Maharani has been in business about 50 years, and with good reason. A real landmark on Clapham High Street.
Maharani is located a short walk from Clapham Common station. It’s a lot more upmarket than the Indian restaurants you get in East London but still retains a hint of authenticity. The beautiful, bold Indian imagery and artwork on the walls helps to set the scene and light up the otherwise neutral colour scheme although the rather unattractive green patterned carpet does stand out for the wrong reasons.
Row upon row of white tablecloth bedecked tables are appealing and not at all sandwiched in so you won’t be knocking elbows with your neighbour. If you’re booking, it’s best to ask for one of the comfortable booths for four people – particularly those by the large floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the restaurant.
The service at Maharani is matter of fact to say the least; however, if you engage the staff in a spot of banter they do start to warm up and reciprocate. Service is efficient and quick and you won’t be left waiting between courses, even on busier nights, typically Fridays and Saturdays.
When you see – and taste – the food it’s easy to see why Maharani has such a loyal local following and why it’s lasted for so long. The food here is consistently excellent quality and the prices are reasonable. For starters, the rupchanda bhaji (£6.95) is highly recommended. It’s an unusual Bengal fish that is white and fleshy and strips away from the bone with ease cooked with onions with traditional Bengali spices that add a little heat.
Main courses cover everything from English favourites to more traditional Indian dishes, ranging from £6.75 to £12.95. If you like to stick with what you know, the prawn kurma (£7.95) is delicious with a generous helping of plump, well cooked prawns in a coconut-rich, creamy yellow korma sauce. The flavour of the prawns comes through in the sauce and heightens the flavour – a nice alternative to the standard chicken korma. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more adventurous, the chicken jalpai (£7.95) is recommended, comprising tender pieces of marinated chicken cooked with fresh cream and herbs. The cream adds a nice depth to the curry and lightens the hot undertone to each mouthful.
For sides, portions of fluffy rice come in at the £3 mark and the keema naan (£2.95) is excellent, with a light, fluffy bread peeling back to reveal well-spiced, meaty lamb inside. Otherwise, the sag bhaji (£3.85) is a triumph – who knew spinach could be such a highlight? The spinach is well spiced and the iron-heavy flavours are balanced by a creaminess that comes through in the aftertaste.
The drink menu at Maharani is secondary to the food, with a small selection of wine available by the bottle. Only the house wines are available by the glass, although the house white is surprisingly good – a dry white with a delicate flavour that surpasses the usual house option. Traditional Indian beers, a few soft drinks and some aperitifs finish the offering, which is adequate.
The Last Word
Maharani has been a favourite among locals for almost half a century for a reason. The food is excellent and the prices aren’t unreasonable. And if you’re lucky enough to live nearby you can have the food delivered straight to your door.