We have to admit that Balti King is one of our favourite restaurants. We've never had bad food, it's cheap and the service is usually reasonable. Indeed, it was in Balti King that we hatched the idea of onionbhaji.co.uk (and it's also the reason we use the bhaji spelling in our name rather than bhajee). However, this was our first visit as reviewers.
The restaurant is a converted terraced shop in one of the less well-heeled areas of Northampton. Somehow, they've managed to cram about sixty seats in and when it's busy it's a bit claustrophobic. There's a tiny waiting area just inside the door beyond which there is a small no-smoking section. The smoking section is larger and beyond this are the toilets on one side and the open kitchen on the other. Balti King is unlicensed and you can bring your own drinks which keeps the cost of the dining experience down to a minimum (unless it's your turn to buy the beers! - PhilS).
It's always advisable to book a table at weekends and we'd done this. Friday night is usually quite busy but this was the busiest we'd seen it. There were two large groups booked in and they turned up more or less at the same time as us. We'd arrived about five minutes early but had to wait another twenty minutes until our table was ready. As we waited a couple of people turned up and asked to be squeezed on to the end of one of the large groups. Things weren't looking too promising. Eventually, we were shown to our table. There were five of us but we were given a table for four with a chair pushed up to the end. Because of the two large groups, we decided to place our orders rather rapidly in an attempt to beat the rush. We'd indicated by saying "We're ready to place our order" when shown to our table that we were ready to order but actually placing the order was a different story. Three waiters came, asked if we wanted popadoms, we declined and they left but none took our order. Eventually, the main man arrived, order pad in hand and took our order. We were too late as we had already seen the groups order. We were in for a long wait!
After being in the restaurant over an hour and after numerous reminders, our starters finally arrived. Balti King starters are priced individually and are cheap enough to mix and match. We ordered four onion bhajis, a sheek kebab, a shami kebab and an aloo bora. As usual, the flat, disc type bhajis were perfect - nicely spicy, crispy edged and soft but not soggy inside. The aloo bora was also up to the usual standard but both bhaji and bora seemed to have shrunk over the years. Both the sheek and shami kebabs were also excellent but there was another unexplained delay before the shami arrived. The accompanying salads were rather sparse but mention must be made of the mint sauce and the outstanding and exceptionally spicy chilli sauce.
There was another delay before the arrival of the main course. HazelB had asked for the mushroom chat starter as her main course but due to a misunderstanding received a double sized portion - it was as good as ever but had HazelB beat. The leftovers were put in a doggy bag but knowing HazelB's opinion of her dog, we're sure it wasn't the beneficiary! In true balti tradition, the remaining main dishes arrived in huge cast iron balti pans. The Balti Chicken Pathia was the best ever: piping hot, a thick, lip-numbingly spicy-hot sauce with lots of chicken and lashings of coriander. The balti chicken tikka madras was also roasting hot and spicy enough to have the sweat pouring from your brow. Again it was a very generous portion. The Balti Chicken Tikka Garlic had a tasty sauce with succulent pieces of chicken but the large chunks of garlic didn't add much to the overall flavour. We opted to share a garlic table nan although we were worried that there wouldn't be room for it on the crowded table! It was massive and had a good consistency but some parts were still a bit doughy. Again, the large chunks of garlic didn't give much flavour.
As we said before, we really like Balti King! We cannot stress too strongly how the appalling (sometimes bordering on hostile!) service we experienced this time was certainly not typical and this was acknowledged by the manager who gave us a discount. The management should limit the number of large groups or at least stagger their dining times. Having 30 people order their meals at the same time is bound to put a strain on the kitchen staff and patently doesn't go down too well with the other customers. When there are so many diners, the noise can get a bit excessive as can the temperature. A few FREE popadoms as a gesture to the inconvenienced diners would have been nice. It's a shame we picked this night to do the review as it's generally an excellent place. Next time, we'll ask if there are any big groups already booked when we ring for a table and if there are we'll try another night. We'd advise you to do the same.
Which gives an overall rating of 3 bhajis.