I’ve always loved the Jungle Book. Rudyard Kipling’s enduring characters continue to enthral today’s millennial. I’ll always have fond memories of Baloo the bear, or the hypnotic Kaa, and it was these characters that I had in mind when I popped into Mowgli Street Food restaurant for a pit-stop bite to eat. Dining partner and fellow foodie Sanj recommended it, which is why we found ourselves one Monday evening waiting to be seated at Mowgli.
Located in central Manchester a stone’s throw from Selfridges (handy for a spot of shopping), Mowgli opened its doors less than a year ago in the foodie haven of the Corn Exchange. I’ve always liked the Corn Exchange. I recall weekly trips there, when I got my nails done at the nail bar around 10 years’ ago. The Corn Exchange has undergone a revamp, where food is the focus. It’s great to see a lovely space being used to its best advantage, teeming with hungry diners of all ages.
Cosy confines of Mowgli immediately put you at ease. We were promptly seated at a canteen style bench booth, ordered drinks and checked out the menu. Street food means Indian dishes are served tapas style. It’s a solid menu, including trendy tiffins, street chaats, street meats, curries and desserts. When carbs are demonised in some quarters of the press, it’s interesting to see Mowgli put its head above the fad diet parapet and honour carbs with its own category. Having separate gluten-free and vegan menus is great, which means even the most discerning diners can be accommodated.
I kicked off with the Agra ginger chicken (chicken breast, ginger, North Indian garam masala, sweet tomato, coriander, spinach) which arrived in a tiffin. Warming spices of ground cumin and a hint of cloves were very good. Slivers of fresh ginger carried through the slight heat of chilli, which in a tomato sauce base, made for a moreish dish.
Dining partner had the Mowgli house keema (ground lamb, roasted cumin, cloves, peas, cinnamon, nutmeg, tomatoes, pulses) which she loved. I pinched a spoonful, which I found to be creamy, with a medium hit of cinnamon to render it delicious.
I had a side of two puris (two soft, fried, flat breads) which were wondrously light, puffy and beautiful to look at and eat. Dining partner had Basmati rice (steamed with black cardamom, cumin), which was very good. Individual rice grains fell from my fork – a good sign as I despise sticky rice.
Treacle tamarind fries (spiced treacle, tamarind) were interesting. Imagine a pimped up version of Bombay potato and you’re halfway there in understanding this inventive interpretation of East meets West. They were good nibbles, but may not be to everyone’s palate.
The dessert menu is one of the better ones I have seen in an Indian eatery. Indian restaurants are slowly shaking off the stigma of limited dessert offering. I find usual clay pot ice-cream and mass produced kulfi frustrating and boring. Not so with Mowgli, whose diverse dessert offerings include Chocolate Mowgli cake, hand-made ice-cones and lassis. I ordered the gulab jamun (syrup soaked dough balls, served with ice-cream), which were tasty as hell. The whisper of cardamom came through at the end, which left a smile on my face. The texture of the mini doughnut-esque balls was slightly dense and gorgeous – all in all, a perfect dessert.
The drinks list is compact and great. From cocktails, bottled beers, lassis and sparkling wine, there is enough here to keep wine aficionados entertained.
Looking around the packed restaurant, I noticed a distinct lack of Asian diners. Which leads me to my next point. Is Mowgli food authentically Indian?
I think so. The food at Mowgli cleverly straddles authentically Indian, and non-Asian-palate friendly. Think of Mowgli food as traditional with a twist. Many Indian restaurants query when ordering, if I want my curry hotter than the menu offering. Not so at Mowgli, which makes me wonder, if they’ll cater to potential request. I guess we’ll find out next time.
Maybe I hadn’t had my caffeine, but I couldn’t see anything remotely ‘Mowgli-esque’ in the restaurant… something for me to ponder awhile. Another thing I will mention, is that I found myself inadvertently elbowing the diner behind me on a few occasions, as there is no back to benched seats. Next time, I’ll ask to be seated on one of the lovely tables instead. (Small tables and backless seating are two of my pet peeves.) Mowgli, see you again very soon, your chocolate cake sounds heavenly.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 7
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Address: Unit 16, 37 Corn Exchange, Manchester M4 3TR.
Tel: 0161 832 0566
*Featured image courtesy of MowgliStreetFood.com*