Indian food is probably the cuisine I'm least familiar with but in the spirit of trying something different I decided to book in at Mughli for their Valentine's night 'chefs notebook' evening. I haven't been to the Curry Mile for years and had forgotten just what a sensory overload wandering down Wilmslow Road can be. Restaurant lights and signs as far as the eye can see, the queue of taxis, the mix of people and the wonderful smell of spices and grilled meats in the air
Mughli smelt even better inside than outside and judging by the aromas coming from the kitchen as we were seated I knew I was in for a treat. Imagine working in a restaurant like this for a few years and starting to associate such a mouth-watering smell with the start of a night shift - I wonder if it ever gets old.
The restaurant itself was very cosy and welcoming but we were disappointingly sat a few tables over from 6 beered up blokes who were downing beers and had started on football chants. At this point we did have a brief chat as to whether we should even stay, it seemed pretty inappropriate to let a group like this in on Valentine's night when they were clearly going to be so busy. In defence of the staff they did keep going over to quieten them down and then when the bill was requested they shuffled them out of the door as quickly as possible.
The Valentine's menu was entitled the 'Chef's Notebook' and served in courses of snacks to start, a starter each, a main each with sides and then dessert to share for £22.50.
We started with cocktails, the drinks menu was short but with some imaginative options, there was more than enough to keep us interested on our first visit. The watermelon fizz (gin, fresh watermelon and ginger) being a particular hit, the watermelon worked incredibly well with the gin creating a really refreshing drink.
The first course was the spicy far far to share. Multi-coloured, deep fried puffed up crispy snacks, almost like mini-papadums. I assumed the dip was going to provide the spice and soon realised what an idiot I'd been as I popped a handful into my mouth at once - the spice was baked into the crisps and they had a red hot kick to them.
I went for the chicken lollipop for my starter - 4 small fried chicken legs coated with spices. The meat was superbly tender with a lovely warming batter, easily the best friend chicken i've had in Manchester, I could comfortably have sat and enjoyed a huge portion of these.
The sweetcorn tikka was 3 chicken nugget size battered fritters packed with potato, sweetcorn, spinach and green chilli. These didn't wow me in the same way as the chicken did but were tasty enough. The menu suggested they were supposed to come with a pineapple chutney but both the starters were served with the same lime and coriander chutney which was delicious anyway - very fresh and mild on way down but with a lovely green chilli flavour left behind.
For mains, we shared the Nilgiri Chicken which was served in a delicious mild green pepper, mint and coriander sauce. Chana Daal Gosht was spectacular - big chunks of lamb on the bone and heaving with split yellow lentils. There was also a dash of wilted spinach and just the right amount of onion - enough to flavour but not overpower.
The Sides were a mixed bag - naans were delicate and crispy, with a sprinkling of coriander and red onion. There was just enough bread to soak up the sauce but not those huge dense naans you often see that overload with carbs. The rice wasn't completely broken up with a few dense clumps at the bottom but aside from that nothing to complain about. There was also a side of spiced kidney beans and a couple of pakora floating in what was billed as Tumeric sauce - neither of these were particularly impressive flavour wise and we didn't finish them, they seemed like a bit of an afterthought after such strong mains.
The Jalabi dessert was great, it didn't look but the sweetened sticky pastry rings were like fine crispy donuts, the dish of milk was still warm and ultra sweet - great to dip and bite.
The service slightly took a shine off things, empty drinks were taken away without a request to order more meaning immediately trying to flag another waiter down. We also had to wait over 30 mins for the dessert to come which was pushing it a little when it was a set menu so we didn't even need to choose, a couple of the tables around us were getting similarly frustrated - the restaurant was buzzing with waiting staff so I can only imagine not everyone was clear on the set menu principle. Considering people were queuing for tables as we left they were essentially turning custom away due to poor organisation.
Food wise - easily into my Manchester top ten and definitely very highly recommended. I've already made plans to head back in a couple of weeks to check out the full menu and we'll see whether the service has improved then.