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Currying favour with traditionalists

The Rajdoot has been keeping customers happy for more than 50 years - if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

29 August, 2019 — By Tom Moggach

Prime location: The Rajdoot is the ideal place to people watch

A SAUNTER along Marylebone High Street is a rarefied treat, especially on a Sunday morning.

This area is a playground for the wealthy – a parade of designer shops, swanky restaurants and the poshest Waitrose in Britain.

I love watching the people, often gorgeously turned out, before a zip around the farmers’ market. This flagship market has been trading since 2003.

Redevelopment of its original site has now shunted the traders onto surrounding side streets.

At this time of year, it’s a riot for the senses. As we slip into autumn, you’ll find crisp Discovery apples, Victoria plums, Kentish cobnuts, corn on the cob and a mind-boggling array of heritage tomatoes.

There’s a solar-powered, zero waste microbrewery serving live unfiltered beer; a couple a few stalls up flip fantastic tantuni and gozleme, types of Turkish wrap and flatbread.

But my heart was set on The Rajdoot, a traditional curry house over in Paddington Street.

Amazingly enough, this was established way back in 1964 by the uncle of the current owner – the legendary Mr Khan.
The location is prime: a corner site adjacent to leafy Paddington Street Gardens, with several upmarket Greek restaurants just up the road.

On a sunny evening, a table outside The Rajdoot is a fine spot to watch the world go by.

The customers are an intriguing mix: locals, curry-curious Americans, doctors from private hospitals and Indian tourists fresh from a visit to Madame Tussauds.

In recent years, there has been some re-invention of Indian dining in the capital, with the expansion of chains such as Dishoom offering modern Indian street food.

The Rajdoot, on the other hand, represents a more traditional take on curry-house dining.

Prices are reasonable, portions are generous and you’ll find tables laid with proper tablecloths and vases of carnations. The small bar the back serves Cobra and brandy digestifs.

The walls are decorated with vaulted arches, each capturing a classic a view such as the walkway to the Taj Mahal.

Starters include all the classics – tikkas, samosas, pakoras – plus a handful of less familiar dishes such as chilli paneer.

Aloo tikki is a vegetarian dish of crisp fried patties of mashed potato. I tore these into halves to dip into a spicy sauce.

“That’s the proper way to eat – with the hands,” approved the manager Mr Ali.

One of the chef’s specials is Bengal Fish – my top tip for authentic home-style cooking; or go for Mon Mon Murug if you crave chicken.
I ordered lemon rice and a King Prawn Benaroshi, a dish from Benares (aka Varanasi) in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The plump butterflied prawns are slathered in a mild curry with chunks of fresh tomato. A vegetarian side dish of aubergine, mushroom and fresh coriander offered more chilli heat.

The Rajdoot is a fine bet if you want the classic curry house experience. It’s been keeping customers happy for more than 50 years. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

49 Paddington Street, W1U
020 7486 2055

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