The Calcutta Club is a restaurant in Nottingham that has been on our radar for a while now. Due to the insane popularity of this restaurant, the owners have had to open a new place. The brand new Maharaja’s Retreat sits just a few doors down on Maid Marian Way.
This is Indian food with a difference. With the emphasis that this is food “fit for a king”, you can expect dishes that are traditionally bold on flavour and served with a sense of style. Our experiences of Indian food have largely been confined to both Leicester and Birmingham, so a visit to Nottingham was long overdue.
After a nightmare journey up the M1 with vehicles on fire and major delays, we were very fortunate to reach the restaurant just ten minutes over our agreed time. The staff were lovely about it and very welcoming.
Many Indian restaurants fall victim to the curse of trying to fit as many tables and chairs into the room as possible. Here, it is a spacious affair. The room allows you to breathe and enjoy a relaxed setting without intrusion from other tables. The decor is modern but still retains that vibe of India.
The Maharaja’s Retreat has only been open for a couple of weeks but the staff are really on the ball with regards to service. The blend of professional and informal is a perfect balance and allows for a relaxing experience.
Choosing from the menu was probably the most difficult challenge that we faced all evening. Each and every dish sounded well worthy of trying. We managed to settle on two different types of kebab to begin with. A Gilafi Seekh Kebab and a Reshmi Kebab.
Before the starters, we were kindly tempted into a pre-starter of chaat. A dish that I had recognised as being very popular in Mumbai. It is a composition of chickpeas, tomatoes, coriander, yogurt, mint, tamarind and crispy pieces of fried dough. The explosion of flavours when it hits the mouth is incredible. So clean and fresh, absolutely worth ordering.
The chaat had been superbly presented and really set the tone for the following dishes. Our kebabs arrived looking neat, tidy and delicious. This truly is fine dining Indian style. The Seekh Kebab is a dish that I always look upon with envy in Indian restaurants as inevitably another table has ordered it. Usually sizzling away on a large platter.
This time, there was no getting away from it. I had to have it. Three neat pieces of lamb leg meat that had been kissed by the heat of the tandoor oven. A neat slick of coriander yogurt on the side with salad greens. A smart looking plate of food.
Taste-wise it was superb. Not a hint of grease as the lamb carried the smokey hit of the oven. The refreshing coriander yogurt on the side provided a cooling element to the slight kick from the spices. Undoubtedly, this is Indian food taken to the next level.
The Reshmi Kebab came with a similar presentation, only on this occasion it was chicken replacing the lamb. The chicken had been marinated in cream cheese, garlic, ginger, black pepper and coriander. The pieces were all juicy and full of flavour – perfect again with the coriander yogurt.
A range of gins, spirits, beers and wines are all available at a fair price. Soft drinks also like J20 and Coca Cola are also available to order along with mineral water for the table. In similar vogue to the starters, choosing a main course was a real challenge.
In the end, we settled on Paneer Tikka Ratan – a dish of paneer cheese marinated in a blend of spices, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The paneer is then given the treatment in the tandoor and served with a dressed salad and a dal makhani.
The paneer came in large cubes with outer caramelisation from the intense heat of the tandoor. The dal makhani is traditionally made from beans, butter and cream and went superbly well with the marinated paneer.
When you see a menu item marked “truly amazing” then it’s pretty much the law that you have to order it. In this case, it was a dish called Gosht Zaika, a lamb shoulder slowly cooked with whole spices, plum tomatoes and ginger.
The curry came in a neat portion and decoratively garnished with chilli and coriander. The flavours were mellow in terms of spice but fully allowing the flavours of the lamb to come through. This dish was sensational with the fragrant pilau rice.
Texturally, the lamb was spot on. Slow braising gives that fall apart texture when pressed lightly with a fork. A true testament to Indian cuisine is when the spicing creates the correct amount of heat versus intensity of flavour. The Maharaja’s Retreat had this balance down to a fine art.
Incredibly, it wasn’t the main dishes that we were astounded by. The quality of the naan bread has to be the best that we have ever come across. Light as a feather – one garlic, one peshawar. The almond paste within the peshawar naan with little hits of coconut were heavenly. Perfect if you like to add a sweet element to your food.
Speaking of sweet, it came as a surprise that not only do The Maharaja’s Retreat have a dessert menu, but also a trained pastry chef. The selection is both tempting and concise and we had to go for a refreshing mango sorbet along with Gulab Jamun.
I had no idea what Gulab Jamun was. As it turns out, Gulab Jamun are doughnuts made from milk solids and flour traditionally served at festivals. The doughnuts are deep fried and served doused in a sweet syrup – delicious!
I quickly arrived at the conclusion that I loved the Gulab Jamun…a lot. The texture is almost like semolina or polenta in a way but the sweetness and hits of cardamom and saffron take it to another level. The accompanying mango sorbet, in place of pistachio kulfi, was heavenly.
Across the table, another mango sorbet was going down extremely well. The quality of the ice creams and sorbets are as fit for a king along with the savoury items . The overall attention to detail on the food is first class.
The ending came courtesy of a cake stand with a selection of chocolates to choose from. Chocolate-dipped strawberries also make an appearance on the stand. It’s a lovely touch to coincide with the arrival of the bill.
We can’t really speak highly enough of The Maharaja’s Retreat. The philosophy is that the food, experience and setting are all fit for a king. It’s hard to disagree with that. The staff are superb, the setting is classy yet relaxed and the food is to die for. It doesn’t really get a lot better than that.
Opening Times: Tuesday – Thursday & Sunday 1700-2200, Friday & Saturday 1700-2230
Nearest Train Station: Nottingham
AD – Gifted