Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Mughli, Rusholme: it's time to say goodbye.

Possibly lamb nihari with a definite side of okra.
We have lived in Rusholme now for almost one year; in this time we have discovered more cuisines than we could ever have hoped for in that narrowly named 'Curry Mile': falafel, shawarma, lamb chops, naan breads bigger than our heads, fried chicken, chips fried in chicken fat, bountiful salads, and lots and lots of rice. Having grown up in Manchester, I was already au fait with many of the Mile's 'Indian' restaurants before moving to the area, including the old Mughli. I've watched the curry scene change: from the faithful British Indian cuisine of my childhood (at places like Jalal's in Burnage and Khandoker's in Parrswood) to a more modern yet nostalgic vision complete with street food influences, fusion, and a focus on regional dishes (think East z East, Zouk and Mughli).

Samosa chaat: uttar pradesh topped with chickpea, potato,
sweet tamarind, yoghurt & crispy sev.
Of those latter restaurants, Mughli is most firmly planted in the present day. Whether it's the iPad-wielding staff or the chilli okra fries, the surprisingly decent cocktail menu or the engaging Twitter presence, this neighbourhood Indian has not rested on its laurels. We've heard how, following a particularly scathing review, the family called a meeting to discuss how to step up their game. Whatever the conclusions were from those talks, they have obviously paid dividends. There's been a favourable review in the Telegraph, near unanimous praise from bloggers, and even an endorsement from Matt Tebbut. The place, it seems, has never seen busier and while people flock to nearby Lahore to be seen (we assume - from our visit, it can't be for the food), it's the food that draws the punters to Mughi.

If you thought after all this I might be setting Mughli up for a fall, I'm not. It's merely time for us to say goodbye - although, we rather hope it's more of 'a bientot' - as we move to the more suburban area of Levenshulme. There'll be no more Friday night hungover trips - although it seems Anna is thankful of this, as she began to worry the owner thought her an alcoholic, or last minute Sunday night "let's make the last little bit of this weekend last" visits.

Ignore the bright colours - Far Far: better than popadoms!
While there may be curry houses in Manchester producing more 'traditional' dishes, that's not entirely the point. Among the trendy Tava rolls and Far Far, the usual suspects are lurking, the CTMs and the Kormas, but what matters is that the food is consistently good and delivers on flavour. And it has done every time we've been since they got back on track (I'm holding back a Railway Curry pun). Mughli has in my estimation overtaken the once exemplary Great Kathmandu which has been steadily declining of late and outclasses its city-centre competitors (although, you must still go - just to meet the Scouse waiter, he's a legend in his own right).
Mughli has recently updated its menu. And we've tried a tiny, weeny bit of it. Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of telling people what I've eaten and what I thought of it. Sometimes I deem it necessary, especially when justification is needed to back up a critical review, but most of the time I'd like to say go try it yourself. So do. 

However... if you'll excuse my hypocritical self for a moment, I do have a couple of recommendations: the Machil Masala is rich, deeply satisfying fish dish, while lamb-on-the-bone dishes like the Nihari and the Lahori Karahi are must-haves. I can testify to the quality of the Kati rolls and the Samosa Chaat too. If you've had better (in Manchester!, fuck it - the UK) then please let us know. A side dish of okra is also a must, and fellow bloggers Where To Feed and Bacon on the Beech also proclaimed the gunpowder chips and aubergine mash near-items of beauty.

Machli masala - or whatever it was called before the menu change!

So if you're thinking this place sounds too good to be true, what are the criticisms? Well, they are few and far between and mostly down to their own damn good business. If you're trying to bag a walk in - if it's Friday or Saturday night - then buy a bottle of wine at the bar, and maybe by the time you've drunk it all, there'll be a free table: this place fills up fast. Booking is more than advised. And their naan isn't my favourite in Manchester - but how could it be after I've met breads bigger than my head?!

We couldn't leave without one last meal in the restaurant that is no more than 500 yards from our front door - so Anna has arranged her leaving do from her current job there on Sunday night. Why? Because if you find a restaurant that makes you sad to move, you share it with others. Go. 

Mughli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

V Zátiší Restaurant, Prague

I consider myself to be a fairly liberal sort of person: I read the Guardian, eat hummus and don't set vulnerable people on fire. I vehemently disagree with prejudice but of course, would fight to the death someone's right to be an ignorant racist. I've realised lately, however, that I have a prejudice of my own. I say have - fortunately several restaurants Jamie and I visited in Prague earlier this year have managed to correct that - I can now proudly say HAD; I had a prejudice of my own.

"So what's the prejudice?" I hear you cry, pleading with me to tell you (read: bumping up our bounce rate to 99%). Well, until recently, I was under the impression that Asian food was never very good on the continent. If you read our post on Sansho, you'll know how wrong I was. Perhaps it was that lemon chicken I ate in Amsterdam, forever associated with an entirely horrific rite-of-passage 'Dam experience, maybe it was the millions of photographs of horrific-looking plates of south Asian food I'd seen advertised in tourist areas, or the fact that Asian restaurants in Europe seem to assume that no-one can handle any level of spice outside of the Balti triangle. Whatever it was, I made a judgment. A bad judgment. And I'm pleased to say, I'm pleased to admit to y'all here today: AH WAS WRONG, my brothers and sisters, I was wrong.

So where was it that proved me wrong? Well, I should really stop pretending to be readers asking me questions, particularly ones with answers that are based in the title of the post. As you may have guessed it was a rather posh ol' place down a quaint back street in Prague: V Zátiší (meaning cosy and peaceful - it was both of those things save a lone American tourist asking, "what the hell is turboh?"). Part of a group of fine-dining restaurants, this place clearly knows what it's doing: an opulent building, plush interior, perfect service and damn tasty food is always going to be an equation for a successful business operation.

Look at the size of those salt flakes!
I was initially drawn to the restaurant as I spotted they offered tasting menus - but not just that, they offered MIX AND MATCH tasting menus. Those with an affinity for spending vast sums of money on small plates of food and wine kept out of arm's reach (myself included) will be aware that this is practically unheard of. Next to a tasting menu description, you'll usually see the words "to be ordered by the entire table". One person alone may not enjoy a tasting menu, nor an experience different to that of their companion. The rules associated with tasting menus is, perhaps, a discussion for another day.

Anyway, I was excited: this meant that Jamie and I could each have a different menu and try more food. Hurrah! Oh, and then it got interesting. There are three choices of tasting menus: one, which I suppose consists of the classics of the restaurant; one made up of modern-Czech dishes; and one from "our visiting Indian chef's menu". Jamie went for the first, and I the latter.

In retrospect, maybe Jamie should have opted for the Czech menu as the 'menu degustation' he opted for whilst *ahem* positively delightful, was nothing really special, just very well cooked food. There was the unctuous foie gras, served with an orange puree and brioche, the pretty-as-a-picture asparagus salad (and heaven knows what else was on there now, this was back in July, but it tasted as fresh as it looks), and the perfectly-pink steak seasoned as if Jamie had poured the salt shaker on it himself. 

Curry & Mash. I'll never understand.
And, whilst the Indian menu was by no means flawless, there were some delicious dishes: the tomato and lentil soup with green pea and "tiki croquettes" - the latter like little fish-roe explosions of flavour - the mustard tandoori tiger prawns, which I will try and recreate until my dying day, and the tandoori chicken makhani, as good as any you'll find in Mughli. The lamb-lime curry was also delicious but far too rich for the fourth course in the meal, and I'm really not sure what they were thinking when pairing it with saffron and mushroom mash. The potatoes, entirely delicious on their own, would have been lovely with a stew but with an Indian lamb curry? No no no no. The blueberry kulfi with gulab jamun balls has even seen me attempt Indian sweets at home since.

By the end of five courses, we were full to say the least. At first it felt like an expensive bill - and I think it was for Prague - but paying around £45 each for the quality of cooking and service back in the UK would have been more than reasonable. I'm not saying you should rush and book a table if you're planning a trip to the Czech Republic, but if you fancy a taste of the curry mile whilst you're there, and have a fussy bunch of eaters who are hard to please, then V Zátiší is the place for you. It was worth it for me, if only to cure me of my prejudice.

V Zátiší
Liliová 216/1, 110 00 Prague 1
Reserve online here.