Why review a restaurant twice one might think when reading this post. She’s been before, the food was good, the service was consistent and the cocktails were killer, so why not move on to another restaurant?
Firstly, restaurants change and suddenly what used to be your favourite haunt has become too loud, too pricey and too bland. Go for lunch and you’ll have a totally different experience than if you would have dinner. Bring your mother and you will focus on other things than if you brought your partner. That’s why it’s interesting to re-visit a place; will it live up to the earlier expectations?
My first visit to Moti Mahal, an upscale Indian restaurant in Covent Garden, which has been the Freemason Hall’s trusted neighbour for 5 years, was a very pleasant experience. It seems however, like the restaurant could enjoy even more happy eaters if more people knew about it. I’ve been met with too many ‘Moti what?’.
With Chef Anirudh Arora heading up the establishment, this is a restaurant that delivers an explosion of colourful tastes. In all honesty, there’s not much to complain about; except that the venue is too hot, and that becomes quite noticeable when eating spicy food. Top tip: don’t wear a woolly jumper.
To start we shared a platter of fresh cruditées with a Masala spice mix, which sprinkled on top of the otherwise common vegetables, gave the trusted cucumber and tomato an extra kick.
Then in came all heavenly Indian glory in the shape of grilled butterflied jumbo prawns, butter chicken (a chicken tikka that couldn’t have been more perfectly cooked), raita, and the very special Gosht, a lamb dish with real zest prepared in a thatee grill (apparently the only of its kind in London), which made the waiter’s eyes glow when he presented it.
A paturee, tiger prawn and crab cake, came wrapped in banana leaves and the powerful aromas spread as the waiter unwrapped the little parcel. The baby okra with carom seeds and tomato masala was another dish hard to stay away from.
My favourite however, the Bhalla Papdi Chaat, was a mountain of fried pastry bits, creamy yoghurt, chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and a coriander and spinach drizzle. Imagine the different textures that blend in your mouth when you tuck in – chunky, crispy and smooth all in one. With full steam we set out to conquer the dishes, but when it came to dessert we just had to say stop.
Mint tea, please.
2 hours went by in a jiffy thanks to good company (who doesn’t enjoy a meal where topics such as Jeremy Paxman, art fairs and fat ankles come up?) and good food. What makes me really enjoy going to Moti Mahal is that it’s a safe bet for a fantastic dinner/lunch (however, lunch can be quiet, so I would recommend a buzzing dinner instead). The interior is calm and zen-like, although some people might say it borderlines boring, and the waiters glide around seemingly enjoying what they’re doing. And that’s pretty rare.
The attention to detail that has been put into the presentation of the food shows that perfection is always at the core of what Moti Mahal does. Next time I return I’m hoping for status quo.