Tim Hughes and Ed Nix are curry brothers - on a mission to find Oxfordshire's finest South Asian cuisine. This week they return to an old haunt to find out if it's as good as they remembered
Loylu Miah is a cheery soul. With bright eyes and a ready smile he is proud of his restaurant. And rightly so.
Majliss, the Cowley Road restaurant he runs with his brothers Nurzlu, Fozlu and Moynul, has a ferociously good reputation among curry aficionados. Yet, despite being an old favourite it had been years since I’d dropped in to the place. So when my own curry brother Ed suggested a return visit with two fellow spice lovers, I was curious to find out if it was as good as we remembered.
Despite the time which had elapsed since our last visit, I was surprised – and more than a little delighted – to be greeted as an old friend by Loylu, who clearly remembered us from our last visit, all that time ago. And we left it to Loylu to show us what he does – and hang the expense!
It began, as these things should, with a round of Cobra beers and basket of poppadoms – not with the standard pickles but four lovely homemade sauces. It was a good beginning, which only got better with the arrival of our mixed starters – a mountain of lovelies including crunchy lamb and pea samosas, onion bhajis, and some unfeasibly large, and very juicy, tiger prawns, emerging from their shells like rampant sea monsters.
They were good; too good in fact, and it took all the will power we could muster not to commit our usual schoolboy error of peaking early and leaving no room for what followed. And it was just as well, as we’d inadvertently ordered enough curry to keep a troop of Bengali Lancers, galloping for a week.
The most impressive was the Bangladeshi Basket – a nest of deep fried potato loaded with a concoction of vegetables and chicken tikka, which Fozlu marinates for a good 24 hours. It was mild, honey-sweet, smoky, with a hint of barbecue, and so good it ought to be illegal. Adding a welcome blast of heat was a Special Lamb – tender, very slowly cooked meat and green pepper smothered in a rich gravy-like sauce bursting with garlic, coriander, cardamom and a radiant glow of chilli; and Chicken Laknavi – a spicy bhuna-style curry, laced with red pepper, fresh coriander, a tang of fenugreek and lemon juice – and some undisclosed, possibly secret – herbs from the brothers’ lush, hilly home province of Sylhet.
This was tempered with a divine artery-clogging Passanda – chicken cooked in cream and butter, flavoured with coriander, coconut and almond – and, best of all, Galda Jingha Ruposhi – more prehistoric-sized tiger prawns, butterflied and as big as a monkey’s fist. They were cooked with a finger-licking dryish sauce of honey, mango, coconut cream and orange.
By way of something green to balance it out, we also had side dishes of Brinjal Bhaji – aubergine cooked with garlic – and a personal favourite: Bindi Bhaji. Always a fan of ‘ladies fingers’, these were tender with just the right amount of crunch.
Foolishly, we ordered nan and special fried rice. Fortunately, Loylu was happy to package them up with the rest of the leftovers, which kept me going for the next three days.
It was a banquet fit for a sultan, which reminded me why Majlis tops so many people’s list of top Indian restaurants. It may not be especially cheap but it’s magnificent value (with a regular curry at £6 and a speciality starting at £7).
Just make sure you can loosen your belt!
Majliss, 110 Cowley Road, Oxford
01865 726728 majlis.co.uk