I have a confession. My name is Joe, and I’m a curry addict. I’ve been clean for about 22 hours, but I can already feel the nagging in the back of my brain, craving the burn on my tongue and the warmth in my stomach. Normally, I order from the higher class dealers, the ones that bring the stuff right to your house, but yesterday, I headed out to the corners of the third district.
Up on Bécsi út is a small restaurant in an unimpressive dilapidated block, which frankly, doesn’t impress much better when you step inside. The decor is a little dated and feels as though it’s past its best. The shelves behind the bar are cluttered and dusty, the decorations on the walls are not hung true, and the paint is just starting to fade.
I was a touch disappointed to learn that there was no alcohol-free beer on the drinks list, but the situation started to become a little ridiculous when we were told that they don’t serve coffee, and tea could only be served as chai masala. I was at least offered the choice of diet or normal Coke.
The drinks menu is the only place where Maharaja’s selection is limited though. The restaurant offers a wide range of Indian and Nepali curries, with a variety of curry bases, meats and fishes, and their vegetarian menu is by far and away one of the best I’ve seen.
The waitress, while polite and friendly, was clearly overworked, and our whole meal was punctuated by a ringing telephone, which she clearly simply had no time to pick up. However, the wait times were very reasonable, and our starter arrived quickly.
Once the food arrives, a lot of the downsides of this restaurant can be forgiven. The food is consistent, well cooked, spiced well, and with a good level of heat. The curries are swimming in delicious gravy, and the breads are hot and fresh. One of the big challenges with many of the other Indian restaurants in Budapest is huge variations in the same dish—going from very hot and spicy to bland, or unsalted to Neptune’s pretzels from one week to the next. This is a trap Maharaja avoids well.
However, it comes at a price. Indian food in Hungary is not cheap, and Maharaja tends towards the more expensive end of the Indian food range. And when it does come to the end of your meal, and it’s time to cough up, you’d better hope you raided your piggy bank in advance, because you can only pay in cash. In the 21st Century, a cash-only restaurant is just unacceptable, and asking your customers to walk down to the cashpoint is embarrassing—especially when you display the major credit card symbols on your website.
Overall, eating out at Maharaja was a bit disappointing. The food is great, and ordering for delivery is fast, costs are upfront, and you can pay by card. Maharaja’s own website is quite badly broken at the moment, but they’re listed on Netpincer (Hungarian only, but they do list out allergens in their food as well, which is a nice touch).