Our new curry crush: Rajah Rowing Team

After our mediocre experience at the Eastern Empire, SwishJunction is most pleased to report that we’ve found a new place to satisfy our curry cravings. Enter Rajah Rowing Team. We like the unusual name, which is said to emulate the teamwork behind a rowing team and throughout our browsing-ordering-consuming experience we came to agree.

Located on Balham High Road next to Du Cane Court, the takeaway-only establishment answered the phone promptly and took my order with ease, estimating 20 minutes for our food to be ready. We opted to pick up our dinner as we live about two minutes walk (we’re not that lazy. Not yet, anyway).

Now, we were a little dubious when we heard this short turnaround time. We hadn’t ordered a great deal, nevertheless we had visions of chefs hastily microwaving leftover curry and repackaging it. There is such a thing as too quick, after all.

We arrived after 20 minutes (spent productively buying beer) to being greeted by first name, our takeaway ready. The kitchen is clear for everyone waiting to see, and we were impressed with the calm, efficient, slick operation that appeared to be in process. Our thoughts:

Chicken tikka masala: more orangey-yellow than the orange-red colours usually expected, there were plenty of small-medium chunks of tender chicken. The sauce was a little thinner than our usual masala experience, but still creamy without any graininess.

Lamb rogan: no fat on this meat whatsoever, which was surprisingly tender too. The sauce had a pleasing kick to it; simple, featuring just onions rather than any other veg, and not too thick in consistency.

Peshwari naan: everything about this was fresh, with good, equal measures of coconut and sultanas. Again, not too grainy and didn’t break into pieces when tearing off a piece.

Onion pakora: we got three (cue battles over the third one. We split it. Very noble.) medium-sized pakoras, which were crisp with minimal grease (no point in dieting when it comes to Indian takeaways but the sight of grease stains on the paper bag is enough to put anyone off). Enough content without being doughy or mushy, too.

Our order came with pappadums, raita, chutney, and, something we’ve not noticed before in takeaways, packets of wet wipes. A nice touch.

We bet you’re thinking, “but where are the pictures?”. Well, it tasted so good we ate it before thinking to photograph. Perhaps a testament to Rajah Rowing Team’s cooking. Nom.

Enq: Rajah Rowing Team, 238 Balham High Road, SW17 7AW. 020 8673 6961.

Reviewed: Eastern Empire

Whether you’re new to Balham or not, you’ll know the small strip towards the bottom of Bedford Hill is a small hub of Indian restaurants and takeaways. Hop & Spice, Indian Room and Eastern Empire all reside there and out of the three, the latter always appears to be the quietest. In fact, more often than not, the only people in there are the waiters, loitering around waiting for custom. It’s a vicious circle of course, because no-one wants to be the only customers in a restaurant (too awkward, no atmosphere, no explanation needed really) but they’ll remain empty until someone starts eating in.

The biggest reason would appear to be that Eastern Empire isn’t licensed to supply alcohol on site so for convenience they just go next door. A friend of SwishJunction had recommended their takeaway option, arguing that their curry is just as good, if not a greater variety, so next time we met up with this friend we took the option, ordering the takeaway around an hour before Strictly was due to begin. Our friend had warned us that they’re a little slower than the average takeaway, but we figured we’d allowed enough time and that taking a little time over several curry dishes wasn’t as alarming as it turning up within around 10 minutes, which screams ‘microwave’ to us.

So we ordered. And waited. And waited.

100 minutes later… it turns up. 70 minutes in, we call. “He’s just left, he’s just gone out the door” referring to our delivery man. We live a 5 minute drive from Eastern Empire. Sure, we could have picked up the food ourselves but we shouldn’t have to; that’s the luxury of a takeaway. Besides, if we’d turned up after the advised hour we’d still have been waiting a good half an hour for our order.

The food? It was ok. It was hot, granted, fresh from the kitchen, with plenty of seasoning and flavour, but arguably not really worth the wait. Considering their competitors appear to be much more popular we suggest they need to review their system; no-one wants to wait that long for a takeaway (and contemplate eating their friend out of desperation). The issue of waiting time is tricky; no one wants a rushed dinner but long delays kill the mood, plus dishonesty – waiting an extra 40 minutes than promised – is unacceptable.

If we hear the waiting time is a little shorter we may well give Eastern Empire another go, but for the time being, their takeaway menu has been chucked in the recycling bin.