Review: The Raj, Surbiton
The last thing I was thinking about as we taxied along a grass field in what felt like a Vauxhall Astra with wings, was food.
It was the sunniest day of the year, and I, in my wisdom and desire to look the part, had worn a thick sheepskin pilots jacket. Bad move.
What with the heat, the fear and the claustrophobia, and despite the Astra edition seatbelt, I was at the very best, edgy.
The single propeller Piper warrior PA28 began to purr with menace.
In what couldn't have been better scripted, two deer hopped into the sunshine and in front of the path of the plane.
We took our final turn, alas, deep breath, off the concrete and into the field.
Where the fudge are we going? Why are we leaving the runway? What the fudge are those deer doing fighting in this heat?
And with that, the pilot, who looked in his teens and had been conspicuous by his silence thus far, only speaking to confirm details with air traffic control and to point out where the fire extinguisher was, crackled into my cans "That's never happened before". The crackle returned to an ominous silence. The omens were not good.
The monotone whirring in my ear reached fever pitch as the Piper bound down the field at speed before eventually, eventually, clambering for the deep blue skies.
But what's this got to do with food? I hear you cry.
Well, it’s all part of the latest business plan from the charismatic, charming, but plane crazy pilot Mustafa Azim.
For £125 you can be flown into the skies around London, maybe even taking the controls if you are lucky, before tucking into a four course meal at his business partner Khalis Miah's (Kas's) Indian restaurant.
"I think people always want to do something different," said Kas.
"There is always a market for offering a different kind of experience."
Mustafa interrupts, as he often does.
"It's a recession. People are bored. They want to do something exciting, and this is it. And you get four courses of delicious food here at Raj's."
He, as he often is, is right. This is very different. I, for one, have never flown in a tiny three seater plane, nor been that scared in my life. But the fear waned as soon as we were up in the skies around London and it was beautifully serene. Truly stunning. I don't think we really appreciate London enough after seeing from 1500 feet. You are whisked away from the aerodrome in a Mercedes into Surbiton and into a family owned, tranquil, Indian restaurant.
The menu is traditional and perfectly executed.
The Lamb Tikka Naga was tender and not overly spicy, the Bombay Aloo was delightfully fragile, and Kas' special Murghi Baba was just, something else - chicken breast stuffed with spiced potato and onion in a rich tomato sauce. In summery summary, it is an afternoon well worth anyone's £125.
Contact Mustafa for Aero Dine Amix firstname.lastname@example.org The Raj: 0208 390 6863 email@example.com 163 Ewell Road, Surbiton, Surrey, KT6 6AW