Paddy’s Marten Inn

July 28, 2015

Long-term readers of this blog will know I’ve always really enjoyed my trips to Paddy’s Marten Inn. I’ve been again recently for a  review in the Leicester Mercury and had another enjoyable evening with great food. It’s not a smart place, but neither is it one of those “rough diamond” places that no-one would ever guess does good food. It’s just a down-to-earth, simple venue that has great food and a huge following. Here’s the review:

Paddy’s Marten Inn
98 Martin Street

0116 266 5123

Open: weekdays 5.30pm -10.30pm, weekends

Cost – two courses, around £13

8 out of 10

The first time I went to Paddy’s I was to told to watch out for the Audis and Beamers parked along the street. It may be located in an unprepossessing backstreet pub but, said my pal, successful Asian business types now domiciled in Stoneygate still flock back there for great value, desi-style food.

I could understand why. It was a welcoming, unpretentious place offering a great range of food in a buzzing environment. I wasn’t surprised when a few years later in 2011 Jamie Oliver found his way there and featured the place in his Jamie’s Great Britain series, enjoying a trip round Leicester Market with chef Amita Mashru before cooking a dish at the restaurant.

But such fabulous publicity doesn’t always do a place favours. It was already a successful restaurant, would it now get ideas above it self? Move away from the generous, down-to-earth style that made it so popular?

I forced myself back there to check out. As we drove down Martin Street – a dark, sparsely-populated side-street off Catherine Street – I was reassured to have to park up some way from the restaurant, and immediately behind a rather large BMW. Inside the door, again I was pleased again to see nothing had changed. It’s still a resolutely unimproved venue – it’s décor is standard inter-war estate pub, but instead of horsebrasses the walls are adorned with black and white pictures of Bollywood stars.

It’s lack of any contemporary styling though is one of its most appealing aspects. No body is dressed up, no body is trying to impress, everybody is just there to share good food with friends. There are families, couples, big groups and small groups all busily chatting away while cheerful waiters glide around bringing large platters to their tables. It’s one of the most unobtrusively efficient restaurants I’ve ever witnessed.

The choice is wide but you don’t the impression this is a case of there being just one mother sauce in the kitchen with a few additions thrown in here and there to fill out a menu. This is a busy restaurant, with lots of staff, producing lots of fresh food – they can handle a wide menu.

Our starters are wonderful. Crispy chilli aubergine is a dish in the popular Indo-Chinese style – a huge pile of sweet, juicy aubergine bites, given a crisp from a hint of batter which has been stirred through rather covering each piece. With sweet red peppers, spices and a lick of sauce it was fabulous food, though better as a part of shared approach to starters than as a dish to be consumed all on its own. Sheek kebab – four fat sizzling spiced and minced lamb kebabs in a starter portion – were surprisingly delicate and the rangeeli tawa fish were magnificent. A tad oily for some perhaps but lovely firm fillets of fish in vibrant spices from India’s North West. A really exuberant dish.

Despite being rammed on a Tuesday night our waiter was calm, friendly and thoughtful, taking plenty of time to advise on our ordering and explain the dishes. With food this appealing, presented in such quantity (mains all come with rice and naan bread) it’s easy to over order but repackaging of left overs for you to take home is offered as a matter of course. Not that there was any danger of that with my lamb chop curry. Not the tenderest lamb I’ve encountered but these cutlets bore the hallmarks of a long marination and quick grilling. They came in a big bowl of lively sauce and simply cried out to be picked up and gnawed until the last gobbet had gone. Not a first date dish we agreed.

More fish loveliness was had with kathiawadi masala fish – a dryer dish with a fresh, herby masala deriving this time from Gujarat. A third main course was simply billed as “traditional chicken curry”, and with a place such as Paddy’s you feel confident with whatever they deem traditional. Not much more to say other than it was lovely – and you can order it as mild or hot as you fancy.

It’s not easy reviewing Indian restaurants in the UK. Everyone tends to have their favourite and many don’t want to venture much further. But anyone who misses Paddy’s is missing a treat. There is cuisine from all over India, and dishes ranging from homely vegetarian choices such as rajasthani egg curry or gungo peas with fenugreek, to the East African-influenced chicken machoosi and those wonderful spice-laden fish fillets. But it does not play heavily on notions of authenticity – it’s just a place that says “this is our food, come and try it”. And you should.

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