Tel: +44 (0)20 7242 3377
Address: 84 Southampton Row, WC1B 4BB
Cuisine Type: Indian
Indian restaurants tend to fall at either extreme of a spectrum that ranges from basic but cheap (and not always cheerful) to Michelin-quality fine dining, but with prices to match. Hason Raja is an exception in that it manages to combine well-prepared food served in comfortable surroundings with affordable prices.
The menu offers classical Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine interspersed with more innovative and unusual dishes, many of which I have not seen offered elsewhere, such as Goose Ki Parchy – French goose in an aniseed, poppy seed and blueberry sauce. The accommodating staff are knowledgeable about ingredients and spicing, and can recommend dishes according to taste. In fact, the restaurant is happy to prepare dishes that are not on the menu, on request.
We were urged to try the starter selection (£5.95), which includes a mix of some of the popular appetisers on the menu. Chunks of salmon marinated with celery and herbs and chicken tikka had been grilled in the tandoor until tender, contrasting with fried queen prawns in a crispy and spicy batter. This was accompanied by a vegetarian dish of roasted broccoli with olive and pepper, and a flavoursome home-made dipping sauce of coriander, mint and chilli. Other choices include Hyderabadi Shikampuri (£3.50), vegetable patties with a filling of dried plums, and Kumbeki sheek kebabs (£3.95): mushroom, yam and paneer mixed with a medley of spices.
There is a wide range of Tandoori dishes from which we chose the Tandoori Jhinga (£13.95), materialising as the largest prawns we had ever seen, brought sizzling to the table, beautifully spiced and cooked to perfection. From the other main courses we ordered the chef’s speciality, Shatkora Mangsho (£9.95), cubes of lamb shank cooked with wild Bangladeshi lemons to give the dish fragrance and zing. We supplemented this with side dishes of Bhindi Piaza (£3.95) – stir-fried okra with onions and peppers – and Mehti Paneer(£4.50), Indian cottage cheese flavoured with fenugreek and coriander and served in a creamy tomato and onion sauce. For seafood lovers, traditional Bangladeshi fish curry,Macher Jholl (£9.95) and Machli Masala (£9.95), Tilapia fish with onions, tomatoes, peppers and coriander, sound enticing.
Desserts are mainly bought-in ice creams, with a couple of home-made sweets such as carrot halva and a curious concoction that appeared to be fried sliced bread with a sweetened milk or yoghurt sauce. On the drinks front, Indian beers are available and the wine list, in keeping with the food, is very reasonably priced. To round off a satisfying meal, try the spicy tea, a soothing blend of tea, cinnamon and green cardamom.
Throughout the evening I noticed how busy the restaurant had been, with the clientele ranging from single diners to couples, tourists and larger groups of friends. It appears that Hason Raja appeals to such a diversity of customers by offering something for everyone, and in comparison to the virtually deserted restaurants even closer to Holborn tube, it seems that Hason Raja has got its proposition just right.