This week a bunch of us visited Mowgli in Miller Arcade in Preston City Centre.Advertisement
It occupies the premises that formerly housed French Connection, where you could buy t-shirts with FCUK printed on the front to enjoy the edgy thrill of almost swearing at everyone without being chased. It lost its impact and inevitably folded when the internet came along and made it possible to be an offensive DCIK to anyone on social media without even having to put your grundies on. Luckily for us, it was eventually replaced by Indian street food chain Mowgli.
The decor is bright and cheery, with Mowgli’s trademark four seater tables with swing seats lining the windows, but as there were five of us we had to sit on the boring seats.
Options on the menu are accompanied by helpful descriptions. There are individual menus with plenty of choice for vegans and those intolerant to gluten, and they are also licensed to serve alcohol.
According to their website, Mowgli is “all about the type of food that Indians cook and eat at home; born to feed the raw need Indians have for dishes full of fresh, bright, intense flavour.”
My mother Yvonne ordered a Mowgli chip butty for £7.50, described on the menu as “a flavour grenade! Roti wrap, fenugreek kissed turmeric fries, chilli pickle, red onion, coriander, green chilli and Mowgli tomato relish.”
It sounded lovely, but when I read “kissed” on a menu I can’t help envisioning one ingredient getting it on with another on my plate when I’m eating, and that’s not my kink. Also the fenugreek hadn’t just kissed the fries, it had impregnated them before nipping out to the corner shop for some fags, never to be seen again.
The chip butty was Instagrammably beautiful, and the combination of ingredients was so punchy that I had to concede that it was indeed a “flavour grenade,” albeit one that Yvonne heroically deactivated by asking for some mayonnaise.
My daughter GZ ordered the same items that she always gets. Yoghurt chat bombs for £6, which are described as “the heart of Mowgli. Crisp bread puffs filled with chickpeas, spiced yoghurt, tamarind and coriander,” and Goan fish curry at £9.25, which is “boneless market fish simmered in a fragrant, fiery, tangy, sweet mahogany sauce. With tamarind, ginger, coriander and dried smokey Kashmiri red chillies.”
The chat bombs are very similar to the pani puris that can be found in other Preston restaurants such as RK Dining and Saladishy, but without the spiced water. They were deliciously tangy and it was a bonus that they were served pre-filled, because there’s nothing sadder than smashing one into shards of crushing, unfillable disappointment because of a bungled attempt at tapping a hole in the top.
The fish curry was exactly as described on the menu, sharing the same tangy tamarind theme as the chat bombs but with a kick that would possibly be too much for someone who doesn’t like the heat. Those who do can still appreciate the balance between the chillies and the other spices, as no one ingredient overpowered another.
I didn’t enquire as to what kind of fish was in the curry, but the chunks held together well and – as anyone who has seen the state of a monkfish can attest – sometimes it’s best not to know. Also, I forgot to ask.
I’d decided to go for the office worker’s tiffin for £20 after first checking that no manky mushrooms were going to Jack Reacher their way onto my plate under the cover of the other dishes. It’s described as “four tiers of meat, veg and carb jeopardy chosen by Chef as it is in India”.
I forgot to check that no garden peas would be making an appearance as I despise them, so they crept in with one of the Chef’s mystery curries that turned out to be Mowgli house keema: “succulent ground lamb, roast cumin, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, peas, tomatoes and pulses simmered for hours to create a darkly rich and heady dish”.
The curry was tasty, with the aroma of warm spices that often drift around at Christmas time to trap people into eating turkey that always manages to taste of none of them.
The second curry was green ginger and rhubarb dhal: “tangy and sweet green mung lentils simmered with cumin, ginger and rhubarb”.
I love dahl, and the addition of rhubarb sounded interesting, but I found it the least enjoyable of the selection. It was edible but watery and under seasoned, without any discernible rhubarb flavour.
The final curry was the house chicken: “a lush Kerelan curry simmered with fragrant curry leaves, coconut milk and ground almonds. You want tame but tantalising? Then go for this one.”
It surprised me by being my favourite. I wouldn’t have chosen it if I’d read it on the menu as I’d have been put off by the tame description. Combined with the addition of almonds it sounded suspiciously similar to a korma, which in many UK chain restaurants means adding some flecks of curry powder and a can of Red Bull to a tin of custard. However, it was incredibly tasty with the unmistakable flavour and aroma of curry leaves adding an extra layer of interest, and it was blissfully unspoilt by too much sweetness.
The office worker’s tiffin had “jeopardy” in the description, but I was unaware of any potential threat lurking amongst the curries, and the plain boiled rice in the final Tiffin tin didn’t scream danger, so either the person who wrote the menu just got carried away or the universe was trying to warn me about the garden peas, bless it.
The meal was lovely overall, and there was more than a full meal’s worth left over to take home for my dad.
The only thing that marred our visit was that all of the food in the office worker’s tiffin came to the table vaguely warmish – not hot – so it became cold and less enjoyable long before we were half way through.
They were obviously understaffed with only one person, who I believe is one of the managers, working out front. The service slipped as a result, but not for the lack of effort and energy from the lone worker who was flying around the restaurant like a hummingbird, and who deserves a medal for not giving up, lying down in the middle of the restaurant and crying until everyone left.
Due to the staffing issue we couldn’t get the attention of the server and were only asked if the meal was alright after we’d requested the bill, but the manager apologised and knocked 10% off the total, which was a nice gesture.
Mowgli is a great addition to Preston City Centre’s restaurant resume. The modern decor follows the rules of “if it exists on the material plane, get some fairy lights on it”, which is always a winner, and the vibrant food and buzzing atmosphere makes it a great place to enjoy Indian street food in the afternoons or the evenings.
Have you been festooned with fairy lights after taking too long to eat your curry? Illuminate us about it in the comments.
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