Madhu’s has unusually smart decor for Southall, having a tasteful dining area over two floors (plus private dining room) that could easily be in the West End. There are many good value Southall restaurants, but this was the first one to really go up-market. Owner Sanjay Anand has hired excellent chefs recently (one from the Taj New Delhi, the other from the Grand Hyatt in Delhi) and the cooking has stepped up a notch. The cooking is traditional Punjabi. Service under manager Ajay is excellent.
Sanjay Anand runs the leading Indian wedding catering business in the UK, so in some sense the restaurant is an advert for his catering business (to give a sense of scale, in the last year they catered for over 250 events, with a range of 225 to well over 1,000 diners). The Madhu's menu keeps many favourites but does evolve slowly, e.g. my May 2009 meal had an excellent dish of fried cauliflower and broccoli in a rich, spicy tamarind coating, and my December 2008 meal saw a new (and very tasty) dish of fried cauliflower with garlic sauce. A June 2010 meal included an excellent potato vada (little deep-fried balls with a potato and spicy filling) starter.
Here are notes from my most recent meal.
Achari prawns were a pair of large but very tender marinated prawns which had been marinated in a subtle blend of spices; this was top drawer Indian cooking (5/10). Aloo tikki is a Southall speciality, with a vegetable pattie topped with chickpeas, tamarind, yoghurt and coriander. Here the chickpeas were tender and the spices nicely balanced, with enough tamarind to add a hint of sweetness (3/10).
Prawn biryani has always been one of the best dishes here. In this cases not only were the prawns very tender and the spicing accurate, but the rice was very well defined, the individual grains distinct (5/10). Murgh malai tikka was very good, the chicken marinaded in spices and yoghurt, producing a soft texture in the chicken pieces before they are being cooked in the tandoor (4/10). Gobi (cauliflower) was properly cooked in an attractive blend of spices, but was a little salty, even for me (2/10). The breads are the weakest element of the cooking here: naan and romali roti (2/10). The bill came to just £21 a head, including drinks. Service was very professional.
Here are notes from a 2010 meal.
A dish to try is the malai chicken tikka, which is superbly executed here; the chicken is marinaded and then cooked in the tandoor, and the end result is meltingly delicious (5/10). Tandoori salmon was delightful, three generous pieces of salmon marinated and then cooking carefully in the tandoor: the result is fish with excellent texture as well as subtle hints of spice (4/10). Aloo tikki is a Southall speciality and is made very well here: tender chickpeas, yoghurt, a vegetable pattie and a mild tamarind sauce combine to make a very enjoyable snack (3/10).
The treatment of rice is particularly good at Madhu's, and this showed in both prawn and chicken biriani. The rice is fluffy and cooked to a pleasing texture, and lurking within are pieces of chicken or tender prawns (3/10). Aloo channa was also very good, the chickpeas tender but the new potatoes pleasingly firm and retaining their character (4/10). Bhindi was cooked a little too long and so had that hint of greasiness that okra gets if it is cooked anything other than very quickly, very dry (2/10). Garlic naan had very good texture. Halwa and kulfi are made here rather than bought in, and are a refreshing way to end the meal. Service under restaurant manager Ajay is slicker than in many posh French restaurants.
Below is a meal from July 2005, by way of comparison..
The upstairs room has stripped wood floor and tasteful modern lighting. The general look is contemporary: chairs are modern black leather, while tablecloths are white linen. Popadoms came with three chutneys: a mango chutney that was fine but from a jar, a good home made mint chutney and a home-made tamarind sauce that tasted good but was rather thin for practical use with popadoms. “Achari prawn” is basically king prawns marinated in spices and cooked in the new tandoor. The tandoor is gas-based rather than charcoal-based, so you don’t get the true charcoal flavour of the best places in India, but the prawns were cooked very well indeed, tender and having absorbed the spices, served with a simple salad of shredded carrot, beet and cabbage (4/10). Aloo papri chat had whole pooris amongst the chickpeas and yogurt/tamarind sauce, and had good flavour (1/10).
Methi chicken was a huge improvement over the old chef, the chicken tender and resting in a dark, thick fenugreek sauce (3/10). Masala fish was tilapia, carefully cooked in a lively sauce (2/10) while dal makhani featured black lentils cooked carefully, though the sauce was rather thin in texture for my liking (1/10). Pulao rice was excellent, as were a non-greasy paratha and, a major improvement, a light fluffy naan (3/10). For dessert halwa was tasty and well made, while kulfi is home-made and good, though served tonight a little too cold (2/10). Coffee, usually the bane of Indian restaurants, is now from a modern Italian espresso maker, and was very pleasant (3/10). Service was extremely good, with a new team of attentive staff. The female reception staff wear beautiful black saris, whilst the waiters are uniformed.