Although the frontage looked good, the restaurant from the outside is very unassuming - perhaps just another curry house along a row of shops in the Birmingham suburb of Hall Green. Once we walked in, we were greeted by a warm space full of terracotta shades, an open kitchen full of busy chefs, soft lighting and most importantly, smiling staff.
despite the accompanying dip selection being the usual four you'd find anywhere, the lime pickle was the best I've ever had. Sweet but sour and filled with flavour.
For our starters we both went for a mix starter - me with chicken, Patrick with fish. Each starter came with three items, all cooked slightly differently and all totally delicious. Patrick's starter had tandoori salmon tikka marinaded with yoghurt and coriander, punjabi battered fish and a south indian spiced fishcake salmon. Mine had a tandoor grilled chicken piece, north indian style roasted chicken thigh and a crunchy fried chicken pakora. Both came with a spicy cabbage salad and two chutneys and were totally delicious.
For our mains, we switched places - I went for a fish dish and Patrick for chicken! He chose the chicken from the specials - a tomato based, medium strength dish which I can't remember the name of! He chose pea pilau rice and chappati to go with it. The curry was really unusual tasting with almost a five spice, cinnamon kick. We both agreed it was both different and yummy!
I opted for a traditional south indian thali - one of the house specialities and a complete meal on one plate: smoky bean curry, salmon in coconut milk with mustard seeds and curry leaves, a portion of rice, tomato and onion salad and lentil dhal. Sadly they had run out of dosa so I had a chappati instead. I just love curry leaves, they add such depth of flavour to the dish and the lentil dhal was deliciously creamy but quite thin - perfect for mopping up with the chappati. The smoky beans were unusual and along with Patrick's curry, a welcome surprise from the type of dishes I've eaten in curry houses before.
To round off our meal, we shared a pot of chai tea and a bowl of mango kulfi. It was the best kulfi I've ever had - you know sometimes it can taste a bit like condensed milk. This was really fresh, creamy and the mango really came through. A great palate cleanser and lovely end to a great meal.
We ate at Raja Monkey on a Sunday evening and the place was fairly quiet but they do get super busy so make sure you call to book if you're planning to head down there. For Indian food with a difference, and real value for money (our meal cost £47 for two beers, poppadoms & dips, two starters, two mains, a pot of chai tea and one dessert) then I definitely recommend a trip!
*I was asked to review Raja Monkey and they made a contribution towards the cost of our meal. However, as always, my opinions are all my own!*