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  • timbarber

Mowgli Street Food in Leeds - finding out what all the fuss was about?

In the space of a week, my daughter and a client both raved on about Mowgli, I saw an article in the newspaper about the founder Nisha Katonia’s record breaking restaurant business and I was bought the Mowgli Street Food Cook Book for Christmas.

I decided I needed to see what all the fuss was about and after flicking through the pages of the cook book and seeing the mouth-watering dishes, I booked a table for lunch for myself and my wife.

Looking online I found out a bit more about the concept behind the restaurants which now exist in many cities and towns across the UK, leading Nisha Katonia to have been made an MBE for services to food and her business listed in The Sunday Times 100 Fast Track list. The Mowgli concept is a far cry from the traditional “mucky curry” and the idea behind the menu is to serve the sort of food that Indians would eat at home or buy from street vendors.

The restaurants aim to create a modern take on the food with small plates, complete with fresh flavours and many veggie dishes cooked healthily and full of flavour.

When we arrived in the Leeds Mowgli on Boar Lane, we found a modern interior all full of light. The décor was quite rustic, with wooden tables, benches and swing seats, branches set as table centrepieces and fairy lights everywhere on walls, the table branches and in bell jars.

The Mowgli logo a lino-print monkey featured prominently to re-enforce their brand to diners. The Menu was extensive with Vegetarian and Meat based “Tiffin Boxes” featuring 4 dishes chosen by the chef for those unable to make their mind up!

We were told that 3 dishes a person would suffice, almost as Indian Tapas. We chose 4 dishes from the Street Meats and Street Chat parts of the menu, then a couple of curries from the House kitchen menu.

The dishes arrived as they were cooked and were served in steel rectangular or round billy cans.

First to arrive were the Yoghurt Chat Bombs – really light crisp bread puffs with chickpea and spiced yoghurt. Very different and eaten in one mouthful with a slight hint of tamarind and coriander.

Next to arrive was Bhel Puri. I had eaten something similar at De Baga in Headingley. This was a bit like Bombay mix combined with rice crispies! Crisp gram threads, puffed rice, peanuts and spices with sliced red chilli. It was not too filling and very tasty.

Then the Himalayan Cheese Toast arrived. An Indian version of Welsh Rarebit. A slice of toast with melted sharp cheddar, red onion and spices, accompanied by a large helping of lime pickle. The pickle worked really well with the cheese and whilst I hadn’t expected to be eating cheese on toast at an Indian restaurant it was a really interesting dish.

The final starter was Gunpowder chicken, a small tin of chicken pieces marinated in garlic, ginger and garam masala then fried in chick pea batter. These were good but not particularly interesting or special like the other dishes had been.

The mains were next – we’d ordered some puri breads as sides which were so puffed up and light and some Mowgli Slaw – red cabbage with mustard seeds and dressing there were both great. We shared an Aunty Geeta’s Prawn Curry and a House Lamb Curry.

The prawn curry came in a creamy tomato sauce with peas. It was nice, fresh but not at all spicy and dare I say a little bland. It’s worth noting these are small street food size dishes.

The house lamb curry was good, the lamb was very tender, cooked slowly with plums, chickpeas and star anise. It was apparently Nisha’s Dads recipe and it was rich, wholesome and tasty.

Overall, we had a lovely meal. It was a cool place and we were quite a bit a bit older than most of the clientele. I can see why it’s a hit with a younger audience.

For me the novelty of the street food dishes means I don’t think I will be rushing to go back though, now I have sampled them. The dishes were good but if I’m honest I think I prefer a more traditional curry.

The bill with a beer each and 10% service charge was £57. Not ridiculous by any means for a lunch, but when I look at what I could get at the Kashmir restaurant in Bradford for the same amount….


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