I've had a long love of Indian food, the delicate flavours and creamy textures of my favourite meals always cheer up a long winters night, it really is the season for going to cosy restaurants and ordering filling sumptuous delights so when I received an invitation to come along and try out Le Raaj, an Indian restaurant in Chester-le-Street, I couldn't refuse and I took best friend and partner in crime Harriet along for a midweek treat.
Le Raaj is based at Chester Moor, in fact it's just next to Chester-Le-Streets home ground, a ground I've previously watched football at on cold Saturday afternoons, if only I'd known about Le Raaj then!
Le Raaj is a fairly large restaurant but when you walk into it, it feels cosy and intimate, the perfect location for perhaps dinner with your best friends or maybe a midweek date with someone special where you can actually chat to each other. Tranquil water bubbles make pretty colourful patterns in all of the surrounding interior windows, something I hadn't seen before but which definitely added to the ambience.
An extensive wine list offers flavours from around the world but as it was Tuesday we kept to a non alcoholic beverage.
As we munched on our pickles and pappadum I decided to start with my favourite, lamb tikka, I always know if it's a good restaurant by the standard of the lamb tikka, Harriet went with the Onion Baji on the recommendation of our friendly waiter who relaxed slightly when he found out I was only there to photograph the food and not him!!
The lamb tikka and onion baji did not disappoint, tender morsels cooked lovingly, lightly spiced and delicate flavours rather than an overpowering taste of charcoal as I've experienced elsewhere, both such simple dishes and yet tricky to get just right, Le Raaj excelled itself.
Our mains arrived seconds after our starters were finished and if I was to pick a tiny fault it would be that I found the service too quick, I like a small rest in between courses and sometimes when the service is too quick, you can feel a little rushed, like they don't want you to spend all night there.
For mains Harriet went with chicken Badami and I went with a duck dish, something I'd never tried before, Imlidor Misti Hansh, a dish containing sliced duck breast cooked with tamarind and honey in a cream based sauce. I've never eaten duck at an Indian restaurant before and I have to say that it was cooked to perfection and definitely something we would try again. Harriet commented that the peshwari naan that we'd ordered was the best she'd ever had and I would have to agree, everything at Le Raaj is cooked with such care and dedication you know you're eating at a restaurant which is at the very top of it's game.
We struggled to get through our huge mains, rotund with starters and pickles and pappadum and we both agreed that there was no way we could have managed a pudding even if the menu did look a little fantastical.
Le Raaj also offers a £8.95 lunchtime special and I'd be a fool if I said I didn't want to try it although I'm not sure my tummy could cope with a whole indian meal at lunchtime, If we're ever over in Chester-le-Street or Durham again soon you can be sure my recommendation to whoever I'm with at the time will be to head straight there for some more amazing indian delights.
I want to say thank you to Le Raaj for the complimentary meals which we had in exchange for me writing this honest review.