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Review: Moksh, Cardiff

Spherification

Spherification

If you are an Indian restaurant with pretensions of fine dining, please learn this lesson first: portion sizes should be smaller on tasting menus. When a full sized curry with a complete portion of rice and naan rocks up after I’ve already eaten 3 amuse bouches and 4 starters, I just know I’m going to be spending the rest of the day in an uncomfortable, bloated, semi-insensible heap.

Moksh has been down in the middle of Cardiff’s smart dockland area for a few years now, and the dining room is looking very tired. Though I’m told they’re in the process of moving so it’ll be interesting to see the upgrade. Having come all this way, we went for the tasting menu. Ordered a couple of cocktails while we waited – they were inelegant and over-sweet.

Street(lamp) food

Street(lamp) food

First amuse was a big ruby red spherification filled with a gentle cranberry and star anise yogurt. It was a bit surreal to have the chef explain to us that “we use chemicals here, to enhance the presentation and flavour”. Please, for your own sake, don’t say chemicals! We know how molecular gastronomy works, we’re cool. But I don’t think most diners are very comfortable associating the word “chemicals” with food. : )

The stand-out amuse bouche was a lentil soup. It had a fantastic clean, hot, green spiced flavour. But this was a whole bowl of soup. Not an amuse bouche. There was also one knock-out starter: a prawn with lemon moilee, a south Indian seafood sauce with a slick, rich, tangy flavour that I could have eaten a bucket of. My main course was probably the best laal maas I’ve had, with an earthy hot sauce of a rich burgundy colour over chunks of slow-cooked lamb and good rice. Maureen’s crispy battered tilapia with a tangy Goan curry was also excellent.

Laal maas - great

Laal maas – great

But most of the other amuse bouches and starters were just hey-ho. Huge chunk of dry tandoori chicken breast smothered in a flavoursome green yogurt paste. Typical street food dish of vada and chickpeas that could have been had at the dozen or so Indian street food places in Cardiff. Poppadoms with an admittedly bright mint dip. Puddings – which we tried really hard to shove into some remaining gaps – were not impressive. Macaroon with sweet hummus was pleasant, date meringue just sticky, pistachio mousse way too subtle to be worth eating, curry ice cream was at least flavourful although the flavour chosen was staunchly yellow curry powder.

Don’t get me started on the gimmicks. Chef Gomes has got hold of the idea that innovative fine dining = gimmicks. The street food dish had a teeny-tiny street lamp attached. Clove-scented dry ice appeared twice. The tandoori came in a glass jar filled with eye-watering hickory smoke. The lamb chop came with candy floss. “Why candy floss?” “It’s gastronomic.” : )

There were three excellent dishes at Moksh; the lentil soup, the moilee and the main curries. I think if you treat Moksh as a top-notch curry house and order any two dishes that don’t sound very experimental, you could well be onto a real winner; there’s a deft touch here with authentic Indian cooking. But the attempt to elevate into tasting menu territory isn’t working at all, it’s all gimmick and no thought. I waddled out with very mixed feelings.

Dessert in the smoke

Dessert in the smoke

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