Mention The Don Indian restaurant to most people in Milton Keynes and you’ll either be greeted by a vacant stare, or a “oh, that’s that place tucked away in the train station isn’t it?”. I’ll be honest, I was of the latter; The Don is situated in a unit in the town’s train station that has been home to a number of Indian restaurants over the years, most famously the site of the Jaipur until it moved across the road.
However, it was perhaps wrong of me to dismiss The Don as just another run-of-the-mill Indian tucked away, after all a recent Best Newcomer award at the Milton Keynes Food and Leisure Awards 2016 and a string of positive word-of-mouth recommendations suggests that something quite good was afoot from the new owners and worth taking a look at. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to take a look for myself when the opportunity presented itself and the chaps invited me down to sample a meal.
The Don, Milton Keynes
Given it’s location at the Milton Keynes train station, well away from the nightlife and food scene in the town (and not blessed with fantastic parking facilities), you could argue that it would take something pretty special to stay afloat in this neck of the woods; notably on our arrival at 7pm, I was very surprised to find the restaurant busy, most of the 80+ covers seated!
What stood out from arrival to seating was how the restaurant challenged almost all of my perceptions right from the start, even before any food had been served; given the location and history of turnover in this location I had expected budget tacky decor, you know the types of places you call into after a couple of beers for a quick hunger-fix (RobsRibs has introduced me to a fair few, including one that I can’t set foot in again, but that’s for another time….). Instead, we were greeted with a bright and airy dining area, tastefully decorated with premium table, crockery and glassware, not to mention the most personable and warmest welcome I could have expected from an Indian restaurant.
The Don: Starters
With drinks flowing, we took owner Aki’s suggestions and went for The Don’s mixed kebab and Tandori Chicken to kick things off.
Both starters were well presented; what stood out for me in the initial visual and taste exploration was the freshness. The Don’s Mixed Kebab was succulent and delicious but if I was being *really* picky, I found the Tandori Chicken a touch dry, although a splash of ‘The Don’ sauce on the plate soon sorted that. Nevertheless, both dishes were tasty and a promising start.
The Don: Mains
After a short while, the mains arrived – a Lamb Pasanda (a personal favourite), King Prawn Shashlik and Dumpak Chicken, the two latter dishes recommendations of Aki, accompanied by a portion of The Don’s rice. Oh and of course a Naan.
What a turn of events this turned out to be – my favourite Indian dish, my go-to in the Lamb Pasanda for the last 10 years – was trumped by two fabulous dishes in the King Prawn Shashlik and Dumpak Chicken. Shock and awe. A major upset!
The prawns were simply sensational, a nice hint of citrus, fresh the buzzword of this review but absolutely spot on. This, partnered with the tender chicken in the rich medium-hot Dumpak was simply awesome and made for a mouth-watering experience. Having sampled these two dishes, the Lamb Pasanda by contrast was good, but not in the same region; this lacked the rich creamy punch that my favourite curryhouse in Milton Keynes somehow manages to achieve and therefore means it misses out on the special verdict as given to the other two dishes, but this can be forgiven as the house specials had been SO good.
The Don’s rice was notable too, the fried onion and coriander making adding an incredibly tasty element to what could be a bland (simply ‘filler’) dish – so much so that we agreed this would be an essential on any future order, better than the standard Pilau or Keema rice that we would have normally gone with.
Overall, the Pasanda was certainly a good effort, but it is very evident The Don is all about their house specials (which they do an awesome job with) and you should come here with an open mind with a view to try something you perhaps wouldn’t order at your everyday Indian restaurant; Aki and his team are on hand to make recommendations to this end and I am so glad I took them up on their suggestions.
The Don: Dessert
To round things off, a palette cleanser was much needed and provided in the form of pistachio icecream and mango sorbet; both glazed in a syrup that was perhaps a little unusual, but really tasty and a great way to round off the meal. The pistachio was rich and creamy, whilst the mango sorbet was light and refreshing.
The Don Milton Keynes: Review Verdict
We get invited to a fair few restaurants with Two Men About Town, the majority are nice enough, but it is very rare that we stumble across somewhere that we could gladly return as paying guests time and time again – The Don is certainly that.
I really didn’t expect great things; the location and the turnover of Indian restaurants in this spot did not do wonders for my initial impression, however I was very quickly proved wrong and really enjoyed our meal. The lasting tenure and flow of paying customers through the door despite it’s less-than-ideal location is obviously testament to my conclusion and reinforcement that it’s well worth a visit.
The authenticity, freshness and quality of the food, not to mention the service and value for money in light of these considerations leave a very favourable impression – it’s a nice atmosphere and we had a highly enjoyable visit. The guys at The Don are clearly very passionate and proud of what they have achieved and I have to say that I don’t blame them.