Last week I caught up with an old pal of mine whom I met whilst living in Dubai. Ellena & I bonded over a love of free champagne on ladies night and the need to get hammered on it 5 times a week – yuh huh, that’s right, the Middle East isn’t as intolerant to our little friend alcohol as one might think. I definitely drank on a more and on a more regular basis when I lived there than I ever have in London and that includes the time I worked in a wine bar in the square mile and was pretty much employed to down jagerbombs!
But anyway free champagne and binge drinking aside; our friendship managed to survive a move back to the UK and 5 years on; whilst we still have our champagne nights out, (that unfortunately we now have to pay for…seriously Dubai knows how to treat it’s ladies) we have also matured into people that include dinner in their much anticipated meets ups.
My friend suggested Mint Leaf bar and restaurant in Piccadilly after a quick scoot on toptable. They had a couple of decent dinner offers on so we booked in for 7pm last Wednesday.
A short walk from my work I arrived first and was shown to the bar to wait for my friend. I perused the cocktail list which I was quite familiar with after having visited the city branch of this Indian gem. Pornstar Martinis? Yes. Please.
As soon as my friend arrived (in lovely yet questionably Christmassy attire?) we were walked along what can only be described as a raised catwalk
certain death trap after a few cocktails to our table in the main restaurant.
We were bought the set menu which we had booked in for as well as the a la carte menu, another cocktail menu and then the pre-theatre menu. There’s nothing like having a bit of choice eh! We waded through the options and eventually decided to stick with the set menu. 3 courses and a Bellini each, for the bargain cost of £25.
The starter options were veggie or tandoori grills. We went for one of each with the idea of sharing but I have to say I forgot all about this when they arrived – sorry Ellena! I just love my meat! The veggie selection was paneer tikka, paneer samosa, potato beetroot tikki and stuffed bell peppers. The meat option chicken tikka, duck tikka, achari guineafowl and lamb sheekh kebab. (and in the pics below that order goes L-R)
Of course it all looked a little pretentious on arrival and to be honest that is absolutely the feel of this place. Here you are not simply grabbing a Ruby Murray as say you would down the east end (if that is what you want though I cannot recommend Lahore enough) no, here you are out for dinner and almost on your best behaviour. Dark moody lighting, a strong waft of incense, it’s very ‘west end’. Not usually my cup of tea but anyway back to the food…
I do love a mixed tandoori grill and I have to say I was a little disappointed there was no side garnish of lemon to drizzle on my tikka but all the same I found the meat delectable. Especially the duck and guineaufowl which are not usually part of a normal tandoori line up. They were great starters and just the right size to leave plenty of space for the main course.
For the main attraction my date for the night had the Murgh Makhani which was much like a tikka masala but obviously not. I had the Methi Mass which was lamb slow cooked in caramelised onions. And for picture reference mine was the one with the slightly more pooey colour – mmmmm.
Kidding aside, I was a little disappointed with the sauciness of my curry. I like it when you can soak it all up with a nice big naan but unfortunately mine was a bit thick in consistency for this. My friend’s however was really tasty and I very much enjoyed tucking into it when she wasn’t looking/in the loo!
We shared a side and had a couple of bits of naan bread each. I must admit when it all arrived on the table I thought the portions were on the small side but after starters and main I was comfortably satisfied. Normally after a curry I’m a roll me to the car, immediately need to lie down, never eating again kind of full. I think this is because you tend to get carried away ordering loads of sides and starters but the set menu didn’t allow for that which meant that you fully enjoyed what you got without feeling like Bruce Bogtrotter at the end.
Mid-meal we came to the bottom of our Bellinis so decided to order another round of cocktails and our immaturity rose it’s ugly head and encouraged us to order a ‘death in the afternoon’. Vodka, prosecco and everyone’s favourite (!), absinthe!! This drink is a death in the morning, noon and night. I was impressed with the clever layering of the different ingredients (haha, as if I’m trying to talk this concoction up!) in the champagne glass and I think this is a testament to how seriously these guys take their cocktails. Once mixed the medicine taste of the absinthe subsided and it was actually an alright drink but two of these and that aforementioned catwalk/death trap would be seriously hard to navigate.
Finally the waiter bought our third course over – dessert. It’s very rare that I have dessert. If I do it’s normally shared between a few of us and I don’t think I’ve ever had it in an Indian restaurant. I’ll be honest I have no idea what it was that we had. All I know is that the white marshmallow looking thing was mousse like and with a pinky rose hip syrup on top. I’m not in to floral flavoured food so this was a bit of a miss for me. However when combined with the warm sweet cake type thing on the left was lovely.
I was pleasantly surprised by Mint Leaf. To be honest I wasn’t going to review this place when I first knew I was going there…I just didn’t think it was going to be worth it. I thought it would be quite generic and a bit pretentious. The locations Picadilly and Bank seem to draw for men and women with money and this was certainly the case when we went with a lot of business suits in site. Don’t let that put you off though as this is a surprising little find not especially cheap but the staff really look after you and are very attentive. It’s sophisticated and the cocktails are second to none.