The Taj Indian Kitchen had been open just over a year when we visited. It is a quite small place with a dozen or so seats, situated in the heart of Queenstown with a view over the lake. Its menu is more ambitious than other Indian restaurants in the town, and the food is quite modern with a few unusual flourishes, such as blue cheese naan. There were two tasting menus, at NZ$65 and NZ$85 respectively. We went a la carte, starting with corn bhel, a cold snack with bhel (puffed rice) and sweet corn with coriander served in a paper cone, which is often how bhel is served as street food in Mumbai. This was enjoyable but quite dry, and would have benefited from some tamarind chutney (12/20). Tandoori lamb chops had been marinated with spices before cooking and were pleasant, though the lamb was a touch overcooked and the spicing seemed rather tentative (12/20). Achari prawns were prepared in the tandoor after marinading and were nicely cooked though a touch salty (13/20).
Chicken biryani was very good, the layers of rice aromatic and the meat avoiding dryness (13/20). Jeera potatoes were cooked for too long and so were rather soft, though the cumin flavour still came through (11/20). Oddly, the menu did not offer vegetable side dishes but only main courses, so in order to try some vegetables you have to order them as main course size, which at $24 per dish bumps up the bill and means ordering more food than you really need. When I inquired about this the manager told me it was to discourage diners ordering just a vegetable side dish and rice or bread in order to get away with a cheap meal, but surely if the idea is that the restaurant needs a certain minimum spend then just set that out on the menu rather than distorting things for everyone in an effort to try and weed out the odd person who does not want to spend much. Naan bread was quite good, fairly soft and supple (12/20). For dessert carrot halwa was mushy and disappointing, served with some decent pistachio kulfi (10/20).
Service was good, with an efficient waitress from Delhi. The bill, with beer to drink, came to NZ$97 (£51) per person, which is quite a lot and yet we did not order excessively and shared a single dessert. Overall the meal was rather inconsistent, but priced at a level at which diners will expect all dishes to be at a high level, not just some of them.