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It has now been in approximately of three years since I visited the Voujon; I was not overly impressed the first time I visited but was persuaded to try it again. The persuasion came from my Asian colleague who had enjoyed two recent meals at the establishment and was of the opinion that I must have caught them on a bad night or that they now have a new chef who is a vast improvement on the original chef who was there on the opening of the Voujon in December 2004.
The design and the décor of the restaurant is a credit to the owners who have two other branches in the county of Northamptonshire. The Northampton Voujon boasts warm spicy co-ordinating colours with the walls adorned with modern Indian wall art which are especially painted to order. A lot of thought has gone into the design with the flooring being of wood, marble and carpeting defining the slightly different levels and areas. The restaurant is probably the best designed in Northamptonshire and certainly the most opulent but would the food and service match up with the owners grand efforts to present a fine dine establishment.
It was Sunday night and we arrived at the restaurant at approximately 7.30 pm and we must have been the first arrivals of the evening. We were greeted indifferently, and shown to a table that was attractively set with starched napkins and an attractive bamboo growing plant. The menus were presented and the drinks order taken, the waiter returned with the drinks within a very reasonable time although a lager was returned due to flat lemonade being used.
As we were all not having a starter we ordered popadoms. These were presented with the usual lacklustre choice of chutneys, mainly out of a jar, and the main course was served approximately ten minutes after the popadoms were cleared. Between the four of us we had ordered Meat and a Chicken Jalfrezi, Lamb Mirchi Masala and Lamb Tawa. For vegetable side dishes we had chosen Chilli Paneer, Sag Aloo and Sambhar (I quote their description of "a favourite South Indian dish with lentils"). In addition to this we had 2 portions of rice, a Naan Bread and three Chapatti's between the four of us.
The meat dishes were cooked well with all variations having a different appearance, flavour and texture. The Lamb Tawa was exceptionally good being of earthy and robust flavour and I can honestly say a vast improvement from my previous visit, plus the chapattis were some of the best I have eaten for along time. The whole meal unfortunately was let down by the unimaginative vegetable dishes. India is renowned for cooking some of the most interesting and varied vegetable dishes in the world but the knowledge had not filtered through to this chef. They were little more than pre-cooked vegetables with the one sauce he does all ladled over them, which in fairness is the case in 90 per cent of most high street Indian restaurants. The Sambhar defied description, it had no resemblance whatsoever to the South Indian dish it promised. It was merely a few lentils mixed with a curry masala gravy topped with slices of lemon. If you please, this is nothing like Sambhar which is an earthy lentil dish using toor dal and a very South Indian Masala of spices topped with curry leaves and mustard seeds and various other seasoning.
The meal could have been good but was spoiled by the points mentioned above. On the conclusion of the meal we paid the bill and at that point the unenthusiastic waiter enquired if everything was satisfactory with our meal (I think with the rush of four other customers being in the restaurant he had forgotten to ask this question at the customary time, which is usually within five minutes of serving the main course). I at this time commented on the Sambhar which had a strange effect on the waiter, it caused temporary deafness and compelled him to stare into the heavens.
In conclusion the meal was of a slightly better standard than other Indian restaurants in the town. The presentation of the premises is superb and second to none in the town but very much let down by unenthusiastic staff. The website and the menu states that "a place where sharp and contemporary design and style is complimented by exceptional levels of comfort and personnel service, where you are treated not as a customer but as a GUEST". They also state that their master chefs have selected dishes from every region of India and Bangladesh for their main menu which will enable their customers to sample the rich varied cuisine of India to the full, and above all would like you to enjoy your visit to the Voujon and assure us that our comfort and culinary satisfaction are of the utmost importance to them and their staff. A very imaginative and romantic description which gives full marks for marketing but from my experience on both my visits they have OVERPROMISED and UNDERDELIVERED.
The Voujon have taken the concept of the Indian restaurant up a few bars by the tremendous design of your restaurant but have fallen down on the service which is not a fault of your staff but is the fault of the owners who have given insufficient training which results in the dining experience being under par. A little more effort could be made with your sundry dishes as they do claim to employ master chefs who incidentally should not even try to present regional dishes that they have no knowledge of whatsoever, it loses them any credibility they may have. Incidentally, if an establishment encourages their staff to ask a question to the customer in relation to their dining experience it is courteous for them to listen to the answer and respond accordingly and professionally. Yes I would return to the Voujon again but with lower expectations on certain aspects, but I must stress we all enjoyed the non-veg dishes which were superbly cooked.
Paul rated this 6 out of 10.