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Review: The Burj
The Burj is so much more than an Indian restaurant. Between its stunning setting and incredible food, it firmly asserts itself as a fine dining experience. The restaurant, situated in Foxhill, near Wanborough in what was the Shepherd’s Rest, takes the feel of an authentic country pub and has fused it expertly with a high-end restaurant.
Following an actually-rather-enjoyable 10-minute drive through the country from Old Town to The Burj, the setting really strikes you. It was a positive sign to see that there was a fair amount of cars filling up the car park, even though it was a warm Monday evening. As we entered the restaurant, we were met by a smiling barman who was expecting us, and showed us through the elegant dining room to our booth. Although spacious, the way that the main restaurant area is set up, with its low walls and booths, it still remained intimate and comfortable.
Having been seated, the friendly waiting staff came to take our drinks order and engaged in the customary small-talk. However, instead of the normal platitudes our waiter seemed genuinely interested in how we were and happy to help with anything we needed.
Shortly after our drinks arrived, we were brought our complimentary papadums with traditional side dishes. The usual suspects of mango chutney, tamarind sauce, a mild and yoghurty mint sauce and a fresh, finely chopped salad of red onion, cucumber and tomato were freshly prepared to order. Even though dishes like this are commonplace in most Indian restaurants, the quality of the ingredients made even these something to savour. We had to make sure we didn’t fill up before our main dishes!
Once given the menu we had the unenviable task of trying to whittle down all of the tempting starters and mains and decide what we should order. Throwing myself on the mercy of our hosts I explained the kind of food I liked, to try something a little different I ordered the Lamb Indigo followed by the Garlic Chilli King Prawns with basmati rice. My wife ordered the Chicken Lollipops to start and the Butter Chicken as a main, with peswari naan.
The Lamb Indigo – which I’d never heard of – was beautifully slow-cooked curried lamb topped with caramelised vegetables and a mild cheese inside a Yorkshire pudding. This unusual pairing had a perfect blend of textures, mixing the melt-in-the-mouth lamb’s exotic blend of spices with the fluffy, familiar Yorkshire pudding.
When our waiter had heard that my wife ordered the Chicken Lollipops, he was visually excited and couldn’t wait for us to sample the dish. His demeanour and the ‘trust me, you’re going to love this’ enthusiasm made us really look forward to what would come out of the kitchen. He was right to be so eager to hear how we liked them; the chicken niblets were seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, coriander and then mixed with cornflour and deep-fried until golden brown. Served on the bone (hence ‘lollipop’) the sweetness of the crispy coating is finished off by the warm blend of spices to really excite the taste buds. Our waiter was right to be so proud of the starter!
After such a fantastic start to our meal, we were chomping at the bit to get stuck in to our mains. My Garlic Chilli King Prawns were a familiar dish, but cooked and presented in a way I’ve never seen before; the chef had butterflied out the king prawns so as they cooked they delicately curled around themselves. The increased surface area of the prawns, given the ingenious way they had been prepared, meant that they felt more substantial and carried the sauce in a way which meant you got a fantastic taste with every fork-full. A great bit of heat from the chilli and the garlic, ingredients which can easily overpower a dish, were balanced expertly and were absolutely flawless. The dish was served with a smoky, tomato-flavoured spicy sauce, which was also good enough to drink and was perfect to dip a naan in to.
As someone with a more reserved palette, my wife chose the Butter Chicken, which was as delicious as my main, without the heat. The smooth, creamy sauce was the perfect choice for someone looking for something mild but full of flavour. The chicken itself was cooked brilliantly, staying succulent and flavourful without detracting from the sauce. The swirl of cream in the dish served as a fantastic flourish in presentation.
As the main servings we so generous and the sides were so abundant, we were happy to end our meal without seeing the dessert menu. We were met with genuine interest from all the staff asking if we enjoyed our food, which we had, and we went on our way.
I can honestly say that I was genuinely impressed by the food, the atmosphere and the service. I must say that the presentation was second to none, a far cry from the usual silver bowls of generic food served up in your average Indian restaurant. Everything came out on pristine white plates and were finished with unparalleled attention-to-detail.
My wife and I will definitely be going back to The Burj whenever we have friends visiting or for a special occasion. And I’d urge you to, too. On the drive home we were met with a beautiful vista of the sun setting over Swindon. What a beautiful ending to a fantastic evening.