Hall Green, that archetypal Birmingham suburb seemingly inhabited by elderly Daily Mail readers with a penchant for golfing jumpers, comfy slacks and a permanent disapproving frown, is perhaps an unlikely place to find a great restaurant.
But, for me, the relaxed and welcoming Raja Monkey Cafe falls into that category.
The little sister of Lasan, it’s been serving its mix of Indian street food and more substantial homely dishes for a good few years now.
Recently it expanded into vacant premises next door, doubling in size and undergoing a facelift in the process so that its decor is now less funky and rather more subdued.
The menu, too, has been tweaked, but retains its core value of serving rustic dishes with their roots firmly in the sub-continent.
Expect no frills and technical wizardry – Raja Monkey Cafe is a place that’s confident enough to serve simple but well-crafted dishes that deliver real flavour at very reasonable prices.
Such as the pau – or pav – bhaji with which I began my visit.
This street food snack comprises a soft, dry vegetable curry and sweet buttery rolls.
There’s a garnish of finely diced red onions given oomph by slivers green chilli and a lime slice.
This is a supremely comforting and balanced dish – the pillowy rolls toasted to add a caramelised flavour that plays against the deftly spiced curry, the perky onions and the perfumed acidity of the lime.
Opposite, my wife ate little, rounded Punjabi samosas stuffed potato and peas and sighed with pleasure.
There’s a range of thali and dhosa, but we choose main courses from the large plates section of the menu.
Oxtail rarely features in Indian cuisine, but does here.
It came on the bone in a sauce that was the star of the show.
The deep red gravy was thickly textured, rich with meat juices, sweet with onions and feisty with Kashmiri chilli.
A word of criticism: perhaps the oxtail needed longer cooking, for it was not falling off the bone in the way it should.
But that detracted little from a dish that was hugely satisfying.
My wife found equal pleasure in a chicken curry, again with the meat on the bone to add extra depth to the sauce.
We shared a fluffy, properly scorched naan and a refreshing side of Keralan slaw.
Desserts were beyond us, for starters and mains were served in generous portions.
Raja Monkey is a bit of a gem, I think.
It shares with Lasan its commitment to authentic Indian food cooked with care and skill.
Take a trip to Hall Green to check it out. It’s opposite Waitrose.
Need to know
Starters range from £4.99 to £12.79
Mains are £10.99 to £16.29
Raja Monkey is fully licensed
There are vegetarian options
Raja Monkey Cafe
1355 Stratford Road, Hall Green, Birmingham B28 9HW. 0121 777 9090.