.

Woolton might be far away from the nearest sign of (night) life, but that's no excuse for not keeping up with other suburban places currently raising the bar. The village is filled with restaurant punters. On the strength of this visit, they deserve better.

AS

*****

Confidential continues to bemoan the fact that, with one or two exceptions, really excellent Indian restaurants are currently scarcer than hen's teeth in Liverpool. However never say never, and we are always on the look-out for new stars. We thought a good opportunity for you – and us - to get out to try a few more would be to tell you that this week is National Curry Week.

Now while it's right to be sceptical of national food weeks as nothing more than industry puffs that keep London consumer PR people in jobs spamming thousands of journalists with irritating press releases, National Curry Week does at least try to put something back.

Started in 1998 to promote the cuisine and to raise funds for charities concentrating on hunger, malnourishment and poverty, curry lovers can get out and visit their local curry houses, some of whom will be

staging special events, menus and fun challenges – and oiks especially like nothing better than trying to land a whizzing poppadom on top of a fellow diner's head, especially if they are a moving target.

So there's all that, but not in Liverpool. After scouring a long list on the NCW website for an L postcode we drew a blank, although several places on the Wirral are taking part including Dine India in Pensby, Indira Tandoori in Hoylake, the Kerala Kitchen in Prenton and Royal Bengal, West Kirby.

Said a NCW spokesman sadly: “We have not had a restaurant from Liverpool registering with us direct this year although all the major ones were invited. Liverpool is pretty much a National Curry Week free zone.”

****

What you can usually rely on in the city, however, is a beer festival and unless it's the annual CAMRA Crypt affair, which sells out quicker than a derby match, that usually means all eyes on the Ship & Mitre on Dale St.

Billed as its last real ale festival of the noughties, the festival starts on Wednesday with over 100 ales available until Sunday. The stillage bar will be up and there will be 10 ciders and a special food menu from the Burning Kitchen team.

Regular cellar runs will be taking place, they say. We trust the beer will be sediment free, thus guarding against regular runs of a different kind.

*****

It wouldn't be right to let the food and drink round up go without mentioning that Marco Pierre White, the purring, brooding “godfather of modern cookery”, is coming up north west.

The fiery TV chef, famed for his no-nonsense approach and Michelin-star food, has confirmed that he will open two restaurants in Chester and Aughton, as well as an exclusive events venue in the West Lancashire town, early next year.

The first of three venues, Marco Pierre White at the West Tower, will open in early January 2010 as an exclusive wedding and private hire property. Two restaurants will then open later that month with Marco Pierre White at The Swan Inn in Aughton and Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill at the Doubletree by Hilton Chester.

“Romance is what it’s all about in this industry,” says Marco Pierre, pictured.

****

Hope Street gets its own Christmas lights this year.. Join THE Snow Queen on Monday 30th November from 5.30pm as she switches on 60 Hope Street’s exterior Christmas tree lights with a little help from her friends.

The occasion marks the launch of Christmas festivities at 60 Hope Street and the grand opening of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, which shows at the Unity Theatre from 1st December.

Passers by will be in for a festive treat as 60 Hope Street will be handing out mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and mince pies, whilst the Hope Street Choir will fill the air with a warm, festive melodies.

Gary Manning, Owner of 60 Hope Street said: We hope to see lots of familiar faces as people pop along for some mulled wine, a mince pie or two and a bit of festive fun.”

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CNovember 24th 2009.

That piece of meat looks like it was previously skewered onto a kebab

KronosNovember 24th 2009.

"The Noughties" don't actually end until 31st December 2010...

NevilleNovember 24th 2009.

What is Dev off Corrie doing running the Raj?

Phil McCrackenNovember 24th 2009.

Is that Marco's chopper I spy buried in that bit of beef?

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