[London, Covent Garden] Moti Mahal
Moti Mahal is up there in my top 5 favourite Indian restaurants (along with Prashad and Mumtaz in Bradford, Dilli in Altrincham and the Manchester branch of Akbar’s – the Yorkshire based mini-chain). All have their individual plus points , as well as serving good food. Moti Mahal’s contribution is that it’s the most upscale of the five – proper tablecloths, even.
I’ve eaten off their main “Grand Trunk Road” menu in the past but fancied a simpler presentation on this visit. The set menu seemed just the thing at £38. And when I saw that it was on offer at just £19, it became less of a bargain and more of a complete steal.
There’s a “freebie” cut-it-yourself salad to start, offered with a little dish of ground masala spices, another of flavoured salt and a tiny bottle of oil.
Chicken tikka was my starter choice – moist meat, with just the right amount of charring round the edges and just the right amount of spicing. It was served with a little coriander chutney and a raita.
It’s chicken, lamb or veggie for starters. And it’s chicken, lamb or veggie for mains. The Rajasthani lamb curry (Laal Maas) is a classic from the region. I recently had it at a restaurant near home (not one of my top five places – but in the top ten). Then the spicing was overly aggressive but not here. Of course, there is a good chilli hit but the other spicing was more subtle, more complex.
Alongside, there was a dish described only as “curried vegetables of the day”. I wouldn’t rate this as an outstanding success. Served dry and very well fried to an almost uniform brown, I confess to not really being able to identify exactly what was in there. Aubergine and okra, perhaps – but, in truth, it was really anyone’s guess. Tasted good enough, though, and a pleasant contrast to the meat dish.
There was also a very decent naan, bordering on being the crisper (and preferred) tandoori roti. Another vote for the two guys you can see in the kitchen manning the two tandoors. Really good stuff. I took an extra order of pulao rice to make sure my carb levels were kept topped up.
There’s a newish general manager and Michael Cheung is clearly running a very tight ship. You could just see that everything was working seamlessly. Good on him. But if I have one piece of advice for Michael, it’s ditch the £1.50 cover charge. It’s irritating and it’s petty. If need be, just up the price of a dish or two.