The first thing that hits you when you walk into The Mogul Room is the smell. It takes no prisoners.
Here is an aroma – wonderful, let us be clear – that rushes at you and envelops you and welcomes you into its spicy, saffrony, smoky bosom. It sticks a loving arm round your shoulders. It tells you: pull up a pew, old boy, you’ve had a long journey – even though all you’ve probably done is walk next door from the Porter Cottage.
That smell, as it turns out, is the last thing to leave too.
Our clothes the morning after carry all the intense essence from the night before. Four days later my coat still has a scent that makes me want to pour mint sauce on and attack it with a fork.
So, that’s the first impression. The Mogul Room, in Sharrow Vale Road, smells awesome.
We’re here because of a Star reader tip-off.
In this brave new world of social media, we’ve had a couple of tweets recommending the place and so, intrigued, we find ourselves basking in the tang, while admiring the mock-luxury furnishings.
Manager Chris Purvur will later tell us the cushions, mini-arches and dinky pillars which dot the 54-seat room are inspired by the Mughal Empire. When current owner Mo Khan took over in 2008 – changing its name from Elinas – his aim was to offer a taste of the lavish cooking associated with the 16-19th century Indian dynasty.
In so far as one can tell – and that really is only so far as this writer has never been to 16th century India – he’s done a decent job.
Onion bhajis are good. There’s no over-reliance on flour or oil to bolster things here, it’s just a cricket ball of imperial delicacy. Similarly the tandoori mixed kebab – chicken tikka, lamb tikka and nuclear red chicken wings – is the sort of messy, melty comfort meat that could keep a man cheerful in monsoon season.
The garlic chilli tikka, for mains, is easy on the eye – a fierce and fiery chicken tossed with a colourful support of peppers, onions and shallots – and good in the gob, offering an extravagance of textures. Lamb karai was lean and mean, a dry, quiet dish, unshowy in its cast iron pot but generous with rich thick flavour. Saag aloo combined the innate rusticity of potatoes with the crackle and pop common in Indian food.
Sides of rice and chapati did their thing. Additionally, because we’d been sat at a table near the door we were given free poppadoms and pickle tray – a welcome touch. A range of desserts are available, though on this occasion we shamefully passed.
Which perhaps leaves one question? Did the food live up to that alluring aroma? Not quite maybe but, then, not much could. The Mogul Room – like the empire it was inspired by – is expansive, cultured and, one suspects, here to stay for some time.
n £35 with two beers.