I am not a huge fan of partying in the New Year. I would much rather have a nice meal or some nice nibbles at home. New Year’s Eve also happens to be my little sister’s birthday so it’s more of a family time than a party time.
This year was no exception. I didn’t want to go into town, despite very glamorous offers. I just wanted to stay home, see my sister in the day and then have a nice meal with The Boy and my Mum.
So that’s just what we did. At my favourite Indian restaurant in the world. Literally!
Introducing Sara and Raja who are the owners of The Shalimar in Worcester Park, Surrey.
Let me state right now: If you are the kind of person who likes to go have 10 pints and then a ragingly hot curry, then this is NOT the place for you.
If however you enjoy the subtle spices that make up Indian cuisine, then you will absolutely not be disappointed.
As you walk into The Shalimar, you’re transported back in time a little. The place has looked the same as long as I can remember. Simply decorated, but cosy. It’s the kind of place where the London mob would turn their nose up at en masse, but secretly visit when they needed comfort and a homely feeling.
It is homely too. Out of all the tables there that evening (we went early so were one of the first), there was only one table that Sara or Raja didn’t greet my name. I think this is what makes it really stand out. You feel you are dining with friends.
The atmosphere is relaxed. The music is current but played in the background. The smell is enticing. The menu is huge!
Lets talk about food because you know that’s my favourite bit!
Firstly, they are fantastic with my nut allergy. For those who don’t know me, I am severely anaphylactic to a wide range of nuts, not just peanuts. Indian food has always been a concern of mine because of the chance of cross contamination. The Shalimar are very aware of this and take extra steps to safeguard you.
While you’re perusing the menu, you are given poppadoms. They are so light and crisp that you realise that you have eaten the entire plateful without even noticing. There is a little silver server with homemade sauces too. A light mint raita and a beautifully balanced mango chutney. There are two types of chopped raw veggies too, but I like the sauces!!
When you have finished the poppadoms, more magically fill the empty space. A word to the wise though… don’t eat the second portion or you will not be able to eat all the good food you have just (majorly over) ordered! I learnt this the very hard way a number of years ago!!
Just sit back, relax and enjoy a good conversation with your dining partner, or the table next to you, or Sara and Raja as they pop by. You will have time to do plenty of this over the course of the evening as everything is freshly cooked. None of this pre-prepared mass produced horror. Another reason less discerning people have been giving it bad reviews on TripAdvisor, which makes me angry. Stupid people shouldn’t be allowed access to websites like that.
Anyway… I digress…. Back to the food!
This time we opted for the lamb kebab and the chicken tikka to start. Sadly I forgot to take a photo of them because we hoovered them up so quickly! They were divine though. The lamb was a more aromatic version of the Arabic lamb kofta, which I have always thought needed jazzing up! The tikka was perfectly cooked too. Moist and tender. Not fatty at all. Just delicious!
Then for the main event. I also make no apologies for the amount ordered or consumed. It was amazing and I don’t get to eat here very often.
Also, I want it stated for the record and before you get all bogged down with pictures and drooling, that it tasted so good that I did my very, very rare “happy tummy” dance! Yep… that’s right! I sat there doing my little sway from side to side which only ever occurs when the perfect balance of flavours and textures hit my palette. It’s so rare that I can’t actually remember the last time it happened.
That is how good this place is. Now can you see why I am jumbling on so much!!!
First up is the saag aloo and onion bharjis. I know that you are meant to have the bargis as a starter, but I like them with the main course so that’s where I have them!
The saag was divine. Absolutely no complaints. The potatoes were fluffy and in bite size pieces. The spinach was mixed through the dish properly, and not clumped together in a heap. The ghee and spices had bound perfectly to make a thick and flavourful sauce to coat them. Just heaven.
The bharjis were crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The flavour of the onion still popped, but then the spices followed and blended in your mouth. Amazing.
Mum and The Boy both opted for the chicken korma. I can’t comment on this dish because it has coconut in and I am super allergic. There wasn’t a drop left though so I think that says it all really!
I went with the chicken jalfrezi. I normally have a rogan josh, but I thought I would be all daring and try something different. I am sad that I missed out on my old favourire, but I now have two favourites for next time I go back!
The Jalfrezi was absolute food porn. Sorry to be blunt, but its true. I have never had a dish so tasty. Literally. No exaggeration. I am actually drooling as I type this.
Each bite bought you a different level of flavour. It was fairly mild to start with but then the heat built up nicely, stopping just at warm. The tomato wasn’t overbearing which is often a problem with this dish, but it was present. The chicken again wasn’t fatty or oily. It was also very generously portioned.
I have said it before, but this is honestly one of the best dishes I have ever had. By far.
We all ordered pilau rice to go with our main dish.
We all also ordered breads – me a plain naan, Mum a paratha, and The Boy had another that I can’t remember the name of. Also, I sneaked me some of the poppadoms from the first course too. Genius! I love the crunch of the poppadom with the silky curry. Amaze!!
Then Raja bought us out a couple of special dishes to try. Sadly I was far too excited by all the food in front of me to remember what it was.
I know one was a daal to go with the breads, but I couldn’t tell you the variety. I do know that I am not a fan of daal particularly. It’s ok, but lentils have a funny texture that I can deal with some days, and then not others. This was an ok day! It was a lovely flavour and complimented the dishes we already had. I hate it when something new is a bit left field!
The second was a sizzling plate of onions and peppers, with chicken tikka style meat on top. Again, no idea what it was called but I know there wasn’t a scrap left by the end! The chicken was as good as that of the starter, and the vegetables were cooked but still crunchy which lifted the whole meal.
Mum and The Boy then had a nice ice cream to wash it all down with. I couldn’t fit anything else in though as I had made it my personal mission to finish everything that wasn’t korma on the table! I honestly should have been rolled out of there!
All that food, and the bill came to just about £90. Or, AED 400. I think that is really reasonable considering the wine, larger, soft drinks and coffees too.
Seriously, if you haven’t been and you are anywhere near Worcester Park, then I suggest you go. It’s not in the main section of WP, but further down towards the A3. It took us an hour to get there from where Mum now lives, and it really was worth it.
As a final word, thank you to Sara and Raja for having kept such a wonderful restaurant unspoilt. I had such a beautiful meal, and I cannot wait to come back and see you guys again.