Memsaab

August 30, 2010

I know of several restaurateurs who had a look at moving into the Highcross restaurant quarter but were put off by the rents. The only independent to bite the bullet and take it on from the earliest days was Memsaab, which had  been open – on  and off  – round the corner on Vaughan Way for a few years. They decided to tackle the challenge by keeping more or less the the same menu but taking the place upmarket, and it’s good to report they’re  making  a very able job of it.

You enter into a champange and cocktail lounge , where you are also likely to be serendaded by a live pianist and vocalist.  Ok the red and black colourscheme is a bit hackneyed, but visiting on a  Saturday after a dispiriting home defeat to Reading, the lively buzz about the place immediately started to cheer me up. There were several big birthday parties in but the layout of the place enables the larger groups and  couples and smaller groups to be separated out. Our table for four was in the glass walled section that has a pleasing  view over the urban bustle of  Highcross.    

So full marks for the atmosphere, but fortunately the food is well up to the mark too. It’s a fairly traditional offering  – and doesn’t really reach the culinary heights of its Nottingham namesake – but is nonetheless consistently impressive.  Poppadoms came with a superior set of chuntneys. A starter of chicken shashlick was excellent – three huge chunks of succulent, marinated chicken breast that showed a generous and adventurous hand with the spices.  Chicken and fish pakora, coming  with a lively coriander relish, were very made and well cooked too  – the fish was so good it really should be offered as a choice on its own.  Chilli tiger prawns showed plenty of bite and again the cooking of the prawns was excellent. Considering the sizeable groups that were being served, the kitchen was doing a fine job at getting out the orders on time and in good shape.

Our mains courses dishes all convinced – quality ingredients, lively spicing and accurate cooking.  Lamb dehi wala  was mild and yoghurty, vegetable dhaaalcha was far more interesting than lentils and chickpeas  might suggest while parathas were flakey  and flavoursome.

Service was  good – welcoming and thoughtful. A minor accident in serving the pakora was dealt with speedily and correctly.

There’s a special place in all hearts for our favourite neighbourhood Indian restauarant, a fact that can make us wary of places that offer a bit  more glamour. But Memsaab pulls it off very well.

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