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Lal Qila sunrise
Lal Qila (Southport)
Member Name: ermintrude
Lal Qila (Southport)
Date: 08/02/01, updated on 08/02/01 (131 review reads)
Advantages: A step above your dingy back-street Indian restaurant
Disadvantages: Can be a bit over-attentive when quiet
Handily opposite our B&B in Southport, the York Villa Hotel, the Lal Qila came recommended by our landlady as the better of the two Indian restaurants within 25m of her doorstep. (I know, not exactly what you expect on a street of identikit seaside B&Bs!) With competition that close, you have to be on your toes, right? The Lal Qila certainly seems to be.
With soft lighting that's not dingy, soothing, plain decor, and well-spaced tables that don't hem you into your seat, the restaurant has a spacious air often lacking in similar establishments. We sat down in the bar and were given weighty leather- (well, plastic) bound menus to peruse - one thing the Lal Qila doesn't lack is choice, that's for sure.
A pint of Cobra helped the decision-making process no end, as did the descriptions of each dish - especially helpful as my mum doesn't go to Indian restaurants very often, and I'm not quite sure she doesn't trust us not to slip in the equivalent of a vindaloo while telling her it's a korma. We did no such thing, but chose a good variety of dishes from the selection of regulars (korma, tikka masala, rogan josh, dopiaza) and more unusual offerings (Moghlai beef lazeez, beef lucknavi, saag wala prawn). Adding poppadoms, pilau rice and naan breads, we were done.
The food arrived quickly, almost too quickly, as we were still finishing the last scraps of poppadom and pickles. In fact, they were always pretty fast to come and clear things away, ask if everything was all right, etc., and one of the waiters really hovered a bit too much for my liking. I know they were quiet (this was a Monday in January), but I'm not a fan of feeling like I'm being watched. Still, the service was polite and friendly at all times.
Unusually, the waiter scooped the rice onto our plates (we shared 2 plates between 3 of us) - maybe because the table was a bit cramped, even with just 3 of us at a table for 4. We were left to
our own devices with the rest of the food, though, and did the usual round of sharing everything. This means that I can honestly say it was delicious. With the exception of munching on half a chilli in the belief it was a piece of normal pepper, I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. The rice was soft and fluffy, the naan breads were piping hot and just the right side of doughy, and the main dishes were well-seasoned, moderately spicy, and not too oily, as they can sometimes be.
Somehow, we decided to do the unusual in an Indian restaurant - order dessert. This was only the second time I've done that, and to be honest, I don't think I'll bother again. I didn't really want any of the fancy stuff, the hollowed-out oranges and all that, so I plumped for pistachio kulfi. Unfortunately it was off, so I had plain old vanilla ice cream, but at £2 for a couple of scoops and a fan wafer, we all agreed it wasn't really worth it. That was the only disappointment of the evening, though. The bill came to just over £40, which included poppadoms, main courses, rice, naans, dessert and one round of drinks, for three people. Not quite as cheap as I'm used to in Norwich, home of the "Curry Wars", but not outrageous.
I would heartily recommend the Lal Qila restaurant, especially if you happen to be staying in one of the many B&Bs nearby. I'll admit that I didn't expect to find an Indian restaurant in such an area, but I also admit that the surprise was a pleasant one.
(Excuse the bad pun title, but it has the alkaliguru seal of approval. And we all know that's what counts.)
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