The Raj, Blackhall: A hidden gem outside of central Edinburgh

We really are spoiled for choice here in Edinburgh when it comes to Indian restaurants. But beyond the usual BYOB curry houses which host sports socials by the hundreds, there are a handful of Indian eateries which stand out from the crowd. The Raj is one of those places. 

Newly relocated to Blackhall from its original home in Leith for 30 years, the Raj might seem a bit far away to travel for a student who's based in Marchmont. But if there's ever a reason to escape the central Edinburgh bubble, it would be for this top-notch Indian food.

The Raj is conveniently located next to a bus stop, making the long journey stress-free. Hop off the bus and walk straight into the restaurant where you'll be warmly welcomed by the friendly staff. Decked-out for the holidays with fairy lights of all colors, the interior of the restaurant was as cheerful as our waiter who quickly stopped by to take our drink orders. It truly is a rarity to find an Indian restaurant in Edinburgh which serves alcohol, so it was quite a treat to order a glass of house white to pair with the spicy curry to come. 

With a wide-ranging menu combining the influences of both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, the Raj encourages you to stray away from your usual order and try their more unique dishes. While vegetable pakora and chicken tikka masala can be found on the menu, they might pale in comparison to the more uncommon options. 

It wouldn't be a proper Indian meal without some poppadoms to start. Crisp, light,  and addictively salty, these massive golden discs were served with various chutneys, raitas, and other sauces.

Enticed by the thought of fluffy dumplings for a starter, I ordered the mysore bonda- a dish I had never heard of before. These doughy balls were bursting with aromatic spices, and served with a coconut chutney that satisfied my craving for a sweet and savory pairing. 

The lamb lal mirchi was Ben's starter of choice. Stewed pieces of lamb served on a bed of crispy onion bhaji, the lal mirchi was a perfect winter warmer. 

After mulling over the list of mains for quite some time (the staff here don't make you feel rushed), Ben and I both settled on lamb curries- a type of meat which doesn't often fit into a student budget. As we awaited our mains, our waiter presented us with silver tea light trays to keep our food warm, and add to the romantic ambiance.  

In my mind, a curry that perfectly balances creaminess with spice is the ideal candidate for a winter dinner. And my lamb pasanda certainly fit the bill. Morsels of tender lamb immersed in a spiced yoghurt and almond sauce, I was in heaven after the first bite. 

Always keen for something fiery, Ben ordered the laal maas, which put my mild curry to shame. I should also let you know that the Raj really goes above and beyond when it comes to portion sizes- there's plenty of meat in each dish, and there's enough curry sauce to soak up with your naan (in our case, that of the peshwari kind). 

The real winner in both of our books, however, was the saag aloo. While you might overlook this simple combination of potatoes and spinach, it is not to be missed. Fluffy potatoes tossed in a velvety spinach and paneer sauce, you'll have to stop yourself from eating it all in one go. 

Much to our surprise, the waiter immediately brought out a plate of sweets after we had scraped the last morsels of food from our plates (the Raj offers free sweets to all customers!). Without explanation of what we were presented with, we tucked into the mysterious selection of desserts. Now, I can't fully describe what each nibble exactly was, but one stood out above the rest. Owing to my upbringing in a half Iranian family, I was able to identify one of the sweets as similar to the Persian dessert, zoolbia- crispy, fried dough drenched in honey.

As we were picking at the last crumbs of dessert, our waiter appeared once again wheeling out a cart filled with after-dinner drinks. Not one to usually indulge in a post-meal swig, I was suggested by Ben to try a Baileys on ice (a favorite of my Nana's). While I sipped on my creamy concoction, Ben finished off a shot of Drambuie. 

With a menu that highlights the best of both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, the Raj hits that sweet spot between familiar and exotic. Owing to it's friendly staff and comforting food, your experience here will surely be one of warmth from start to finish.

Buy your bus tickets now, because the Raj is certainly worth the journey out of the city centre.

Thank you to the Raj and Laura at Crimson Edge for the lovely meal! You can view the Raj's full menu online here (don't miss their Sunday buffet!).    

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