IN last month's dining out review I wrote that one of the perks of the job was visiting restaurants I had not previously been to. Equally, it is also a bonus to revisit a restaurant - particularly when it has gained a top award in the meantime.
It is a couple of years or so since I last went to Voujon in Long Buckby and last year it was named as the World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year in the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards.
Owner Imran Ali and his team fought off competition from three other Indian restaurants, as well as a Chinese and a Vietnamese restaurant, to win the top accolade in the popular competition which has done so much to recognise excellence and raise standards in the county's dining venues in the last 10 years.
"Winning the award was absolutely brilliant. The backing of our customers has been invaluable over the years and we are incredibly grateful for all their support," said Imran Ali.
The focus, not surprisingly, is on the food at this family-run restaurant, and my
memory of my first visit was that the food was excellent, and it is the attention to detail employed by the Voujon chefs, who are highly skilled and have generations of experience, that draws diners to this restaurant not only from Long Buckby but also the surrounding area.
The word 'voujon' is from the ancient Bangla language and means invitation to dine, and that is exactly what the friendly team at this restaurant has established over the past 14 years, with many patrons making repeat visits on a regular basis to savour the superb Indian and Bangladeshi food.
All dishes are made to order, with some taking more time than others, so be prepared to wait a little bit longer if your selection falls into this category. On the other hand, you can also use the time to indulge in one of the tasty starters on offer such as Panch Mishall, a selection of chicken tikka, lamb tikka, chicken cake, sheek kebab and lall mass (£8.90 for two, £16 for four); Bilathi Mirchi, pepper stuffed with mild spiced chicken vegetables or minced lamb (£4.50); Salmon Tikka, salmon fillets in a special homemade sauce and grilled in a tandoori (£3.90); Duck Tikka, tender duck marinated with delicate herbs and spices then barbecued in a tandoori (£4.40) or Lamb Chops, tender lamb chops marinated overnight in garlic, ginger, green chillies and spices then roasted in the tandoori (£6.50). All starters are served with mixed salad and chutney. Alternatively, there's always the opportunity to just enjoy some papadoms and chutneys.
Voujon has gained an excellent reputation for its food over the years with the chefs ensuring that all the dishes are of the highest quality and prepared to authentic Indian recipes using fresh herbs and spices, most of which are freshly ground in the kitchen, and ingredients that are free from artificial colouring and flavouring.
We decided on the papadoms and chutneys route together with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while we made our selections from the menu, which has Tandoori Specialities, Balti Dishes, Chef Signature Dishes, Traditional Indian Home Cooking, Tawa Dishes, Biryani Dishes and Vegetarian Selections sections.
I was drawn to the Chef Signature Dishes and in particular Darjeeling Delight (£9.50) - chicken cooked with ringed onions, green peppers, tomatoes and fresh coriander in exotic spices, while Anita chose from the Traditional Indian Home Cooking choices opting for Sagwala (£7.50) - king prawns cooked in a medium sauce with fresh spinach and a touch of garlic. There also chicken, lamb, prawns or duck options for this dish. We added pilau rice and an onion bhaji to our orders.
It is easy to see why Voujon won the World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year award. Our meals were beautifully presented and didn't disappoint. My Darjeeling dish was, indeed, a delight. The chicken was tender and the spices provided a real bite and that left a satisfying afterglow, while the prawns were fleshy and moist and, again, there was a pleasing after-taste.
Unusually, we both decided to have a dessert a chocolate concoction based on Ferrero Rocher and a Strawberry Fluff.
The restaurant is stylish and has a contemporary design providing a high level of comfort, while the service is personal, friendly and efficient. It is a good venue for groups and charity events.
There are set meals for two (£29.95) and four people (£59.95).
Voujon is open 5pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm to 10.30pm on Sundays with the latter part of the week and weekends the busiest times.
Voujon, 1 & 2 Church Street, Long Buckby, NN6 7QH
Tel: 01327 843571