By: Graham Salter
The Chequers is one of the trio of pubs tucked away amid the Cotswold stone of Headington Quarry, and for nearly a year now, it has housed the “Royal India” restaurant. Together with Nick Newman and Julia Gasper, I paid a return visit there on Sunday evening , and was impressed.
If you know the Chequers in Horspath Village, you will feel at home with this “curry on the village green” format: the yeoman virtues of a standard English boozer, giving way (through a door on the left) to a plush Indian restaurant with tear-drop shaped wall-lighting and a warm décor. And those round tables may look large, but they prove to be not quite large enough once the food arrives.
Julia had a Lamb Pasanda in a very superior sauce (containing cashew nuts as well as almonds) and served on a gleaming square acre of porcelain, while I gave full marks to the rich Chicken Bhuna I ordered, along with an aubergine bhaji. But for sheer theatrical effect, hats off to the House Special, which arrived, in the form of a Lamb Steak, amid clouds of culinary smoke from the sizzling onions, and a great deal of head-turning from the other diners.
Is there room for improvement in any quarter? Well, would it be too expensive to invest in better Christmas crackers? Ours were identical –same hat, same plastic moustache, same joke, oh dear. And maybe they could offer, on the pudding menu, something insubstantial (like a sorbet or a single-scoop ice) for those who have over-indulged on the main course.
We all agreed, however, that the Royal India has a lot to recommend it. Ease of parking, subtle use of ingredients, quality meat cooked to perfection, and very reasonable prices. For a classy curry, why not check out the Chequers!