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Set in the heart of Northampton, this is now Northampton's oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the town having originally established itself in 1975 at 39 Bridge Street which is located directly opposite to its present location which it moved to in 1983 to increase its covers from just 40 to 100 people. Whilst the restaurant is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the town it was by no means the first as the Bahadur brothers (coincidently the same surname as Madhur Jaffrey's maiden name and also originating from Delhi, although no relation) opened the Taj Mahal located on Marefair in or around 1950. At the time it was historically was one of only a few Indian restaurants outside of London, sadly this closed some 15 years ago to make way for a Mexican restaurant.
The Royal Bengal is still under the original ownership and the owner/chef Abdul Rohim still manages the restaurant together with his son Mohammed, the establishment is a standard Tandoori Indian restaurant set in larger than average premises, the décor has clean lines although not following the trend of minimalist décor, with many walls adorned with the proud and majestic Bengal Tiger plus traditional Indian scenes, the restaurant has a pleasant and inviting atmosphere. On Sunday and Monday nights they offer a as much as you can eat two course meal, this is not buffet style all dishes are cooked to order the choice of about 7 starters, a main dish of chicken, lamb or prawn (with vegetarian option) in about 10 various traditional variations accompanied by a vegetable side dish plus rice or naan bread at a cost of just £6.95, English options were also available.
There were three of us in the party who decided to eat out on a budget this Sunday because we couldn't be asked to cook ourselves and in addition my wife is holidaying in America (my choice not to go as the country doesn't appeal to me in any way shape or form, I would rather buy a pot of yoghurt, its has more culture) and my friend and his partner perhaps felt I needed looking after in her absence. On entering we were promptly and warmly greeted, showed to a table and offered drinks which were served at the table within a very reasonable time and a choice of menus were offered, we chose the special menu as opposed to the standard A La Carte. For starters we chose Lamb & Chicken Tikka, for the main course two of us chose the Lamb Jalfrezi and the third person ordered Chicken Balti, side dishes were Saag Aloo, Mushroom Bhajee and Dhal Tarka, we had one portion of Rice, Nan bread and I requested chapatti instead of Nan bread of which they were pleased to oblige. Both the Chicken and Lamb Tikkas arrived on sizzling dishes, were well spiced and served with the usual salad accompanied by the pickle tray which contained the usual selection including the very English sweet Mango chutney of which the only taker of such was the Indian member of our party (I worry about him sometimes). Myself and his partner went for the onion chutney, red chutney and the mint raita which I must say was thick and creamy, not frugally thinned down as happens in a lot of establishments.
A reasonable time was given between courses, the main course arriving 10 minutes after the starters were cleared, the meat dishes were of a reasonable portion size in a flavoursome gravy of which the spicing was well balanced, although there didn't seem to be much of a difference in taste between the Jalfrezi or the Balti dish, the main ingredient was plentiful and both the chicken and lamb were moist although the lamb was the cheaper option of mutton (well you can't expect Champagne for beer money) although in its favour cooked to the right consistency, not being under or over cooked . The vegetable side dishes were as expected although the Dhal was a little on the thin side with very little tempering in the form of the Tarka.
In conclusion we had a very good "value for money meal" which is not to be confused with cheap, yes it was inexpensive but we received higher than our expectations. The website states that the restaurant has moved forward with the times, keeping to what they know. All too often newly opened restaurants promise a gastronomic explosion of tastes which raise the expectations but leave the customer disappointed; in short they over promise but undeliver whilst the Royal Bengal under promises and over delivers. They have withstood the test of time and Abdul Rohim's restaurant is a credit to him. His staff being helpful, friendly and enthusiastic giving the establishment a warm and pleasant atmosphere, the restaurant although not ultra modern but is kept with pride, the toilets which usually let most establishments down have recently been refurbished and are scrupulously clean. The standard A La Carte menu offers all the usual suspects plus house specialties and there is also a South Indian selection which does look exciting and authentic by their description, all are dishes are moderately priced. Whilst it may be a standard formula curry house it is a very professional standard Indian restaurant that takes pride in business where the customer is respected and not just a spending unit, long may it prosper.
Paul rated this 9 out of 10.