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Review: Mowgli, Birmingham

Chat bombs

Chat bombs

I love the arrival of Indian streetfood in the UK. It’s such a breath of fresh air after the decades of meat-in-sauce curry house cooking that was all you could find anywhere unless you went for the handful of fine dining Indians that started to appear in the late 90’s.

That said, I found Mowgli to be a terrific disappointment. I’m reviewing my second visit, but the different dishes I had on my first gave me the same impression. Part of the disappointment, perhaps, is just that I really wanted to love them, as they seem to have an earnest and honest presence on social media while they start to expand themselves beyond their apparently much-loved birthplace in Liverpool.

Mowgli

Mowgli

So, we start with chat bombs. And they are nice, light, crisp shells. But the filling is mostly sweet and creamy, nowhere near enough fire and sour to balance it out. Our other pick from the street food side is treacle tamarind fries. Well… not really fries, they are chunks of potato. They might have been sauted, but the sticky coating has removed any crispiness. Certainly sticky and treacly, but again sweet is the main flavour with not enough sour tamarind to balance it. An entire dish of them is just a bit much.

On to mains. In spite of the cute “it’s street food, it arrives when it’s cooked!” message from our server at the outset, on both my visits it basically goes starters (the street food) and then mains (the rest of the menu). They could just say that.

Tomato-y potatoes

Tomato-y potatoes

The house keema is… mince, with some chickpeas, and a generic spicy gravy. I really had hoped it might hum with flavour and build warmth in my mouth. It’s inoffensive. The potato curry is poor. It’s chunks of potato in a tomato sauce. In fact, it’s exactly the same as the first potato curry I ever made as a student. An attempt I was very disappointed with, even all those years ago, because it didn’t taste like a proper curry; it just tasted like cooked tomato with some heat.

The rice and breads are fine. The rose and cardamon lassi is good enough, though the cardamon flavour is very hard to detect. The dining room is beautiful, modern, fun, and has people queuing up to get in. It’s a nice place for a bite to eat with friends. If you are an aficionado of great Indian cooking, it’s not for you. Check out 3Bs in Cardiff!

Tamarind fries

Tamarind fries

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