What could be more sensationally tantalising than an Indian home-kitchen dining experience in the heart of Oxford? Dining on a swing set amongst thousands of twinkling lights and the hustle and bustle of fellow spice-lovers: what a feastfor the senses!
Mowgli’s was famously born in 2014 to feed the raw need of bright and fresh intense flavours from India celebrating healthy, light and virtuosic herbs and spices. Come pull up a floating seat and experience this journey of discovery with me…
There’s no denying the fact that us Brits love a good curry and Indian cuisine has been a fundamental part of my childhood whilst growing up in a sleepy English village. Some of my fondest memories are cooking with my mother, having the honour of grinding fresh spice mixes in her very special marble pestle and mortar and creating our own curry pastes and fresh sauces from scratch to the tune of sizzling oils and the crunch of crisp batter on our handmade bhajis and pakoras. I was that child who went to school with their jumper constantly smelling of fragrance and spice because we enjoyed making curry multiple times a week.
However the simple dishes on the Mowgli menu are far from the British stereotype of feasting on curry washed down with a pint during the football at the pub; their dishes delve deeper into real Indian food which many fail to realise is extremely healthy, often vegan and always packed with bursting and bright fresh flavours. In 2018 Mowgli was awarded a placement in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list, and creator Nisha received an MBE for services to the Food Industry which is testament to this trailblazing journey where each chef is hand-trained.
From the moment I stepped through the doors of the rooftop restaurant overlooking Oxford’s skyline I could feel the energy in the room. It felt like coming home even though it was my very first time and that in itself is an atmosphere that is priceless.
The feverous chitter-chatter of smiling diners, the tinkering of cutlery and honestly loving placement of metal plates making contact with chunky wooden tables rang out amongst the fragrance of zesty summer spices and twinkling lights in glass jars.
They say that you eat with your eyes before you smell and taste your food and that’s what made this experience so sensational for me. Lit up like a childhood fairytale by thousands of twinkling lights in glass jars, the surroundings of industrial lighting, chunky wood-plank table tops and scaffolding poles melted lovingly into a warm glow that made everything sparkle.
Simple, understated yet generously magical, everything felt so out-of-the-ordinary yet entirely welcoming at the same time; different yet familiar, exciting with a hint of traditional. From the cutlery served in ghee cans to the sharing-style meals in metal tins, I found myself reassuringly rocking on tip-toes on my rope swing seat, soaking up the atmosphere and smiling at such a wonderfully delightful experience.
Dining as a vegan along with a vegetarian and meat eater, we were thrilled to find dishes to please us all with food allergies conveniently listed on the back of each menu – clear, concise and so refreshingly informative as I hate being that person who has to ask for modifications to meals or fail to have choice.
For my lunch I chose:
-Temple Dal – “The ultimate Indian home comfort food. Red lentil simmered wth toasted cumin, coriander & lemon. £4.50”
-Tea Steeped Chickpeas – “Chickpeas simmered in a rich Darjeeling spiced tomato & spinach sauce. £4.95”
-Mowgli Basmati Rice – “Steamed with black cardamom & cumin. £2.75”
-Mango Tonic Mocktail – “Orange, passionfruit, mango & lime, shaken with coriander & topped with soda. £5.20”
On the table we also shared:
-Fenugreek Kissed Fries – “Potato with turmeric, fenugreek & the Mowgli masala. £5.75”
-Puri – “Soft fried flat breads. These mean party time in the Indian home. £3.20 for 2”
The food arrives fast and fresh in the order it is ready in metal tins, which I found urbanly funky. I found myself almost childishly excited to watch the waiter approach with his tray before removing the lids to the tins and calling out the meals I had so eagerly awaited.
Dal is a huge staple in my vegan diet and assists me in training as a plant based bodybuilder providing me with energy and protein. I also consume chickpeas by the can-load and adore making fresh hummus, so my menu choice really was a given before I’d even stepped in the door and I had high hopes for the Mowgli twist brought to these classic dishes.
Light, fresh, fruity and summer-sweet; for true curry lovers who enjoy experimenting with seasonal vegetables and spices, you will understand what I mean when I say there is a great difference between summer and winter curries. I create richer, thicker sauces in the winter with starchy root vegetables and dark greens whilst in the summer I use cherry tomatoes, lashings of fresh lemon juice and fragranced spices within my rice.
The lentils were melt-in-the-mouth comforting with the freshness of lemon to lift them perfectly for a balmy summers day, whilst the Darjeeling steeped chickpeas were delightfully rich and glossy with the depth of succulent spinach leaves complimented wonderfully by the light fluffy rice infused with black cardamom and toasted cumin seeds.
I accompanied my meal with an alcohol-free mango cocktail, or mocktail, containing orange, passionfruit, mango and lime shaken with coriander and topped with soda which left my tastebuds dancing. If your vision of going for a curry is to accompany the football at the pub or for a special family gathering on a Friday night amongst candlelit finery and linen table clothes, please experience this incredible cuisine in a fresh and funky street food style and I promise you will rediscover it’s passion and soul all over again.