“ Address: Holyhead Road / Ketley / Telford TF1 5AN / England / Tel: 01952 253 024 „
The Blue Elephant is a very large contemporary Indian restaurant in Ketley, Telford. Situated right alongside the A5 between Oakengates and Wellington, you cannot really miss it. It used to be a pub called the Elephant and Castle and it sits in a prominent position at a main set of traffic lights near the Shropshire Star offices.
People in the local area (including my parents) were pretty pleased when they heard that this pub was being turned into a restaurant as to be honest it never had a particularly nice reputation as a drinking establishment. I have eaten in a couple of times since they opened in late 2009 and have also tried takeaway and I have to say the food is pretty excellent.
I have never seen an Indian restaurant so large, when you walk in the front doors the amount of floor space is quite impressive, with many different sections of seating coming off the central bar (which I belive is the original bar from the pub). It does mean that it is quite noisy when busy but it feels like a nice, vibrant atmosphere.
There is a space near the front, filled with sofas which is where they will ask you to wait if you have not booked. Myself and a few work colleagues turned up unannounced on a Friday night recently and although many tables were actually free at this fairly early (7.30pm) time, we were asked to sit in the seating area for about 10 minutes while they sorted us a table.
The menu features many dishes you will not have heard of on a 'standard' Indian menu, however, they do also do all the old favourites and personally I have so far stuck to these when eating here, trying their Bhuna and Biryani dishes which have been incredibly good, full of fresh ingredients and tasty. Prices are pretty standard, curries are between £8 and £11 depending on what you have in them, rice dishes are a couple of pound, as are the naans.
As this place has a full licence you need not worry about taking your own booze, they stock a wide range of beers, wines and spirits and as a nice touch they generally seem to give a free shot of something like baileys while you pay the bill (well they have on both times I have eaten in anyway).
They are just as consistent with takeaway and this has now become the Indian of choice for my parents who live just round the corner. The menu for takeaway is a lot smaller than that available in the restaurant and tends to focus more on the classic side of things than the contemporary dishes. That said though, my step dad had a lovely 'chefs special' as a takeaway the other week which was a Jaipuri Chops dish for around £9 and was a clever twist on Indian fused with a british classic.
Everything always arrives piping hot and you do always feel that your dish has been prepared from scratch and is incredibly fresh. I love the fact that their poppadoms never taste of stale oil and are always lovely and crisp, it makes all the difference, especially when you get them in a takeaway.
This restaurant has a large car park which surrounds the building and means that you should never struggle to get a space. Given its size though it does seem to be generally very busy on weekends and you may be well advised to book.
My only criticism here comes when eating in, the service on both occassions has not been so brilliant. On the first occassion we had an absolutely massive gap between our starters (well pickles and poppadoms) and our main courses arriving. To put this in context we arrived at 8pm and did not leave til 10.30pm! This is quite a long time to have a curry in my opinion! After an hour we had chased it up and it turned out our order had gone missing in the kitchen, they were not particularly forthcoming with an apology which annoyed us a little. The food, as I say, though, was good.
The second occassion we visited was when I went with colleagues, we were on the back foot immediately when we were asked whether we had booked and all felt there was an attitude of annoyance when we said we had not. We then waited 10 minutes before being even given a menu to look at in the waiting area.
Once finally at the table the waiter seemed to take issue with the fact we did not want any naan bread when we ordered, he kept repeating '3 people - no naan bread!?!' as if we were insane or being rude or something. He seemed genuinely put out by our lack of love for the naan. Anyway, we then waited a further 10 minutes before our drinks arrived, it was like this all night, very slow.
I dont know whether they are just so busy and popular they feel they do not need to put in the effort with the customers or whether we were just unlucky on our two visits but I must say I think we will probably just stick with takeaway from now on.
Like I say - the food is consistently excellent and for that reason I will still use them and would recommend them, its just a shame that in my experience, at least, the service is not on the same level.