There are a bunch of restaurants in and around Colombo that do relatively good, cheap Indian cuisine. However, if you’re looking for an Indian fine dining experience, the choices are limited. Maharaja Palace fits that niche quite well, although we aren’t quite convinced the food is as good as it could be for the price.
The menu at Maharaja Palace is extensive and covers mostly any North Indian dish that you can think of, with chicken, mutton and lamb being your meat options along with classic seafood options. Curries are priced between Rs. 850 – Rs. 1300, and from what we experienced, will generally be enough for 2. This place is definitely on the higher-end when it comes to cost, so expect to pay around Rs. 2500+ per head.
We ordered the mutton dum biryani (Rs. 1200), butter and garlic naan (Rs. 250 each), butter prawn curry (Rs. 1300) along with a couple of lassis (Rs. 300) to wash it down. The lassis were creamy, thick, surprisingly filling and had a great balance of sweet and slight sourness. One of the best we’ve tasted. This being an Indian restaurant we got a papadum basket (instead of a bread basket) along with mint, tamarind and chilli dips, the latter of which is spicy enough to bring a grown man to tears.
The mutton biryani was just enough for 2 people, but we did honestly expect a bit more. The mutton, of which there was plenty, was tender and cooked beautifully, but what we noticed was that it lacked much needed seasoning. It was a similar issue when it came to the the rice as well, with it being cooked perfectly light and fluffy, but with the mildest biryani flavour. We generally don’t like to harp on lack of seasoning, but this isn’t a dish where you can just add some salt and pepper.
We had no complaints when it came to the naan. The butter naan was nice and crispy with the distinct taste of the tandoor coming through as well. The garlic naan had just the right amount of garlic so as to not be overpowering, and would go excellently with mostly any curry.
The butter prawn curry, we were told, was one of the newest additions to the menu, so we thought we’d give it a try. It was essentially prawns cooked in butter and mixed with spiced tomato curry and a bit of curd. The dish as a whole was good, but not fantastic which is what you tend to expect when you pay Rs. 1300. Credit where it’s due, the prawns were cooked perfectly. The curry though, could have used a bit more of a spice hit.
Service and Ambience
On our previous visit the service wasn’t that great, but this time around we were happy to see that they had made some improvements. The staff was polite, knowledgeable and attentive in a way that wasn’t overbearing. The service was also quite fast with the dishes being ready in 15 minutes. This time the waiters did routinely refill our water, but they did however forget to offer us fingerbowls, which should have been pretty obvious when we ordered naan.
The nature of the ambience at Maharaja Palace is up for debate. We feel that it works well overall, but we can understand why more than a few find it a bit tacky, with the constantly changing coloured lights and what not. The interior though, is pretty elegant with arched hallways and some classic Indian oil paintings adding to the overall feel of authenticity.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience with Indian cuisine, Maharaja Palace is still one of the best choices. They’ve improved their service standards, and the food is still good, but not at the same level it was at when they first started out. For the price they charge we think it needs to be better.