Want a sure fire way to spice up a cold winter’s night? Fed up with rubbish TV, age-old tradition and too much turkey? I have just the tonic to get you over the post-Christmas hump: Wombourne Tandoori.
I’m trying to remember when I sampled my first taste of the Indian subcontinent’s most famous export. I’d love to tell you that it was during my time backpacking along the backbone of Bangladesh as a student, but the reality is that it was almost certainly in a curry house somewhere within Wolverhampton’s city limits. Or perhaps it was on my way back from a late kick-off at The Hawthorns.
What I can remember is what years of masala munching and naan noshing has taught me – i.e what makes a good curry, great. And now I’m telling you where you can find it. I’ve been a regular at Wombourne Tandoori for decades, not because it’s closest to my home – I live in Perton – or because it’s the cheapest, but because it is the best.
So here goes, fellow curry fans, a swift introduction to the best curry house in your area. November 2019 will mark Wombourne Tandoori’s 30th year in business and that alone makes the landmark eatery – which has always enjoyed pride of place on High Street, Wombourne – a bit of a local legend.
Co-owner and front of house figurehead is Rafique Miah who, together with brother and chef Makham, bought the Wombourne premises in 1989 in order to deliver authentic Bangladeshi family recipes to the masses. The restaurant has won countless prestigious awards, is known for its spotless 5 Star Food Hygiene record and fantastic food. And there is a real edge to the place. Like some hidden bonus level only dedicated Playstation gamers know to unlock, Rafique has a secret weapon: signature menu items not on the menu.
“We have up to 70 recipes that are not listed,” he says, “if we listed them, others would try to copy them.” Rafique regularly goes to Bangladesh to visit his home town of Sylhet to pick up new recipe ideas. “Over 95% of Indian restaurants in England are owned by Sylheti people” added Rafique. So be sure to ask him for all the latest details when you pop in – just like I did when I visited with my partner Gisella and our good friends Sam and Brian from Coven.
We may not be some of the restaurant’s most famous customers – when I was last here I spied Judas Priest rock god K.K Downing – but my party are definitely hungry… and we do arrive like VIPs, owing to some chauffeur-driven luxury from Image Luxury Cars. In fact, we arrive early at the restaurant and so have a drink at the bar. The restaurant is busy and, trust me, it almost always is.
The style inside is cool and contemporary. Everything is neatly organised, when we are seated at our table we notice pristine tablecloths and napkins, with sparkling cutlery laid out with military precision. We just have to try some of Rafique’s special
recommendations from the clay oven: Sheek Kebab (£3.50) for the guys and Tandoori King Prawn (£5.75) for the girls. While we wait we snack on a plate of poppadoms, onion salad and a tray of pickles (85p each).
Then before we can really get deep into our long awaited catch-up, the restaurant staff – all of whom are excellent and attentive throughout the night – arrive with four plates of steaming hot goodness. All of us fall silent, no longer chatting about holidays and classic cars: instead all that can be heard is a symphony of smacking lips and impressed coos. Before the night is out both Brian and Sam – themselves food connoisseurs who eat at many top restaurants – say their meal is probably among the best curry they’ve ever eaten. I absolutely love my kebab – the lamb mince and combination of spices blow my socks off.
Now for some sizzle and stir: two of Rafique’s Signature Dishes with an added twist: Chicken Tikka Jaflonghe with fresh Bindi okra (£8.95) for Gisella and I and two more mains, King Prawn dish Jingha Goa with yet another personalised twist – it’s served with fresh spinach and a touch of pickle (£13.95) – for our guests. We may not be famous like guitar great K.K Downing, but having a customised dish certainly makes us feel we are. Gisella and I also have Peas pilau rice (£2.95) and a Peshwari naan (£2.50) and Sam and Brian have vegetable rice (£2.95) and a vegetable naan (£2.50).
And when the mains arrive there’s a bit of circus, because every platter emerges sizzling from the kitchen. “Looking too good to eat is an understatement”, says Brian. “Can’t wait to dive in”, is all I can come up with before I gorge on the premium chicken, relishing the assorted herbs and spices and how they make my taste buds dance from floor to ceiling. I really do love this place and I’m so grateful to have it on my doorstep. Coven is “just that bit further to travel”, I say to Sam, stirring gleefully.
While we’re all still happily demolishing what is almost unanimously described as “amazing, tasty, fresh food” I clock the general mood of the room: busy and buzzing says it best. Aromatic and silky-smooth are two of my best adjectives for the bottle of Argentinian red Malbec wine (£15.95) that is, again, recommended by Rafique. And then there’s the value: all this quality for not a lot of money. This top quality grub fills our winter boots so full that we don’t even look at the attractive, well-stocked dessert menu. Coffee at £3.95 each is just the job.
All that’s left is to toast the unofficial king of curry and his team on Wombourne Tandoori’s upcoming 30th anniversary. Rafique has special celebrations planned for the coming summer, so be sure to check out this restaurant – it’s a place where excellent food, service and value are guaranteed whatever the season – just be sure to book. Oh and, don’t worry, only very rarely does Wombourne Tandoori serve turkey.
All of us at Wolverhampton West wish Wombourne Tandoori continued success and urge Rafique never to change his winning formula.
Wombourne Tandoori, High Street, Wombourne WV5 9DN.
For bookings please call 01902 324148 / 01902 324437.