Dining Out: Lee Raj, Blackpool

The Lee Raj on Squires Gate Lane
The Lee Raj on Squires Gate Lane
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When it comes to Indian food, it seems to me none of the usual rules of choosing a restaurant apply.

The venue with the best reputation for its dishes is often down the scruffiest back street and boasts peeling wallpaper and battered seventies-style furniture.

Sometimes they are not even licensed, and I remember a visit to a curry house in the Balti Triangle in Birmingham where one of us had to dash out to the nearest off licence for a bottle of wine to accompany our meal.

The Lee Raj has had a chequered past in recent times and in 2016 it received a zero in Blackpool Council’s food hygiene ratings, but an investment of £20,000 by new owners has led to it now holding a four star rating.

Perhaps just as relevant when it comes to choosing any restaurant are the Trip Advisor reviews, and the Lee Raj has four-and-a-half stars at the time of looking.

I must say from the start, our food was excellent and a look at the menu is like a journey round the globe, with exotically named options such as Sri Lankan Raj and Kashmiri Raj.

Much of the cuisine is also of Bangladeshi origin, giving diners even more choices than usual.

We always enjoy starting off with a selection of chutneys with poppadoms while we peruse the menu.

There are a couple of set menus, biryani dishes and house specials as well as fish and seafood to choose from.

We went for a couple of classics as a starter, with onion bhajis and vegetable samosas getting our juices running.

Both were of a nice texture and aroma.

The huge array of main courses comes with a helpful chart to guide you as to how spicy each dish is, so no awful mistakes can be made when you take your first bite and feel your mouth is on fire.

We were not daring enough to try anything which it was suggested could be too hot, but nevertheless found our choices to be quite spicy.

This of course will all depend on individual taste.

We opted for two dishes, to be shared, which were a Persian masala and a chicken jalfrezi, cooked with fresh garlic, chilli, green chillies and tomatoes.

The meat in both was plentiful and the sauces were perfectly cooked with none of the flavours too overwhelming as can sometimes be the case with Indian food.

We accompanied our choices with two portions of pilau rice and one naan bread.

We had wavered as to whether one naan would be enough but were glad to have stuck with just the one as when it arrived it was absolutely huge.

I’m not sure if we had ordered too much, or if the portions were more generous than usual, but we were certainly full by the end of our meal and sadly could not manage to eat everything brought to our table.

Service throughout was excellent with friendly, efficient staff and there was enough time between courses to rest ourselves in readiness for the next dish.

We washed down our food with a couple of Kingfisher beers, but there is also Tiger and Cobra beer on the menu as well as house wines.

Water was provided at the table to cope with any encounters with too much spice.

On a Friday night, the venue was not too busy and we had not needed to book.

The restaurant is possibly hampered at the moment by the closure of the Squires Gate Bridge which does mean customers have a bit of a longer journey depending on which direction they are arriving from.

But our fellow diners all seemed also to be enjoying their evening and there was a nice laid-back atmosphere with various conversations buzzing in the background.

If you want a taste of far away places, it is certainly worth navigating your way to this part of South Shore.

Our bill came to £48.