The best upmarket Indian restaurant outside London - that's how the Jaipur describes itself. It certainly appears to be a bit of a classy joint as it's the first curry house we've visited which has a dress code. We'd had to move our booking back by half an hour at the last minute due to an emergency and the management couldn't have been more helpful. Fortunately for those of us who had travelled from Northampton and had already set off before the change, there is an excellent waiting area with a generous supply of Bombay mix. Also available were pickled onions, gherkins and olives for those who fancy a pre-dinner cocktail.
We were shown to our table shortly after the latecomers finally arrived. There's just a large single dining area with a fountain as the central feature and crystal chandeliers providing the lighting. We ordered popadoms to munch whilst checking the menu and had already eaten half of them before the pickle tray arrived. Nevertheless, they were excellent and the spicy garlic and mint yoghurt which accompanied them was also excellent. For starters, we ordered four lots of onion bhajees. These took the form of two large balls that were rather bland and undercooked and stodgy in the middle. If they had been divided into four or even six smaller balls they would have been a lot better. The accompanying salad was different from the normal curry house fayre as it contained sliced carrots and red peppers and the yoghurt from the pickle tray helped to improve the bhajis. The sheek kebabs sounded good as they were brought sizzling to the table but proved to be a bit disappointing. However, full marks went to the Mughal Lamb Chop - perfectly tender and perfectly spiced.
There's a good choice of main courses including quite a few of which we'd never heard. It's certainly the first time we'd come across ostrich tandoori! The Murgh Hariyali was also new and turned out to be a quite dry dish of chicken and spinach. The Chicken Mirch Maselader sounded good in print but on the plate it was quite different - a small portion of dry and occasionally chewy chicken in a sauce. The sauce was quite spicy with chunks of green peppers but there was just not enough and it contained some unidentified (and inedible) ingredients. The pepper chicken had an excellent thick sauce with the occasional surprising and very welcome blast of coriander. Unfortunately, the chicken was also too dry. The shashlick also suffered from the chewy chicken but had been marinated and cooked well. The accompanying vegetables were not greasy having been properly cooked on the skewer. The chicken tikka was below average. We needed to request extra salad for the tikka and shashlicks as the one provided would have been barely adequate for one let alone three. We had garlic and peshwari naans which were excellent. The peshwari was unusual in that it had a strong peshwari taste but no visible sign of peshwari stuffing. We'd ordered two lots of basmati pilau rice which came on a single plate. Unfortunately, the waiter distributed this in unequal portions.
The Jaipur was a bit hit and miss. The service was excellent and the ambience was perfect but the food has to be the main consideration when judging a restaurant. Whilst some of the food was excellent the rest fell well below the mark. At the prices charged at the Jaipur, anything short of excellence in all areas is not good enough. Having gone to the effort of donning our glad rags, we were also disappointed to find that the dress code wasn't being enforced. T-shirts, trainers and even shells suits were all worn by several other diners. We'd asked for a non-smoking table but this only involved removing the ashtray as there were smokers at all adjacent tables. The Jaipur is certainly an upmarket restaurant outside London. But the best? Hopefully not on the evidence of this visit.
Which gives an overall rating of 3.5 bhajis.