"Don’t try and find Mumbai on this map, or you will have an argument with each other,” said the waiter at this restaurant, where the tables feature carved wooden maps of India under glass.
We lifted our place mats to have a look. What I saw seemed like an excellent representation of this subcontinent. My other half pointed out that it was more like a giant amorphous tray bake that had been portioned into wobbly rectangles by a partially sighted person. Indeed, I am the one who failed geography.
Though the tables may not be approved by Ordnance Survey, the rest of the place is pretty dapper. There’s a sparkly chandelier as huge as an upside down baobab tree, wine coloured walls and their waiting staff are dressed up like they’re off on a cruise.
On the menu, don’t expect lashings of ghee, as this food’s USP is the fact that it’s been designed with a healthy twist.
Their head chef, Pramod Nawani, relies on spices rather than fat for flavour, and, apparently, much of the meat is cooked on their tawa grill and sigri cooking stove, as well as the tandoor oven.
I went for venison boti (£6.95), aka Bambi’s bum (sorry), which consisted of five knobbly hunks of tightly fibrous, but still pink, charred meat with an ashen dusting of dried herbs and a tang of sweetness from the pineapple and honey marinade. This came with two tadpole shaped flourishes of creepingly hot chilli sauce.
Our other starter – the monkfish tikka (£8.95) – was equally meatily generous, with three puffball mushroom like dollops that were dappled by a grilled and bubbly fresh yoghurt topping. They came with a thick sauce, served in a separate jug, that was herbal tasting and as green as a frog dressed up as a leprechaun.
A main course of hake (£13.95) featured a rather thick and dry piece of fish, which was served on top of a few slivers of wet courgette. The star of the show was the lipstick red helping of thick and juicy “tamarind-based gravy” which had layers of flavour – tomatoey, coconutty, tart and sweet.
Our chicken palak (£11.50), from the curry list, consisted of rather dry gobbets of poultry (I see a pattern emerging) in a mossy swirl of spinach, garlic and chilli. Again, although the meat was meh, the sauce was marvellous.
Trimmings here include sides of pilau rice (£3.75) and a not very garlicky garlic naan (£3.50) – one of each was more than enough for both of us.
With a dedicated pastry chef on the premises, they haven’t neglected the pudding choices.
Served on a long plate, which they laid down somewhere over the wibbly wobbly rectangle with the word Calcutta (now Kolkata) written on it, the Indian trio (£5.95) was the better of our two options. As well as a fritter of chewy and cardamom-y carrot halwa, there was a dinky bowlful of rice pudding made with basmati, which was addictive, glue-y and soothingly sweet, and a golden and juicy gulab jamun squashed onto a dollop of what they’d inexplicably described on the menu as “lime cheesecake” (more like cream, with a scraping of lime on the top).
Our white chocolate parfait (£5.95) didn’t taste quite as good as it looked, with a flavour that was more milky than chocolatey and a strangely chalky texture, like frozen Gaviscon. Its accompaniments of medicinal tasting poached pear were pretty unripe, but we loved the pair of sticky tamarind glazed strawberries.
So, despite some glimmers of genius when it came to the sauces, the food isn’t perfect at The Mumbai Mansion. Still, I’d recommend it to most people, except maybe geography teachers and cartographers.