I’m not known for my decision making skills when it comes to food.
Many a waiter has been sent repeatedly away for ‘another five minutes’ while I pore over a menu, desperately debating options in my head.
Meanwhile, my long-suffering companions wither at the table as their blood sugar levels plummet and their patience levels deplete.
So, to be honest, a restaurant with not just one menu but three was probably not the best idea for me.
Good job we weren’t in a rush..
We landed at Maharani on a Friday night.
It’s the latest addition to Preston’s curry offering and replaces the long standing and popular restaurant King Karai.
The family-run restaurant is located on the city centre fringes on Watery Lane in Ashton, a hop skip and jump from Strand Road and therefore with easy access to Penwortham and South Ribble, as well as in walking distance to the docks and not far from the sprawling University of Central Lancashire campus.
We were welcomed into Maharani with a smile and inside the decor is very much traditional affair - with little change from the King Karai days - more of a slight update.
Customers walk in to a bar area with comfy sofa (and I might add a copy of the Lancashire Post - very important).
The restaurant itself is a useful mixture of tables and booths, allowing for conversation to flow for bigger groups and a modicum of privacy for those enjoying a hot and spicy date.
But in some ways that is where the traditions end.
Although the Maharani is very much a ‘proper’ Indian restaurant - it also offers small menus of Thai and Chinese food.
This quirky offering at first put me off. Why not just specialise? It is very clear the family running the restaurant have southern Indian origins and expertise - they are very proud of their modern twists on traditional offerings. So why diversify?
The Thai and Chinese options - although on one hand allowing the restaurant to potentially appeal to more people - is slightly off putting in concept.
Not to mention you have to decide what sort of food to eat - as well as what to choose off the actual menu.
We decided to make life easier for ourselves - decision wise - and all ordered Indian. We weren’t the only ones fro m a casual glance around the semi-busy restaurant.
It was a good choice. The food is traditional English curry house with the southern Indian influence heavily informing the menu.
No dishes of bog standard raita and chutney here - everything tastes home-made and authentic and we were guided with a smile through some of the more unusual items on the menu, leaving us keen to try dishes we had never eaten before.
So I’ll get in right now that the food - across the board - was excellent, high quality and well thought out.
Between three of us we ordered a selection of starters including shareable pre-meal snacks, chutneys and pickles to get our taste buds tingling, along with some pieces of tender and tasty chicken tikka marinated with spices and yoghurt and masala fried fish which was delicious and melt-in-the-mouth.
Our starters were completed with a tasty sheek kebab - which is minced beef rolled into a sausage and cooked in the tandoori oven.
On the side we had more traditional offering of poppadums and dips, all of which proved a hit.
The main menu took some perusal - everything sounded delicious and, indeed, was. I opted for my standing order of traditional sounding chicken madras, which tested me slightly with its three chilli rating but boasted tender chicken breast and was perfect with my pilau rice.
My friends were a a little more adventurous with orders of nadan lamb ulathiyathu - lamb cooked ina Kerala style and a Kerala paratha with chicken curry - a south Indian curry served with special bread.
With shared naan bread and servings of pilau rice - it’s hardly surprising we were sent home with doggy bags.
And the food all tasted just as good the next day.
A fantastic meal and a friendly, family, establishment. But my advice? I’m sure the Thai and Chinese is tasty but the restaurant should stick with the Indian food which is absolutely delicious and a winner.
The three of us ate incredibly well and even including a bottle of wine and coffees the bill only added up to around £80. Great value for money and a recipe for a fantastic Friday night out with good friends.
Check out the menu HERE