It’s become something of a tradition to take my Dad to my favourite restaurant of the moment for his birthday. Recent years have seen us visit Ramsons, Aumbry and the Parkers Arms. Generally it gets harder to top the previous year but there was only ever one contender this year. I’ve visited Mughli several times over the past 12 months and am yet to be disappointed. Despite being cheaper than those other places its exciting food and welcoming hospitality make it a perfect choice for special occasions as well as casual dining.
When I mentioned the birthday tradition to owner Haz he seemed to take it as a challenge and offered to create a special meal for the occasion. On the day I received this intriguing and exciting photo of the menu, unfortunately not speaking Arabic it was of little help.
Being rather fond of studying restaurant menus and often choosing what i’m going to eat weeks in advance I found the whole experience quite disconcerting but at the same time was excited to find out what Haz had planned for us, in all my visits to Mughli i’m yet to eat a single dish I haven’t liked so knew we’d enjoy whatever it was.
We started with a couple of cocktails which are almost as good as the food here, non-alcoholic for me unfortunately as driving was part of the gift. I really enjoyed the ‘Chilli Pineapple’ Mocktail actually, although I couldn’t help thinking how much better it’d be with a shot of rum, or vodka, or gin. Dad isn’t a regular cocktail drinker but loved his ‘Long Island Lychee’.
The menu was roughly translated to us and while it all sounded fantastic I felt there was room for a couple of extras too. Being my Dad’s first time I wanted him to try some of my favourite dishes (that’s what I told myself anyway) from Mughli’s ‘Street Food’ menu. I ordered; ‘Pani Puri’, delicious bite sized hollow puri filled with chickpea & potato chaat, ‘Halloumi Menander’, these gorgeous spice coated then fried pieces of halloumi are the one thing I order EVERY time without fail and ‘Tamarind Masala Fish’, chunks of fresh white fish in a phenomenal spicy batter.
The first course from the special menu, ‘Firecracker Chicken’ was good but not quite up there with those three in my opinion. The vivid red coloured pieces of chicken thigh were succulent and as usual well spiced, it was tasty but just didn’t excite me.
The same can’t be said for the next dish; ‘Gobi Fry’ was incredible and immediately up there with my most favourite Mughli dishes. It tasted fantastic but it was the texture I loved most, the small florets of cauliflower had a crunchy, heavily spiced coating which was slightly chewy at first before giving way to the soft, cauliflower inside. I’m desperate to eat this again, thankfully i’m told it will be making appearances on the soon to be revealed ‘Specials Board’.
I’d previously enjoyed the first main course ‘Goan Fish Curry’ at the Bloggers Christmas Party despite not being a huge fan of coconut. I liked this version even more thanks to it’s heavier spicing and more subtle coconut flavour.
If it was up to me the second main course ‘Chana Daal Gosht’ would go straight on the main menu. A wonderful combination of tender lamb and soft lentils in a tomato based stew with a complex level of spices finished with a huge whack of heat from green chilli.
Finally, ‘Rajma Masala’, a tasty, spicy and comforting kidney bean based dish; not something I automatically associate with Indian cooking but worked really well.
Accompanying the curries was ‘Mattar Pulao’, an aromatic rice dish with peas and subtle spices and the best Indian bread in the land, ‘Peter’s Bread’.
Usually by this point in the evening i’d have enjoyed several cocktails and beers but of course I was the designated driver, so when Haz brought my Dad a cocktail as a birthday treat I took the opportunity to sample a Mango Lassi. I’ve had them before but never at Mughli and not for many years. I don’t remember any as good as this; incredibly thick, rich and creamy. Sweet but not too sweet.
The as yet unnamed cocktail is a combination of tequila, coriander, lime and orange juice. I couldn’t resist trying it which resulted in a jealous rage that I couldn’t drink more. It tastes great and is brilliantly refreshing, it’ll be fantastic in summer. I’m looking forward to seeing what else appears with it on the new cocktail menu.
I rarely eat dessert in Indian restaurants but being a birthday it seemed the right thing to do, now i’m kicking myself for not trying these ‘Apple Samosas’ on any of my previous visits. They’re such a simple idea but utterly divine! Crispy pastry parcels filled with a lightly spiced, warm apple compote served with cream for dipping, delicious. Must remember to leave room for dessert more often.
I can’t thank Haz enough the the effort he went to in ensuring this was a special night. Needless to say Dad loved it, my only concern is how i’m going to top it next year? It’ll certainly be a challenge.
Besides the slightly nervous feeling of being out of control I thoroughly enjoyed it too. Though on reflection I think I still prefer choosing my own dishes I did find the experience quite exciting. Plus, the food was incredibly high standard as ever and it was great to sample dishes that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Date of visit: 17.04.2014Follow @FoodGeekUK