Dinner Out: Joy Raj, Clifton Village, Bristol

Y’all know I’m not a professional food writer (No, really?). Nobody pays for my dinner, no one even buys me a drink actually, for writing this stuff. And I’m sure you realise this, when reading some of my reviews which may have been less than flattering. The ones I can’t pick any holes in? They’re just really good – there is no bias. It’s also worth considering that I do drink – and when I go to a curry house, I sometimes drink more than one beer. I just like to think I’m reviewing in context, anyway.

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So on Friday night, the opportunity for a curry presented itself, somewhere new. In CliftonVillage there is  some stiff competition in terms of curry houses ( I can think of maybe 4 within a 5 minute walk) and loads of other places to eat, Joy Raj doesn’t particularly stand out for me in the street. But, Greedy Companion girl insisted and down we went. And we went downstairs, were greeted and sat down immediately. The tables we really wanted were booked out (always a fairly good sign that people would bother to book for a high street curry house in Bristol) and they were fairly busy so I don’t think our spot was the good, but it was lit well and comfortable. The decor wasn’t stunning.. by any means, but it was clean and bright.We had pickles and poppodoms to start – the pickles were delicious, and I am fairly picky about pickles . So far so tasty. When ordering our the rest of our food I got into a conversation with our charming waiter about one of my obsessions, the tandoor. Would I like to go into the kitchen and watch them cook in it? Would I? You don’t need to ask me a question like that twice. So I waited until the chef was ready and I tottered in. I know I don’t get out too much, but wow, it made my night! I think the kitchen staff were a bit bemused as I stuck my head down and started taking photographs of the oven, but you know, simple things for simple minds..  The other bonus, as an inveterate nosy parker who is always trying to stick her head through the kitchen door, is that its always nice to see that your food is being freshly prepared (it was) and that everything is nice and clean (it was) and that people working in the kitchen at the very least, appear happy, and clean (they did). This may seem like some fairly basic criteria to people who aren’t always poking their nose about but believe me, not all is as you’d hope in some of the least obvious places. And to avoid getting sued by anyone in particular, I’m going to stop it there.

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So, I went and sat back down and our food arrived very shortly after. I had lamb saag (the best dish out of the three mains), greedy companion girl had a lamb dansak and greedy companion boy had a tandoori mixed grill. We also had garlic naan, mushroom rice and saag bhaji. It was all lovely, with beautiful fresh flavours. The naan was particularly delicious, light and fluffy and without any dry or burnt spots – seemingly so hard to acheive in some places. Oh naan, how do I love thee? All very trad curry house of course, and nothing surprising, but theres really nothing up with that on a friday night after a beer or two.

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With all our chatting, eating and drinking, we must have been in there a long time and I think we were the last to leave. Staff were extremely welcoming and we never got any feeling like they were waiting for us to get lost so the could clean up and go home. In fact, apart from a small incident with an unpleasant drunk (hazard of a friday night curry), which got cleared up very tidily, the atmosphere was lovely all through. In short, it was a great curry, a great night and a great place to go.

Joy Raj, Clifton

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