The Indian home kitchen, on the bustling Ecclesall Road, was the first Mowgli to open in Yorkshire in Spring 2019, joining others in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford and Nottingham.
It became a successful chain in a short space of time and all started when Nisha Katona - founder and food writer who regularly appears on radio and television as an industry expert - quit her 20 year career as a barrister.
She said it is all about how Indians eat at home and on their streets and the “smash and grab zing of healthy, light, virtuosic herbs and spices”.
Nisha has a special connection not only to the dishes, some being family favourites, but also the sites themselves. The spot on Ecclesall Road for instance is nearby her aunty and uncle’s home, on Kingfield Road, where she would eat mint choc chip ice cream with green cardamom in their lounge.
We sat at our table in the middle of the restaurant and the first thing we remarked on was how loud and lively it was considering we arrived past 8pm on a Wednesday.
A waitress helpfully gave us a rundown of what was on offer, describing it as an ‘tapas style Indian’ and recommended we both choose a few dishes each.
We wanted to try everything. Based on the rich descriptions, we ordered angry bird (chicken thighs marinated and roasted in tandoor spices, yoghurt, ginger and garlic, served with popped mustard Mowgli Slaw), house chicken curry (a Kerelan curry simmered with fragrant curry leaves, coconut milk and ground almonds) and bunny chow (described as Mowgli’s showstopper and a South African Indian railway worker’s favourite. A fruity, hot, chicken and potato curry served inside a bread loaf). We got basmati rice, treacle tamarind fries and puri on the side.
For drinks, I got a chilli mango margarita (Tequila, mango and lime juice, sugar syrup and chilli) - sweet with a fiery but subtle kick - and a rose and cardamom lassi - I love lassis and the rose shone through. I also had a smoked cardamom old fashioned (Monkey Shoulder whisky, apricot liqueur, smoked freshly fired black cardamom and curry leaves) which was strong but sweet.
Dishes arrived when they were ready. First came the tamarind treacle fries, which were divinely sticky, and the angry bird which tasted smoky and tender.
Then our curries, rice and puri landed. The bunny chow was a meal all on its own, bowled in a large piece of bread which soaked up the flavours. We agreed the tastiest dish on the table was the house chicken curry which was tame but tantalising. Although, it was all delicious.
We couldn’t resist the gulab jamun for dessert (syrupy, nutty milk dough balls served warm with ice cream). They were described on the menu as the equivalent of a ‘nan’s’ sticky toffee pudding’ and a dessert Nisha’s family insisted made the menu.
Between mouthfuls I had to smile at the passersby peering in as I had.
The bill came to £80.36, £7.21 of which was a compulsory 10 percent service charge. There was also £1 automatically added to the bill to go towards the Mowgli Trust which donates to various local charities around the country.
Overall, the experience was spectacular and one I cannot wait to share again with more friends and family.