I have been looking forward to sampling Raja Monkey for some time. My biggest obstacle has been its location in Hall Green, which I always assumed was slightly out of the way. However, on this occasion, my companion and I took a short train ride from Moore Street to Hall Green. A five minute walk allows for a quick pint in the very old Bull’s Head and Raja Monkey is a couple more mins walk from there.
Upon entering Raja Monkey restaurant, you are instantly transported into deepest India with the sights and sounds. A colourfully authentic, traditional decor really sets the scene for something rather special. The 1970S and 80s Bollywood music added a sense of retro-cool, and further reassured me this place pays attention to detail – simple yet effective.
We were greeted by our very welcoming hosts and seated, with ample time to browse the menu. A bottle of red Tamarind Garden cabernet carmenere syrah from Chile, was our choice to get things flowing, mellow and smooth – perfect for spicy dishes! Along side this we opted for some popadums and dips, which all tasted extremely fresh and flavoursome.
After being allowed to take in the pleasant relaxing atmosphere, our orders were taken and another glass of red each was poured out.
To begin, we shared a Masala Aloo Dosa which was filled with crushed potato, fragranced with tumeric, mustard seeds and curry leaves and wrapped in a light South Indian crepe.
It was great to see the kitchen on full display to diners. The chefs can be watched attentively preparing your meals behind a clear screen. It is easy to see the passion and professionalism which goes into each and every meal, everything is spotlessly clean which is consistent throughout Raja Monkey. The flames rose, the colourful ingredients bubbled & simmered and the spicy aromas wafted our way.
To begin, we shared a Masala Aloo Dosa which was filled with crushed potato, fragranced with tumeric, mustard seeds and curry leaves and wrapped in a light South Indian crepe. It was explained Raja’s dosas are made in-house from rice batter and lentils. It was so thin and light, no where near as heavy as it appeared at first glance, I do not think I have ever tasted potato so delicate, can honestly say the flavours were a real surprise, we literally devoured it and looked forward to the main courses.
Thali is a traditional staple way of eating in India. A complete meal on a platter, so on sound advice we chose two separate thalis to share, as our mains. My companion ordered the South Indian Thali, and I went for a Rajasthani.
I tucked into the battered cauliflower first. Oh my days, this was superb. Cripsy batter, with a spicy, almost meaty taste to the cauliflower itself, I could have eaten a plate of this alone. We both agreed this was something worth heading to Raja for, the sides do change weekly which is a nice idea to please the regulars too.
My Paratha Indian flat bread was seasoned with mint and coriander, the crispiness and refreshing mint complimented the mixed lentil moong masoor dahl to perfection. The variety of ingredients used are carefully thought out, to ensure each dish brought to the table, does not sit out of place. It is an overall experience which Raja does so well with, from the decor, to the music, the cleanliness, friendly staff, cool music and the fabulously fresh authentic tasting food!
..simmered slowly with bone marrow stock which creates an intensely rich and moreish taste, the meat pulls away easily from the bone, soft and succulent..
If you are a lover of lamb curry, you must try the smokey, mutton cooked with tomato, ground red chilli, whole cardamom and cloves. The dish is simmered slowly with bone marrow stock which creates an intensely rich and moreish taste, the meat pulls away easily from the bone, soft and succulent, unique I would say and something which again, could stand out on its own, you really do get a lot for your money with these thalis.
The South Indian Thali came with Piquant fish kari, salmon simmered in coconut milk tempered with mustard seed & curry leaves. Served with vegetables, dhal and plain dosa. My guest assured me this was just as delicious and could imagine it working with cod too.
Raja Monkey also caters for the more traditional British taste, with the list of classic curries and buryanis, but for those who want a true taste of India, the Raja Monkey thalis are well worth seeking out.
We both left fully satisfied, with a takeaway box of what we could not finish but could not leave. The whole experience from start to finish was just brilliant and I would fully recommend Raja Monkey for those who are looking for something authentic, and delivered with care. You do not feel like a table number, more part of the atmosphere itself, and I will most definitely be returning to check out the planned expansion of the restaurant again soon.
Review by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham.
Full menu can be viewed here.