With another new curry house, Stony Stratford is rapidly becoming the Manningham/Rusholme of Milton Keynes but without the prostitutes. This one promises 1st class Indian cuisine and 1st class service in 1st class surroundings. This is a poor pun based on the interior design of the restaurant. No, it's not done out like a Post Office. The main area is designed like a train station concourse - on one wall there's a large mural of an Indian express train bearing down on the tables. The rest of the restaurant has individual booths designed to represent the compartments found on The Orient Express. This never actually went to India but who cares? The overall effect is quite impressive - 1st class, in fact. As we were quite a large group, we were seated in the 'concourse'.
As if by magic, our popadoms arrived almost as soon as we'd ordered them and once again they were very poor. At the price you pay for popadoms (and the usually hidden extra charge for the pickle tray) it would be nice to have these cooked freshly. Perhaps if they were cooked to order, they would be cheaper due to less wastage but who knows? Anyway, on to the starters proper. These took an age to arrive (frozen points at Hanslope Junction?) so it was a good job we'd nibbled on the popadoms. The onion bhajis were nothing spectacular - stodgy but quite well spiced. The sheek kebabs were average at best - they arrived on cold plates and were cold themselves and somewhat under spiced.
There was another unexplained delay (leaves on the line?) before the main dishes arrived and then there was confusion. The waiter announced that the Chicken Jalfrezi was a Chicken Tikka Dhansak and so-called curry expert PhilS had "accidentally" eaten half of it before the mistake came to light when another unordered Dhansak was delivered. After a short period of 'negotiation' the original dish was removed and a fresh, allegedly, portion provided after another delay. In spite of this, the Jalfrezi was quite impressive. It had the normal Jalfrezi temperature but there seemed to be an extra something to give the taste a lift! Apparently, the real Dhansak had a pretty hot and tasty sauce. However, only the odd piece of chicken appeared to be tikka. The Chicken Tikka Bhuna was pretty good, with a tasty and thickish sauce containing plenty of reasonably tender chicken pieces. Again, the waiter didn't inspire confidence that he'd brought the right dish, as someone else ordering a Chicken Bhuna (no Tikka) had one looking exactly the same, including skewer holes in the meat (thus getting tikka'd chicken for £1 less - almost as big a bargain as PhilS's curry-and-a-half!) All the main meals were served in a large balti dish but as the portions were large, they didn't look lost. Once again the nans were a bit of a let down being average at best.
Credit where it's due, the surroundings were first class. However, the service was more like Silverlink than the Orient Express. Okay, so they'd only been up and running four weeks but the waiters should have been able to recognise the various dishes on offer. If a mistake is made, why blame the customer? Perhaps a little more training is needed! The standard of the food went off the rails occasionally but the signals are that they're on track to becoming a top-link venue. We'd like to say it was just the ticket, but we'll reserve judgement for a return trip.
Which gives an overall rating of 3 bhajis.