RESTAURANT REVIEW: A new favourite curry after visiting Rivaj at Wrightington

Thunder and lightning, 30-plus degree days and overnight tropical rainstorms.

By Tom Earnshaw, Reporter
Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 4:45 pm
Chicken Tikka Chat Massala (JPIMedia)
Chicken Tikka Chat Massala (JPIMedia)

No, this is not a description of the Amazon rainforest, but the current bizarre climate found in the red rose county.

For many, it might call for barbecues three times a week – although not when there’s lightning I hope.

For me, I made the brave decision of doubling down on all things heat by visiting a curry house.

Rivaj (JPIMedia)

Some might call me mad, but if drinking hot drinks is meant to cool you down in warm weather, surely the same applies for hot food?

With that in mind, my fiancée Rebecca and I decided to try out somewhere new and picked out Rivaj, a curry house in Wrightington on the border of West Lancashire and Chorley and Wigan boroughs, due to the somewhat bizarre methodology behind council boundaries.

The table was booked for 7.30pm on the restaurant’s easily navigable website.

Mixed Balti Rogan Josh (JPIMedia)

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was the fantastic air conditioning. This, combined with half a pint of Asahi, was a brilliant start.

The staff were really friendly too. We were greeted by three waiters who could see we were very much enjoying the refreshing drop in temperature.

“Don’t go into the kitchen, whatever you do,” joked one of them.

As with many Indian restaurants, there is a dedicated waiting area. Rivaj’s is one of the nicest I have experienced and I really appreciate how it splits the waiting time ahead of your food arriving; which is almost immediately after you are shown to your table.

Fish pakoras (JPIMedia)

One nice touch on the menu was the healthy eating options they offer, advertising dishes at a typical 30 per cent less fat than otherwise. Not a bad option if you’re trying to lose a few pounds or just watching your weight.

We shared a few poppadoms and chutney tray to start. With neither of us having had anything for lunch, there was going to be no cutting corners with this.

I find you can judge the quality of what’s to come next on the poppadoms and chutney tray. This was very good, so we were feeling confident of what lay ahead.

We shared the Chicken Tikka Chat Massala and Fish Pakora for the starters. At £4.50 and £4.95 respectively, they were right on the money.

The Lamb Bangla curry (JPIMedia)

The chicken was tender with an appetising fragrance. The pakoras were deliciously fluffy and the fish was tender. The country’s chippies should take note as there is a lot to be taken from Rivaj’s way of cooking battered fish.

We asked for a 10 minute break before the main course to have a proper chat about how our week at work were going, as well as plans for our looming wedding (they’re going well, for your information, and are, of course, a little bit stressful which will come as no surprise to those already hitched).

It also gave us an opportunity to have a look at the dining side of the venue. While the waiting area is almost immaculate, there is a little to be desired on this side of the venue. There are marks on the walls where the two of us were sat, and there are a few DIY odds and ends that could do with tidying up.

Room for improvement – but we’re talking minor tweaks to what is, visually, a very impressive venue.

Our mains arrived after our break, and they were sublime.

First up was the Lamb Bangla. Described as tender lamb cooked slowly and prepared with soft onions, tomatoes and garlic, it is now the number one dish in Earnshaw’s Guide to North West Curry.

Okay, so this might well be a thing I’ve just made up, but you catch my drift. And at £10.95 it was very reasonably priced.

To accompany this dish, we chose the more mainstream Mixed Balti Rogan Josh.

I find it’s very hard to not overcook chicken with a curry, but this was superb. The king prawns were fantastic too – there was none of those pathetically small supermarket crustaceans here.

The coriander was really noticeable; which for someone who really enjoys the herb, was good news for my taste buds. The dish is £11.95, which might be a little steep for some, but wholly worth it if you enjoy variety in your curry.

We were given a hot hand towel before we left, as well as a mint flavoured chocolate.

The total bill was £60.95, including drinks, poppadoms, and side dishes, which is more than worth it. I’ll be visiting again for sure.

Food 4/5Service 4/5Atmosphere 4/5Value 4/5