Having received a recommendation from one of our "viewers" we decided it was about time we visited the Mumtaj Palace, one of the few Bedford curry houses not in the Tavistock Street/Broadway area. The place looked deserted when we arrived with all the tables empty. However, this was a restaurant of two halves and around the corner was another area with a row of tables down one side and booths along the other and at least two of these were occupied. In the centre of this area was a sort of dance floor bizarrely surrounded by airline style emergency strip lighting.
Once again, we ordered two lots of onion bhajis and a sheek kebab. The sheek kebabs arrived on a sizzler with a plethora of fried onions. They had a sublime succulent texture - not too tough but not disintegrating on meeting your knife and fork. They didn't taste at all bad but a heavier hand with the spices would have made them perfect. The bhajis were of the small spherical variety with three per portion. These were very friable which made dividing and consuming them somewhat difficult. Nevertheless, they tasted good, particularly when smothered by the accompanying splatter.
The main course choices consisted of mainly the 'old favourites' and, premature as ever, PhilS jumped in to order the Chicken Pathia. There was plenty of evidence that the chef had received a new toy for Christmas, everything was shredded - including some carrots. Despite this, the sauce was excellent and there was plenty of chicken, some of it tough whilst the rest tasted of turkey. It's a long time since IanD has had a Chicken Rougan and this dish reminded him why. Undercooked onion and far too much cinnamon and clove in a rather watery sauce and plenty of that tough turkey/chicken left a horrible aftertaste for days. On the other hand, SteveB's Chicken Tikka Balti seemed near perfect. It was still bubbling away when it arrived and contained plenty of tender chicken pieces in a tasty thick sauce. The nans weren't too bad. It was great to see the lesser-spotted shushmi nan on the menu. Both of these arrived cut in half with most of the keema in one side. The finely chopped chillies and garlic were well distributed although we found little evidence of the advertised ginger. The amount of filling in the cheese nan was perfect and the texture was mostly good if a little thick and doughy around the edges.
On the whole, our experience at the Palace was pleasant. The staff were friendly and very efficient. The recent refurbishment looked splendid and we'd seen our first restaurant fish tank for months. By accident, we even found the cheapest Cobra on the market. The menu advertised Cobra at £2.25 a bottle and we were most impressed to find that it arrived in a big bottle. However, when the bill arrived, the price quoted was £3.95! When we queried it, we were told that it was because it was a big bottle. Highly irregular, pointed out Victor Meldrew - the menu made no mention of bottle size, it just said Cobra £2.25! After much huffing and puffing and thumping of keys on his calculator, the waiter adjusted the bill. In the end, with tip we left the same amount as we would have if the adjustment hadn't been made. The Mumtaj Palace is a fair walk from our favourite Bedford pub but it's certainly worth it.
Which gives an overall rating of 3.5 bhajis.