Monday 19 May 2014

Mughli, Rusholme, Manchester

The Curry Mile is not somewhere I'd ever have rushed to normally. I'm not a huge fan of Indian food, finding it too often too heavy and formulaic, and designed for post-pub alcohol mopping up. I don't really get on with lots of chilli or a heavy hand with spices generally.

But a few months ago, Mughli suddenly burst onto my radar, and then, lo and behold, while I was watching Nigel Slater on the telly, even he suddenly appeared at seeking advice on spice at Mughli.

The sudden burst of recommendations on twitter tended not to mention curries, but other more interesting sounding dishes.  Looking at the menu online, my attention was particularly drawn by the words "charcoal pit" and the mention of lots of street food, snacky type things.  Talking with the owner (one of the owners?), he even suggested he'd prefer if people stuck to the street food and charcoal grilled stuff, rather than the normal curries.

You certainly can't miss Mughli on Manchester's Curry Mile: the facade is about as subtle as Jay Rayner going undercover to play D'Artagnan in a Bollywood version of the Three Musketeers.  Inside, it's a bit more discreet. It looks dark and a bit canteen-like at first, but it isn't.  There is an open kitchen area which contains the charcoal pit (actually just a charcoal grill rather than anything especially pit-like, I think), with another kitchen with the stoves and ovens beyond.

There seemed little point messing about, as it was the street food that we'd really come for, so we just ordered the lot. It amused me that, rather than writing our order down, the waiter just stuck the menu in the kitchen's tab grabber.

The charcoal pit
The chef looking very smart in his whites and toque

In general, I thought it was terrific, with a judicious, skilled use of the various spices employed.

Onion & spinach bhajis were one of the weakest of their streetfood selection we thought: a bit heavy and lacking the sophistication of some of the other dishes. Still better than some though.
Onion and spinach bhajis

Chicken pataka - "firework" chicken supposedly (according to the menu) tossed with sesame seeds, though I can't say we particularly detected them. But it was good & tasty, although might be improved with slightly larger pieces of chicken.
Chicken Pataka

Tamarind masala-battered fish was terrific: pieces of very good haddock deep fried in a masala batter and served with a chilli, tamarind and lime dressing.  A nice light, beautifully spiced batter. This worked really well, and it's worth saying that the size of the pieces of fish were just right so you got the perfect balance of fresh clean fish and crisp, spiced batter.
Tamarind masala fish

I loved the pani puri: little crisp hemispherical puris, filled with chickpea and potato chaat and served with sev, yoghurt and pomegranate seeds, and a sort of tamarind(?) water dressing to spoon over.  Such fresh, bright flavours. Why would anyone have poppadums when you can have these?
Pani Puri

Halloumi Menander - slices of halloumi, in a spiced batter - were one of real highlights of the street food menu for me. Admittedly a very similar (if indeed not the same) batter as the haddock, and really just as good. The halloumi was firmer than the haddock, so it didn't feel like the same dish.  The halloumi also avoided any trace of squeakiness.
Halloumi Menander

Samosa chaat is weird but very moreish. A vegetable samosa topped with chickpea & potato chaat, tamarind, sweet yoghurt and crisp sev so that the samosa goes soggy. The idea of piling stuff on top of a crisp samosa until it goes soggy seems very strange to my eyes, but the flavours are great, and the soggy samosa itself is curiously moreish too. 
Samosa Chaat
I've never had anything quite like the samosa chaat before. Genuine question: is it an actual Indian dish, or the rather fortuitous result of the Mughli team playing with their food as children?

Gunpowder chips are sweet potato fries with chilli salt & lemon.  Crisp on the outside but almost marshmallowy inside. Stunning and very, very addictive.  I had to slap myself to stop myself ordering an extra portion on the way out to eat in the car on the way home.
Gunpowder chips

Obviously I couldn't avoid the charcoal pit. Meat+charcoal=lust. So there came some excellent charcoal-grilled lamb chops (easily the equal of the possibly unjustifiably famous Tayaabs in London) and charcoal-grilled huge king prawns, looking liked small children's fists that have been skewered and marinated. Two separate dishes, I should add.  The lamb chops were amazingly good. But I thought the king prawns had just been a little over-basted with the marinade, which meant it ended up masking the flavour of the prawns.
Lamb chops from the charcoal pit
Giant king prawn from the charcoal pit
Chicken lollipops were something that was not currently on the menu, but on a specials menu that seemed to be somewhere between imaginary and invisible, but ultimately on its way eventually should they get round to it.  These were juicy chicken thighs, on the bone, deep fried I think. Sort of like a cross between American fried chicken and chicken piri piri, but nicer than any of either of those I've ever had. Sort of like a Nando's lorry and a Kentucky Fried Chicken lorry crashing into an Indian restaurant, but better than you'd imagine.

Chicken lollipops

Chilli okra fries: in Mumbai batter apparently. This was the poorest dish.  It had decent flavours but the okra were dried out, rubbery and very chewy.  This was the only thing we couldn't finish.  We pointed out they were a bit rubbish, but on reflection we should simply have sent them back.

Chilli okra fries

Chicken kati roll was a roomali roll filled with good tandoori chicken pieces, fresh spinach and red onions.  Good, but a poor relation of the tava roll that came next.  This kati roll was almost too packed with chicken, making it a bit monotonous to eat. Reasonably tasty, but it really needed some chutney or yoghurt within the roll to add moisture: the dressing provided on the side, didn't quite do that.

Kati roll

The tava roll didn't need anything else though: excellent juicy, spicy lamb kofte wrapped in a butter basted roti strip.
Tava roll

inside of the tava roll
Indian restaurants don't normally do desserts.  I thought Mughli was the same, and when some kulfi lollipops were offered, I assumed that was that.  But I see from other reports of meals at Mughli there may be a bit of a dessert offering, which - given what I had - it might be worth leaving room for.

Kulfi on a stick (chai flavoured kulfi, I think)
Back home where I live, all the Indian restaurants are strictly moslem, with no alcohol (not even BYO) allowed.  So a particular note for the cocktail list at Mughli.  Some really interesting, and extremely delicious cocktails, including a number of non-alcoholic versions for drivers.  I liked the watermelon lemonade mocktail, but commented that it felt a bit sweet.  When I ordered another, it was adjusted to be less sweet. That's good service. A delicious drink, with some ginger adding a hint of fire.  I must try engineer being able to try the alcoholic version (with gin) some time.  I had a quick taste of a Goan Martini (lychee, guava, vodka, lime) which was extremely delicious: you could so easily find yourself on the fifth or sixth one of those!

Mughli on Urbanspoon


Tom Blach said...

The samosa chaat is indeed a genuine and popular, though I think quite recent, dish. It sounds rather splendid but I am probably quite irrationally squeamish about eating cheap chicken these days.

Andrew Stevenson said...

Thanks for that Tom.

I've no idea about Mughli's chicken-sourcing policy (I broadly share your concerns), but their samosa chaat is entirely vegetarian, so completely safe on all counts.