Thursday 9 March 2017

Motu Indian Kitchen - Delivery

The Sethi Family are on a massive roll. Michelin-starred Trishna and Gymkhana, both on the high end of the Indian restaurant scale, are absolutely smashing it. If you haven't tried that wild muntjac biriyani served at the latter, get down there quick-smart.

Then they took the old Koya site and in its place opened Hoppers, a Sri Lankan casual restaurant that has seen 2 hour long queues from day 1. The only time I've eaten there it was gone 10pm, I'd whiled away the queue time in the company of margaritas and I don't remember a thing. Not their fault.

They invested in Bao, helping them open their first Soho site and consequently the larger Fitzrovia joint. So it's safe to say they know their stuff.

When they announced Motu Indian Kitchen, a delivery-only outlet in Camberwell (and Battersea, and now in Canary Wharf), I fizzed with excitement. My ends! Delivery! From the comfort of my own home! Right away I got myself as drunk as possible so as to be incapacitated the next day, to be able to justify ordering a takeaway. That's how it works in my house.

Kashmiri lamb shank rogan josh arrived whole, on the bone, resplendent and bathed in sauce, slivered ginger on top for fresh zing. Fluffy naan bread to mop, and a side combo of aubergine masala, tadka dal and samosa chat. God that was good; the samosa came nestled in a fresh, herbal green sauce and shaved coconut. The dal was soothing to the spicy, creamy aubergine masala. More bread mopping. That lamb shank though, a bit one-note. Not much depth too it. And, oh - £20.50 total for the order is a bit punchy.

All in all, not bad, an impressive spread, if a little underwhelmed with the shank. Then I got an email from the PR offering me some credit to try it out - woo! More to try. This time I went for the 'feast box for 1' - "from £16.00" at the time, and you had more prices to add on dependent on which option you went for for the main - which meant you were hitting around £21 for the feast box. They seem to have done away with this now, so it is just a straight-up £16, far better value. It includes kachumber raita, mango chutney, poppadoms, naan, pilau rice and you main of choice. Saves you fannying around trying to decide what to add (though my previous local threw in poppadoms & chutneys gratis). I added the grilled seekh kebab too, because why not. It is a TERRIBLE picture. Soz.

It's quite the feast, and I was properly stuffed. The chicken tikka masala was rich and smooth - not my usual order, but one I enjoyed. I was a little put out that there was only a few pieces of chicken, but that was more in aesthetic in a large, shallow bowl than desire for more. Fluffy rice and a well-spiced kebab made me happy.

It happened again. It had sort of turned into a Sunday ritual now. A feast box jumped into my order, along with 6 tandoori chicken wings and that spicy-ass aubergine masala again, and this time, lamb biriyani. Well spiced, fluffy rice with generous chunks of slow-cooked lamb, garnished with a little mint on top, especially good with the kachumber raita. Holy shit I spent £32 on a takeaway! I justified this that it fed me a further two lunches, but £32!

So having had 3 takeaways from Motu (one of which the PR paid the £25 for) I can safely say it's a very delicious meal made using high quality ingredients. This isn't your typical takeaway with a film of ghee / oil floating around. And thank GOD they've stopped calling them 'cuzzas' on their online menu, and otherwise I really like their branding - slick. But, for the money which is not inconsiderable, Rajah Rowing Team pip it for me, especially as they have a wider menu selection. Their prawn puri is the stuff of dreams. But we're in a very privileged position to have two very fine contenders.

Order via Deliveroo only. 

Tuesday 7 March 2017

The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds

I don't think I've ever waited 10 months for a restaurant reservation, but 10 months I waited, which is about standard for The Man Behind The Curtain, in Leeds. I have absolutely no idea why it's called that, and I really expected to be sitting at a darkened spotlit bar, velvet curtain flung back dramatically while each dish is served with a flourish, face forever hidden. My expectations were poorly researched (if at all).

No, The Man Behind The Curtain is a large, white space on the top of a department store, splattered with paintings much like the dish plated in the opening photo. Staff don leather aprons with either muted or fluorescent straps, possibly to denote seniority? It reminded me of Street XO Madrid, similarly located, and similarly what would become an attack on the senses. 

We were seated, one of only three parties in the room. Sunlight shone directly into my eyes, and the staff hurried to close the floor-to-ceiling black curtains, clearly used to it. Strains of Placebo played, and we opted for the full tasting menu, a secret to us and one that would remain to be so for the duration of the meal, save our server's explanations as the plates come down. Bathrooms are alarmingly furnished with egg yolk-yellow toilet roll, so notable my friend brought some (clean I hope) to the table for us to all goggle over.

We started with an oyster served with strawberry kimchi. So delighted was I with the spicy strawberry pickle, I barely registered what was a plump and juicy mollusc, briny of the sea. 

Raw langoustines, served tartare style, arrived within a tree soon after. We all cooed over the pretty presentation, though the slippery, sweet seafood was unfortunately tainted by the blood-like tang of metal, the base of the spoon itself worn until tarnished. My companions were not as unlucky as I was, and loved theirs far more. 

We were served in a flurry, perhaps to keep within the 2hr 15 min timing stated on the menu. A tiny little bao, fluffy and garish red, nestled veal sweetbreads in XO sauce, pickled shiitake mushrooms and kimchi mayo. The mint and basil mentioned were absent to my palate. A cute mouthful, and one I could have repeated several times over. 

Wagyu beef tartare arrived in a cosmic bowl, slightly suspended with gordal olives and some sort of creamy sauce. I really wish I'd asked for a printed menu, or had one proffered. The fatty beef with the rich metallic flavours melted on the tongue, and while I found the transparent potato starch sheets balancing on top impressive in looks, it brought nothing to my party. My appetite was appropriately whetted, and I impatiently awaited the next course. 

The chef, Michael O'Hare, clearly has a colour scheme going on; it's not often you see this much red amongst savoury courses, and this was the most surprising. Within the shards of Sriracha crackers (which didn't contain even a hint of the now-ubiquitous condiment) was a spider crab, wonton skin and lardo 'lasagne' - layers of rich crab flavour, crisp crunch and rich pork fat. Underneath the sheet of bilberry jam (what the hell is a bilberry?) was a tiny, fried quails egg which I didn't especially know what to do with. I sort of wish they'd wrapped the crab, wonton and pork fat combo in some silky pasta and bathed it in a cream sauce. I started to long for comfort and warmth.

'Fish & Chips', made famous by O'Hare's appearance on The Great British Menu, was probably one of my favourite courses. Buried under a pile of crisp potato, was a perfectly seemingly steamed piece of cod, swimming in squid ink. The entire thing was dusted with malt vinegar powder, and topped with sprayed, golden prawns. I love sour flavours, and I loved this. Each mouthful was intensely seaside, that distinct flavour of fried, the lip puckering balance. 

'Polpo' was what this one was called, after the crockery it was served in. Shared between two, three pieces of beef rib were braised until tender - too tender, really, to be picked up with chopsticks and dipped in one of the mustard, coriander or truffle sauces, especially when you're sharing. Still, I enjoyed the burger-like flavour of the mustard combination especially. 

The last of the main courses looked like a piece of modern art, or something someone might have dropped. Depends how you feel about art, I suppose. Iberico pork, cooked until blushing pink, with a boquerone anchovy, anchovy cream, slow cooked egg and charcoal shavings. There was a gooey, sticky, reduced meaty jus hiding in there too, which was sweet and delicious and definitely not enough of it. The anchovy was the imposter here, one that clanged my palate and jarred my flavours that I was enjoying so much - the smoky, the rich, the porky. 

And like that, we were on to dessert. I was disappointed. It didn't feel like 8 courses, and I felt a little lacking. But no matter; dessert looked like it was sent from space. Lavender and chocolate ice cream came sheathed in white chocolate sprayed silver, a potato custard dotted with beetroot vinegared rice crispies. 

Not your typical colours of what one might find naturally, but the combination was pleasant. The potato in the custard contributed only towards texture, a silky smooth feeling in the mouth. 

Petit fours delighted and disgusted our group in equal measure. Cupcakes, edible entirely including its casing, hid a liquid passionfruit centre that exploded in the mouth, sending giggles all around the table. The wannabe Daim bar was dusted in cardamom and caraway, reminiscent of those handfuls of aromatics you grab on your way out of the local curry house to chew on to freshen the breath. 

Just like that, and £120 each later, we were done. There was nothing about the room or the staff (though pleasant) that made us want to spend any longer there, and we disbanded to a nearby pub. My overall and overwhelming experience was one of muted whimsy. The food felt discordant, not so much ecstatically pleasurable but wilfully provocative. I have no doubt that Michael O'Hare is a talented chef, and several courses excited me, but overall I was left with a sense of dissatisfaction. I wished for a hot dish, perhaps some bread and butter. I was there for an event, a procession of art, not to be fed. 

I ate a McDonald's on the train home. 

68-78 Vicar Lane,
Top floor Flannels
Leeds LS1 7JH

 For better pictures and quite a different opinion to mine, check out Chris' post here