AN Indian restaurant with, wait for it … NO ONION BHAJIS!
It’s enough to have the curry traditionalists choking on their popadoms (don’t worry, they do have popadoms on the menu) and stunned journalists writing in capital letters.
A curry house with no onion bhajis is like a fish and chip shop without mushy peas or an Italian without garlic bread. It’s borderline sacrilege.
However, Raval really doesn’t want to be known as a traditional curry house. No, it’s more upmarket than that.
It certainly looks more contemporary than most. Split on two levels it’s all neat lines, spot-lighting and neutral hues of what we’d call magnolia, but probably came out of a tin marked Jasmin White with a Hint of Sun Bleached Hessian.
The surroundings more than make up for the missing bhajis, as does the starter menu. Raval sets itself up as a cut above and the starters are just that. Lobster soup caught my eye.
In typical contemporary style, it was served in bowl the size of a car wheel trim that dwarfed the contents.
This lightly-spiced soup was as deep in colour as it was rich in flavour. Hearty chunks of prawn and lobster bobbed on the surface of this formidable splash of coconut and seafood.
Next up was a taster board of treats from Raval’s chef sampler dish, the pick of which was a tandoori scallop.
In a bid to attract those looking for a bite to eat before heading on to a show (Raval is on the doorstep of the Sage and Baltic) they have introduced an early diner menu.
This early evening platter offers a mix of dishes which are light and easy and at a set price. For £15.95 and choosing, say, the fish platter you get the fresh fish of the day, with the vegetable dish of the day, a lentil course, pilau rice and a naan bread.
While my wife indulged in the platter, I chose the fresh sea bass king prawn Charminar from the mains menu.
Again, it was a dish subtly spiced with the sole aim of bringing out the flavour of the fish. The sea bass was wrapped around thick meaty king prawns and cooked in a tomato, tamarind and coconut milk.
Quality is the keynote of the Raval dishes. The meats are sourced from Northumberland, the fish from Scotland and all the chicken is free range. The spices, they assure, are strictly Indian.
The puddings too are a cut above. The jamun, a caramelized dumpling nestling up to a cold vanilla ice cream, was the perfect sign off.
Raval looks the part and delivers the real deal, but you pay for the privilege.
Starters begin at £5.95 rising to £12.95 for lobster and mango with main dishes starting at £12 though to a wallet wringing £35.95 for a lobster kattamaran.