With a history of dishing up curry in Richmond since the ‘60s, Taj Mahal has had plenty of time to refine its offering. Unfortunately it seems content to serve up an unadventurous offering for conservative local tastes.
You can find Taj Mahal on Petersham Road, a few minutes from Richmond train station and just seconds away from the banks of the river Thames. There are loads of restaurants studding the surrounding streets but Taj Mahal stands out thanks to its colourful signage. Inside, the venue looks like it’s been done up fairly recently – and that’s the case as it had a refurb in 2012 which sees the likes of shiny leather booths and banquette seating flanked by purple painted walls.
A variety of locals dine here: families with teenagers in tow; groups of twentysomething guys; and people in on their own for a bite to eat, all sitting side by side. Traditional Indian music provides a pleasant backdrop to proceedings.
Standard Indian restaurant offerings dominate the menu with very little to show any individuality. Kormas, bhunas, madras and more are served with your choice of lamb, chicken, prawn or vegetable. Prices are reasonable enough: most mains are under a tenner, although sides are needed.
From the starter section, tilapia fish (£5.95) arrives in fresh chunks of the white fish accompanied by a tomato and green pepper-based sauce. The freshness of the fish is commendable but the sauce doesn't have any depth of flavour to really rave about.
For mains, a ‘chef’s special’ of fish bhuna (£11.95) sees exactly the same tilapia dish from the starter section served up as a main portion: disappointing to say the least. Another dish from the chef’s specials, the king prawn karahi (£14.95), is a hefty portion of prawns in a creamy tomato sauce. There’s a distinct lack of heat from the spices with which it’s supposed to be cooked, and tastes a bit bland after a few mouthfuls. Equally uninspiring are sides of tarka dhal (£3.95) and a saag paneer – the latter just tasting of cream and very little else.
Desserts stretch to kulfi (ice cream) but most people seem too full after their mains to order them.
The wine on the menu is listed only by grape (no producer, country of origin etc), which doesn’t instill much confidence, and choosing a bottle of chardonnay (around £18) results in a bottle of Jacob’s Creek. Pints of Cobra and spirits make up the other options.
The Last Word
Taj Mahal obviously care enough to give the restaurant a refurb. Now, they need to step up their game in the kitchen if they’re going to be anything other than a local curry house dishing up barely-average food.