Just two minutes walk from Covent Garden, this modern Indian restaurant has a brilliant grip on health and flavour combined. The food at Moti Mahal is refreshingly light – no oily sauces or heavy dishes weigh down the menu here. Head chef Anirudh Arora pays close attention to the spicing and flavour of his dishes, and the restaurant’s new tasting menu has gone one step further, with a selection of biodynamic wines matched to each course.
During April and May, Moti Mahal is offering its diners a food and wine-pairing menu, which includes four courses with a biodynamic wine matched to each one for £49.00. So what’s so special about biodynamic wines? Well, besides the fact that the process from vine to bottle is devoid of added nasties, the resulting wines are much cleaner in taste and kinder to you. If you’ve ever sipped your way through a glass of wine only to find your head aching and spinning far sooner than you thought it should, chances are you may have ingested a good few sulphides along the way. Biodynamic vineyards steer away from using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides so your glass is a more pleasurable sip all round. Moti Mahal’s wine-matching menu features four different Biodynamic wines that have been thoughtfully paired with each course.
We started off with spicy kamb dimsum, which Anirudh explained are very much part of the East Indian diet. The dimsum was lightly spiced, served up with shisho cucumber, peanut salad and a tamarind dressing, and tasted wonderfully delicate. For this first course, our food was matched with a glass of 2006 Fleur de Lotus, Josmeyer, which tasted wonderfully fresh and clean, with a subtle sweetness that arrived a little later on your palette. Next up was the tandoor-grilled chicken supreme, with grilled figs and vegetables tikki, which was matched with a glass of 2005 Pinot Gris “Le Fromenteau”, Josmeyer. The more perfumed tones of this wine worked well with the chicken and fig, standing up to their stronger flavours. As we sat back and noted how fresh the wine tasted, a scoop of sorbet was placed in front of us to cleanse our palette before the next course.
Before long, dishes of pan-fried sea bass arrived, cooked with red onion and coconut, which gave the fish a light and subtle sweet flavour. This course, typical of an Indian breakfast, was served up with steamed kanjivaram ‘idli’ (rice dumplings) and coconut herb chutney. Matched with our fish was a glass of 2004 Pinot Auxerrois ‘H’, Josmeyer, which had its own honeyed sweetness sipped alone, but showed its zingy, more tart side when matched with our savoury food.
For our sweet course we ate our way through spiced, grilled pineapple with warm pineapple ‘thandai’, ginger and pineapple ice cream. Refreshingly, the dessert wine that had been matched to this course (1997 Riesling ‘Brand’ Vendanges Tardives, Josmeyer), wasn’t overbearingly sweet. Instead of being sickly on top of our sugary dessert, this vintage had a hint of honey to it, but plenty of smoothness, without any syrupy notes in sight. Petit fours and coffee followed, but by that point we were both converts of Alsace’s Biodynamic wine offerings, and firm fans of Anirudh Arora’s approach to eat plateful of flavour.
The wine and food-pairing menu is available at Moti Mahal throughout April and May 2008, priced at £49.00 per person, including a four-course menu, sorbet, petit fours and coffee.
Moti Mahal: 45 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AA. Tel: 020 7240 9329
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar
thinking that Indian puddings run along the lines of the frozen orange sorbets and banana fritters so frequently featured on curry house menus. Not here. We ate languorous mouthfuls of our custard apple kulfi with winterberry soup, and steamed milk chocolate and orange momo (dumplings) with sloe berry and gin ice cream and tandoori strawberries. These wonderful flavour combinations arrived delicately presented on ice-cold frosted glass platters and we did the honourable thing and sent them back empty. I wouldn't want to urge you to go to Moti Mahal, just for the puddings because that might in some way imply that the main bulk of the meal wasn't of a similar standard and that certainly isn't true. But, the desserts just made what had been a very good meal into a fantastic meal and confirmed that Arora's approach to sourcing the best ingredients globally and serving up dishes that explore brave and bold flavours permeates the entire menu.
Moti Mahal is stylishly versatile - it's the kind of place where you would want to take a client for lunch, your other half for a romantic dinner or simply have a great foodie outing with friends. It is certainly a little bit more expensive than your average curry house, but prices are not outrageous (main meals range from £10.00 - £17.50) and you do get your money's worth in the shape of excellent food, sophisticated surroundings, and knowledgeable service).
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 12pm-3pm & 5.30pm-11.30pm
Average cost per head: £35.00 - £45.00 including wine
Moti Mahal:45, Great Queen Street, Covent Garden
Reviewed by: Helenka Bednar